Monday, October 3, 2016

"The Methods Are Different (Thought The Objective's The Same)"

Tying up some loose ends from last time, which, like the crumbs Dr. M detects frantically in the bed sheets, may be apparent only to myself. 

Though the goal is indisputably the same in both cases – connecting with human beings on the other end of the communication – even when you are determined to write “talk”, you wind up surrenderingly writing “writing.”

Writing and talking are easily distinguishable.  (Besides the fact that one of them goes in your eyes and the other goes in your ears.  Actually, “talk” goes in both.  But not writing.  You put your ear to a book and it’s like, “What are you doing?”)

Talking and writing – two distinct modes of communication. 

In that distinction lies my continuing challenge.

My oft-attested intention is to write “talk” – simulating in my writing a sense of communicational immediacy.  Though that communication is overwhelmingly one-sided as I, admittedly, do the lion’s share of the talking. 

I wonder where the term “lion’s share” comes from?

“He eats as much as he wants, and we get what’s left.  Otherwise, he eats us.”

That sounds right, which – cautionary warning – is not the same as it is right.

Oh yeah.  Those anti-linear “side-trips”?  An integral element of my “talk-simulating” technique.  I jump aroun in my writing, making it, I hope, feel more like we’re talking.    

There are numerous methods – many delineated in the previous outing – to make writing feel more like talking.  Ultimately, however, it inevitably comes down to “I’m writing.”

Words on paper.  Or at least its computerial counterpart.

How does writing differ from talking?  (The “flip side” of last time’s “How does talking differ from writing?)

What just jumped to my mind – a spontaneous interruption more identified with talking so I like to do it when I’m writing – is a not dissimilar debate I had with the Executive Producer of NPR’s All Things Considered, concerning delivering extemporaneous commentaries to radio listeners versus reading from a prepared script.  They are not the same.  The Executive Producer, however, rejected my commentary on the subject, wishing to maintain the illusion that they are.

First of all… I don’t know, maybe I’ll say this first.

He wrote, promoting the illusion of conversational spontaneity, an “illusion” because I need simply reorder what I decided to say.  But that’s more like writing, an activity I am endeavoring mightily to obscure.  (While revealing my secret of doing so at the same time.  I am chock full of subterfuge, aren’t I… bringing you artfully into the conversation,, acting again like I am “wallowing in the present”?)    

One of the reasons writing differs from talking is that writing must compensate for tools unavailable to the writer – inflection (beyond ALL CAPS, italics and bold), timing… beyond “the three dots”, gesticulation, facial expressions, all of which, with “talk”, clarifyingly accessorize the communication.

How do you most successfully compensate for these losses? 

With the only tool at your disposal – words.

You write completed sentences – with “talk”, the words “Completed sentences” would suffice without the “You write” in front of it – clarifying the message with what “talk” – if “talk” were an animate entity – would scoffingly consider extraneous verbiage.

You see “scoffingly”?  I just added that word.  With “talk”, you would just scoff with your “Body Language.”  Take a moment to “behave scoffingly.”  (More audience participation.)  You see how easy that is?  Except not when you’re writing.  With writing, you have no choice but to append an adverbial descriptive; otherwise, nobody knows that you’re scoffing.   

Full Disclosure:  A substantial portion of my rewriting process includes adding adverbial and adjectival modifiers.  A portion of my subsequent rewrites involves taking a lot of them back out, fearing literary overkill, and overburdening the sentences. 

STRAINING SENTENCE  (IN A THICK SCOTTISH ACCENT):  “Sohry, Captain, we kinna carry so minny wahrds!”

When I’m writing, I also find myself taking two or three related sentences, blending them in one extended, mellifluous sentence, something you would never attempt when you’re talking – you would run out of breath and almost immediately start choking.  Sometimes, the process makes the material flow more smoothly.  Other times, you do it because “mellifluous sentences” seems like what “good writing” is supposed to be about.

Personal Confession:   I have found myself falling into that trap. 

“Writerly writing.”

Using the most extreme example I can think of – because why not? – Michael Chabon, in his novel Telegraph Hill wrote an eleven-page sentence. 


Because he could. 

And because he – and undoubtedly other writers – believe that filigreed sentences set you meritoriously apart from writers unable to pull such feats of “word- mountaining” off.

It sneaks in there – literary snootiness.  “Scoffingly.”  “Adverbial.”  “Meritoriously.”  Words that would never come out of my mouth when I’m talking show up obligatorily when I write.

You see what I mean?

Voice of Experience:  Avoid eleven-page sentences and unnecessary descriptives.  You may not entirely be able to “write talk” but if you shoot for it you will certainly get closer.

The “First Draft” is completed.  It is time for revision.

Watch out, adverbs and adjectives. 

I a’comin’ ta getcha.
Happy New Year to all who observe.  And Happy Birthday to the specialest person in my life.

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