Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Directions: Think, Write, Speak. Do not skip ahead.

Once, when asked why I write, I replied that as the youngest child in a loud, opinionated, Italian-American family, it was the only way for me to get anyone's attention. But what I think I really meant is that off the page I don't always trust what might come out of my mouth – that is, unless I have had sufficient time to plan out what I'm going to say in advance.

So, ask me to make a presentation, teach a class, lead a seminar, introduce someone, give a speech, and I'm good. Because first, I can write it all out. And rewrite it. And revise. And edit. But ask me to sit next to your hyper-intelligent cousin who can hold the attention of a full dinner table, and I go practically silent. Or worse, stammer, sputter and say stupid things.

Which is why I was so relieved to read, in the New York Times Book Review the other day, an essay by Arthur Krystal, "When Writers Speak." Mind you, Krystal's premise that many writers are not good at conversation is based on people like Balzac and Nabokov and others of such literary prowess and renown that the public was often surprised to learn they were not wonderful speakers – and not little ole me. Still, I feel better now.


Laurie Lico Albanese said...

So interesting, Lisa. You're in good company: the actor Sir John Gielgud reportedly fainted at parties because they made him so nervous. All that small talk!

I wonder, if you find yourself in a spirited informal conversation or debate about a book or something you're passionate about and know a lot about, do you find that discomfort falls away? I know I do.

Lisa Romeo said...

Yes, Laurie, that's about right. When I feel strongly about something during a conversation, I become Ms. Articulate - confident, the words flowing right out of my mouth, and usually they are the right words... but then almost as soon as I stop talking, I get this horrible feeling that I've just said the most stupid thing ever!

Kristy Lund said...

I hear you! (Or read you I suppose is more accurate.) I chalk it up to nerves- I'll be excited/nervous, and will say things that I later re-evaluate and wonder why the hell I said that. I've always thought about this- about how writing is more of a controlled manner of communication- but this is the first I've read about it, so thanks! :) I'm right there with ya!