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.