Daily Archives: January 8, 2011

Talking and writing are more than just body parts.

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One of the more annoying repeated conversations I’ve had goes like this. 

Me:  I’m having trouble writing. 
Them:  But you’re writing right now!
Me:  No I’m not, I’m talking to you. 
Them:  But that’s writing!

The part that I could never get them to understand is that the difference between writing and having a conversation is more than just body parts. Just because I type in conversation doesn’t make it writing. It feels different. I use totally different language (just watch me next time I talk to you and see how many times I can fit “like” into a single sentence). And I seem to be using totally different skills. 

Talking to people who use speech recognition software to write with (like Dragon Naturally Speaking) yields similar observations. Some people who are not great at conversation but who are good writers fear that they will lose their ability to write well. But they generally find that using speech  to write feels almost exactly like writing and not at all like trying to carry on a conversation. And they find it much easier than having to use speech to just talk to people. 

So next time I tell you in an informal conversation that I’m having trouble writing, please don’t try to tell me that I’m writing already just by having a conversation with you. It doesn’t work like that. 

[This post has been brought to you by the “Writing Something That I Couldn’t Write When The Situation Came Up Years Ago But That Finally Made It Into Words” mechanism. Edited to add: This one took almost exactly eight years. Just so people can be aware of how long it can go between my noticing something and being able to put it into words. Since a lot of people also assume that because I can write seemingly eloquently about one thing (possibly something that I noticed a decade or more before I could write it) then I can immediately write about all of my experiences and have none of the communication problems that go with needing to convey something important, and being unable to convey it. Things don’t work like that, either. It’d be really nice if they did, it’d probably save me a lot of trouble that unfortunately I am not saved in the real world. Additionally, just because I’ve been able to write about something once, in one situation, doesn’t mean those words will be available to me next time that I happen to need them. Communication is a lot more difficult than that, and sometimes even involves figuring out to write something, forgetting I ever figured out how to write it, and going the same amount of years before finally figuring it out again. Sometimes multiple times in a row. This is not easy, even for “simple” concepts like this one.]

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