Some people are good talkers. They communicate verbally in a way that is true to who they are as a person. While I consider myself to be a pretty good talker, I often feel that when I talk I’m not really saying much. I often worry, “Am I talking too much?” “Did I just say something stupid?” Sometimes the words fall from my mouth too quickly and clumsily; they betray me because I haven’t had the time to process them. If someone really wants to know me, they should be my pen pal.
The written word has intrigued me ever since I was in elementary school. I started writing short stories with little illustrations – stories about magical mirrors, and jellybean jars at grandma’s house, and purple-people-eaters. I was a shy kid; reserved, nervous and very much living in my own little head. I dreamed of being a witch, or a movie star, or an Egyptian princess meeting her prince in a desert filled with fairies. People love to read about these grand ideas and dreams, but if you went around just speaking them, I’m pretty sure you’d be immediately thought crazy.
Living in my head and swimming in my own thoughts brought me to writing. Writing allowed me the spontaneity of penciling a statement, fresh from thought, but then having the ability to ERASE it or rewrite it. It gave me freedom. It gave me escape; an outlet for creativity and trial and error. It gave me the ability to say what I mean, but then make certain that the words sounded like the voice inside my head. And so it has been for many years that my truest voice is silent.
When I was 25 years old, I was a newlywed and the marriage was already in trouble. Right as I was considering throwing in the towel, I found out I was pregnant. I cried. I didn’t know what to do. I was lost. I mulled over and over what to say and how to tell the news to my then husband. I was fearful he would think I “did it on purpose,” or some such nonsense you see play-out in bad movies.
So I did the only thing I knew how to do: I wrote it all down in a letter. The basic news, my thoughts and feelings about it, and how I thought we could get through things together. It was my truest voice and I thanked the God of Writing for getting me through that very difficult moment. It wasn’t the first time that writing had saved me from being the victim of my clumsy mouth, but it is one of my more poignant memories.
When I was 16, I wanted my parents to finish the basement of our house so that my brother and I could have a nice space to have our friends over. Instead of whining out loud about it (which is how my clumsy mouth would have done it,) I wrote down an argument, point by point, expressing why I thought it would be advantageous for all of us to have a finished basement. My paper words held true and the basement was finished.
For birthday cards and thank you notes, I always write a long essay inside each greeting card to the ones I love. Because I want to say so many things that need to be said, to make them permanent. Often the intimacy of love seems too awkward if spoken aloud, but so beautifully preserved by ink and paper.
Whenever I feel I have wronged someone or they wronged me, it is letters or emails that I turn to instead of a phone call or face-to-face meeting. I know that the typed words will hold firm; they won’t crumble into tears or get angry when I didn’t intend them to, they wouldn’t wrinkle their nose or rolls their eyes impulsively. They can be as light as dust in the air or as heavy as a brick on your foot. They say what I want to say exactly how I want to say it.
Some might say that this is not really my truest voice. Maybe it’s my edited voice because I can go back and delete or rewrite my thoughts to my liking. Sure, that’s possible. But I can also tell you that these words would never be spoken aloud. In that respect, it’s as true as it gets. When in life do you get such an opportunity, to deliver an uninterrupted monologue that expresses your deepest thoughts and feelings and dreams without the worry of verbal cues and missteps? Writing is it. It’s me. If you want to hear me, don’t listen. Read.