Actions speak louder than words. I really want that to be true. I remain unconvinced.
Growing up in a Southern Baptist church and having a healthy competition in me, I really soaked up the power of the preacher. I memorized bible verses better than my peers, took pride in reading out loud better, prayed better, and spoke more. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk–all in naïve earnestness. I walked the walk as well. It wasn’t a fear of hell, but more a genuine wish to show people it wasn’t that difficult to avoid sin as I understood it.
Of course I was sinning all the while (“making mistakes” if you heathens prefer).
Until I graduated from college I had never read for pleasure. Simply movies for me. And I was as evangelical about movies triumphing over books as I was about saving souls. Catch-22 fucked that all up. I fell in love with reading as quickly and madly as Yossarian fell in love with the chaplain. After the last word, I literally had the thought, “If this is how good reading can be, I wonder if there are other books like it?” Obviously, there were. One of them being Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. In that gem, there is a part about telling the truth to people vs. using flattery on people, and the point is listeners are awful picky about one while rather forgiving with the other. Given that I had the gift of gab, I made errors left and right that my listeners had no problem pointing out. My strong character and integrity-first approach to life seemed to bail me out of most situations when I strayed from the truth in large ways, but I slowly began to realize that writing might be a better outlet for my ideas than talking. With writing there is proofreading, and re-writing. As a writer (versus speaker), I have time on my side. So I started writing. This was 8 months ago.
There is something more, though. In the story that I tell myself to make sense of this crazy, crazy world there are some written words which have changed the world. Specifically, there are books that exposed how someone felt about life. Books that took courage. Upon publication, the reading public needn’t have said a word. They simply had to show their support through a purchase. And then life as we know it changed. I understand one of these moments to be the release of The Feminine Mystique. Within its pages, a woman wrote about an unnamed problem, that being women feeling unsatisfied as housewives, and it soon became clear she was right. I am shocked every time I contemplate that women back then could have been too ashamed to admit to each other how they were feeling about life. At the same time I am so hopeful. Consider what life might be like if enough of us shared ourselves via the written word. Maybe we could start doing this life we’re given better.
And so that is why I talk, and that is why I write. No one should have to live in shame. No one should be hiding behind social graces. For whatever reason I don’t mind if others find out I was wrong or stupid. It’s kind of exciting to me when it happens, as it is so rare.
In sum, I write first to reduce shame, second to reduce mistakes that happen when talking, and lastly, I write because people who read what I write tell me I write well and I am compelled to believe them.
Now you know.