Write Like People Talk

Every once in a while, I get some odd ideas.  Well, “new odd ideas” would be a better term, because I have a lot of ongoing odd ideas.  Like the idea I’ve had, ever since “women’s lib” came into being, that part of women wanting to get equal treatment involved those strange but wonderful creatures only wearing blouses and pants, or pantsuits, or maybe shorts, but never wanting to wear dresses any more.  What the hell was up with that idea?  I guess I just took it at face value that part of the equal rights movement was trying to look more like men, or something.  Thankfully, that wasn’t entirely true, though it does happen, but women still do wear dresses, and look great whatever they’re wearing.

An example of a “newer odd idea”, or should I say a “thankfully fleeting, newer odd idea” happened a couple years ago, when I suddenly had a near-panic attack concerning the thought that I had never really “invented” anything, and couldn’t think of anything I would invent, and would be living in a cave eating bugs if other people hadn’t invented things, because I certainly never would have invented the wheel, a drill press, a microchip, a television, or even a gravel road  (I mentioned the idea to my buddy while we were searching for pheasants along a gravel road).  He, my hypercritical old friend who is an engineer, said, “No, you would’ve noticed that water soaks through gravel and you can walk on it without sinking in, even during a heavy rain, and could have invented a gravel road.”  So I felt better about it and quit worrying, though I am jealous of people who can invent something from nothing.

The reason for all this talk about odd ideas is that, from time to time, a new odd idea of mine is the thought that, if my heart were to explode tomorrow for no reason that I knew of before then, or a truck were to run me over, I would want to post some particular earth-shattering blogpost here, for people to remember me by.

What would that blogpost be?  Would it be “My Daughter is the Only Reason I Get Out of Bed in the Morning”?  I think anyone who’s ever read my stuff knows that, so, yeah, it’s very true, but that one is, well, just so obvious.  Would it be “‘I Can’t Have Anything Nice’ vs. Jackie O”?  Would it be “I Seen Him Do It, Maw! (Pure Unadulterated Meanness)”?

No, I think tonight’s answer (to the question of what if I only had one blogpost to write) would be the discussion of writing:  “Write Like People Talk”.  More accurately, it would be “Write in a Plain, Prosaic Manner In the Style of Everyday Human Interactive Speech”, but that would be missing the point, wouldn’t it?   If I were an English teacher, or Creative Writing teacher, I would walk into the first day of class, write those 4 words on the blackboard, then walk out and let a grad student take over the details of the class.  I’d go have a cup at the nearest coffee house and invite some housewife to come over, smoke her dope, drink my wine, listen to Johnny Cash and Pink Floyd and talk about great books.

I don’t really like to call myself a “writer” as such.  Even though there are some people that I would definitely call “writers”, because they are gifted despite not yet making money at it, I just feel that I would like to make, not just a living, but a decent living, at it before I called myself a writer.  Meantime, in the words of a fictional spammer:  “Is big fun this hobby.”

I do like to write, though, a lot, but I’ve never really liked to describe emotions, sunsets, colors, feelings, or memories in any way that’s, well, “overly wordy”, as if I were writing to a book reader, probably mainly because I don’t feel that I’m all that good at it.  What I like to do is write as if I were sitting down over a cup or a drink with a friend, telling them the story firsthand.  I do feel that I’m reasonably good at that.

Whether I’m good at it in terms of big success, or just good enough to be, say, the writing equivalent of an okay rock band, like a good local bar band rather than the Rolling Stones, a local band who all mystifyingly seem to go home alone at the end of a gig, never able to “pick up” their partner of choice for the night, remains to be seen.  I do wish that I had started spewing out words at a younger age when I had more energy and probably more ideas, though some of my subjects are “bluesy” and you have to live the blues to play them well.  Of course, when I was just out of college there were no blogs, not even much of an internet, if any, and no real personal computers.  So, I could have written story after story to send to agents, only to get rejection after rejection, or I could party and work and have lousy, far-between romances with icky women, then start writing 20-30 years after college.  It sure is nice to write stuff and have people read it now and comment on it now rather than hope for an agent to sign you, put it out there, then wait forever for the public’s input.

One thing for me about writing, though, is that, regardless of my talent level, just spewing out words “on paper” is easy for me.  EASY.  It just flows.  It’s like breathing, or sitting, it’s so easy, and for that reason, plus some kind words I get from some folks (they don’t all have to be kind, you know; I’m not made of paper, I’m made out of a little stronger stuff, and if I cry you won’t hear me, after all), I feel that it’s something I was meant to do, not do this-or-that-crap in a factory or even a store for my entire life.

Writing is so easy that it’s like falling into a pile of leaves.  Life, that’s a little more complicated; it’s like falling into a pile of leaves with a pitchfork in it, and sometimes the pitchfork is “tines-down” and there’s a lot of leaves in between you and it, and you barely feel the pitchfork, and sometimes there’s very few leaves in between and you notice the pitchfork when you hit it, and sometimes the damn thing is “tines-up” and it really hurts, and leaves a mark.

Now, romance?  Well that’s when there’s a gleaming, handle-less pitchfork mounted straight out at you on a barn wall, and it’s just so beautiful, gleaming in the summer sunlight streaming through the barn windows, that you just rush headlong at it without even thinking.  Then you wonder afterwards why it hurts so DAMN much.


I have no idea whatsoever why the opening paragraph is in a different size font, if it truly comes out that way.  I did nothing to tell it to change fonts.  As always, thanks for listening!

“I need a job and I want to be a frequently downloaded e-book writer, frequently downloaded e-book writer!  E-e book writer, writer, writer…”:

(Had “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles here, but every Beatles song is copyright=protected now; I guess Paul doesn’t have enough cash.)

This entry was posted in Essay, Humor, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Write Like People Talk

  1. Anne Schilde says:

    The problem with overly wordy isn’t that you aren’t good at it. It’s that most readers aren’t. We tend to want to digest a paragraph at a time, everything written in familiar patterns so we can speed-read through and move on to the next story. Overly wordy and heavy on the vocabulary forces us to slow down and violates the rules of attention span.

    The font is because you either backspaced through the text in the caption of an imbedded object, or because you pasted something in rich-text format, or something like that. 🙂

    It’s super late and other personalities start writing for me if I write comments when it’s super late. I’ll be back to check out your Fiction or Essay category later. 🙂

    • I don’t think I could express the thoughts in your first paragraph any better than you did, Anne. I don’t think my “book-reading” ability has yet been completely destroyed by the obscenely fast way in which most of us want to digest information or even fiction on the internet, but it is tough to concentrate on anything that requires thought or an attention span anywhere on the internet.

      I’m not sure what I did with the font, except that, sometimes if not always, the first letter I type in a blogpost (I type most of them in their format, unless I’m putting in an existing story of mine) starts out in a smaller font, then morphs into the font that you see in most of my stuff. So I don’t know if I just typed the first word too fast for it to “change over” to my default font, or what. I will work to fix it, because there are times when I think I’d like to try some freelance writing, which of course would have to be business-oriented at times, and would require at least a rudimentary amount of word-processing and graphic skills. But, I have always been bent out of shape with the simple fact: You don’t have to know about all the inner workings of a car to be a skillful, everyday driver, but we have all had to be at least amateur computer technicians sometimes over the years to properly use a computer. Thank goodness they’ve drastically simplified things for us in the last few years (about 20 years slower than they should have, I would say).

      Wow, long comment reply from me, I guess. I hope those personalities of yours are all on the side of good and not evil. 🙂

  2. “Dear Sir or Madam, would you read my book?” When I was quite young and first heard that song, I wondered how they knew. As I grew up, I winced at having been so naive.

    That part you wrote about the various positions of the pitchfork in regard to life: for me writing is like that. I wish it was as easy for me as falling into a pile of leaves. Regularly one of those 100 word WordsOneHundred stories tries to kill me.

    I’ve also noticed that my writing voice is trying to morph into something vaguely British (I put that in because I’m punchy and it made me laugh). A few of my online writing friends would probably say poetic. I like it, but I wonder if some people would think it was too much, and maybe some do but are too polite to say so. I live in fear of that because trying to tone down what I’ve recently accomplished would feel like going back to square one. This whole writing gig is awfully complicated for me. I’d really love to get paid for it, too.

    • Don’t worry about letting yourself evolve in the way you are, Re; after all, that’s what makes you you. It’s funny you would say that it’s difficult for you, because that certainly doesn’t show up in what you write. It looks to us like you have a rather easy time of it, so obviously, however much effort you put into it, it works for you. I’m big-time lazy about anything that doesn’t bring me money, so, since I write on my time away from work, I’m sure as heck not going to spend a lot of time rewriting each particular thing I write. So there’s a lot of flaws that I see later, but my style and point of view is that I’d rather just go on to the next story or commentary or rant or book review or somewhat vile and disgusting jokey blogpost, and try to put into that one what I hopefully have learned from my past mistakes. I would have a really tough time trying to pare a story down to one hundred words, and admire you for it. I would have to not be lazy to do that.

      I am chuckling because I imagine you trying to “stay in character” with your British voice by moving around your place speaking in a British accent, and doing the same when calling your daughter. “Been having a spot of trouble with my furnace….”

      I can’t say as I really ever thought about wanting to be a paperback writer as a kid; I know that I thought about it when one of my “drier-than-a-popcorn-fart” Engish Lit. teachers in college told me that my assignment was late and I had kind of glossed over the whole discussion about what Pope or Johnson or whoever meant to literature, but he thought I wrote well. But I mostly left it alone until about age 45, and haven’t done a whole lot until becoming this trailer trash character.

      If I were to read the words to “Paperback Writer” and had never heard it before, I would ask how the heck it ever was a hit. (Though, to be fair, like someone said about Roger “King of the Road” Miller at about the same time–“He’s so popular that he could sing a recipe book and people would buy it”–the Beatles could turn anything into a hit back then.) But it’s actually a catchy little ditty.

  3. The Hook says:

    Some of this world’s greatest innovations were considered “odd ideas” at one time or another.
    Don’t stop following your odd ideas.

  4. I liked this post a lot – it’s about time somebody said what we’re probably all thinking, which is, just say it how it is, don’t make us look up the Contemporary Oxford Dictionary to find out what the hell you’re talking about. And, you know, if you write you’re a writer. If you write well you’re a good writer. If you get published you’re a published writer and that’s nice, but whatever, you’re still a writer! Just about everything you say resonates with me..

    • Thanks, beautiful–I appreciate your comments. Okay, I’ll start calling myself an amateur writer or something. I have always felt that a person should just write things as if you were sitting down with the reader over a cup of coffee, relating a story. Some people, like my blogging friend girlinthehat, or mystery writer James Lee Burke, can write descriptions of morning light or feelings or whatever and make it work, but I really can’t, so I don’t. I stopped by your blog and like it quite a bit, though the light letters against the dark dark background are hard for my old eyes to read. I don’t mean that as any kind of criticism; it’s just that I’m so used to looking at dark words against that ultrabright screen (like in mine), that it is a big change. I will stop back again though; you write like people talk, after all.

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