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Speech, Writing, Voice, and Need

Joany Erickson gave me a fine interview yesterday. I’d like to take something that she mentioned and expound on it this morning. Sometimes little things people say or mention send me off on tangents of thought, which I’m sure you’ve already come to understand if you’ve dropped by this blog before.

Joany said that she could as soon give up talking as to give up writing and that each day’s experiences, good or bad, contributed to her ability to write. When I sat thinking over the interview today, I was struck by an odd thought.

What if writing were the only way an individual could express themselves. There are those, after all, who cannot speak for a variety of reasons. Would the necessity of writing everything out in place of verbal speech bring about a different understanding of what writer’s call VOICE? Would that person’s experiences improve his/her ability to write as a form of expression?

Or, would the person become so frustrated with the slowness of the exchange of speech that leaving it behind for silence instead would seem the next step toward personal calm? Somebody is going to say, “Well, why couldn’t the person just learn sign language?”

That’s an excellent question in it’s own right. Why couldn’t the person do that? Well, what if the person couldn’t use their hands or feet? This is the point where someone’s going to throw up his/her own hands and say, “Crikies, you’re not building a character here. There’s not a person out there like that with that problem.”

And then I would verbally introduce you to an old acquaintance of mine from university days. He was finishing his MBA as I was finishing my bachelors‘. He was an extremely bright fellow and terribly funny. He had a few medical problems which necessitated attendants to help care for him. No, he wasn’t in a wheelchair, and he wasn’t really paralyzed in the conventional sense. You see, he was in an iron lung. He could make the occasional vocal sounds, but doing any real talking required too much lung capacity for him. With his hands and feet inside the unit, they were unavailable for use as well. Writing was his only option.

How did he do it? A small pointer placed in his teeth could be poked at keys on a special voice board. In a pinch, he could make letters with a pencil on paper, but it was exhausting. We’d come into the computer age by then so that having access to a keyboard made his life much more favorable. But still, think about that one for a minute.

Okay. Now think about yourself and that scenario. Could you express yourself the same way with only the written word and not use vocal speech any longer? And if so, would it lessen or enhance your written expression?

I struggle some days like today because of my extremely limited vision, but I have ways of compensating to make things easier. For me the thought of losing my hearing is terrifying. I know that if I lost my hands, I could still dictate my word stories and have someone else input them and do all the drudgery work, if I must. I would still be able to write, to speak in my own way. The deaf-blind do that all the time. I’ve known several living with that challenge over the years. Interesting people who usually have a terrific sense of humor and deadly astute observations about the world.

So ask yourselves how you would fare under circumstances that are only temporary relative to time. I know when I had no access to my computer, I nearly went nuts those first few days. Then I remembered something crucial. I could still right with a pencil on real paper, still put down thoughts, ask questions, etc. Nothing had been removed but a fast operating tool.

That brings us to my last question of the day. Does your writing VOICE, like Joany’s, depend on humor, reflection, instruction, what; and does it take its strength and flavor from your experiences in life, both good and bad, to add to your ability to write?

Now, tomorrow’s interview will be with writer/instructor Janis Fields, who comes to us from the Children’s Institute of Literature. She, too, is a candid person, so stay tuned to learn whatever gem of writing wisdom she might drop along the way.

I hope to see you all here. A bientot,


Categories: Writing and Poetry
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