Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Writing vs. Talking

In The-Class-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named last semester, we read a lot of articles about the writing skills of "beginner writers," a term strangely used mostly to describe people in freshman comp classes in college. (If someone is a freshman in college... he or she is not a beginner writer. He or she has been writing in some capacity since they were about six. Cue confusion.) And most of these many (exceptionally boring) articles were about writing processes to help said beginner writer become a stronger and more confident writer, a more skillful writer.

Most of these writing processes I disagreed with loudly in class (I was a big fan of waving my "it's different for every writer and if it works for you then it's not wrong" flag in that class), but none more so than the idea presented in several articles of talking through your paper before writing it. As in, literally taking a tape recorder and talking through your paper.

Now, I will say this in favor of talking: sometimes, when I'm stuck, nothing works better than to go for a walk in the park with a friend of mine who's willing to listen to me jabber on, and I'll explain to them why I'm stuck and what I want to do that's not working and oftentimes something miraculous will occur to me. It's because when I'm stuck, I need to think about it differently and explaining to someone else works for me. It's like what they tell people about math problems: if you can explain it to someone else, you understand it.

But in every class that this talking-as-prewriting thing came up, I jumped into the conversation to say "uh, excuse me, no." First off, I am vehemently opposed to prewriting and have been since middle school, when we were often forced to hand in an outline of our tiny little essays.

But talking-as-prewriting?

Now, I'm a writer, I like words. I like to think that I am rather good with words, with putting the right words together to form sentences, paragraphs, stories that are well constructed and mean what I want them to. But when I talk? It's a little more like this:

"It's like - there's this thing - God, what's that word - um, you know when you - um - oh, you know what I mean!"

All. The. Time.

So if I was to prewrite something by talking, that is all I'd get. It would sound utterly ridiculous, and be so much more trouble than it was worth.

What about you guys? I'm really rather biased against anything we talked about in The-Class-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Is there any truth to this? Am I alone in my inability to form coherent sentences with my mouth rather than my fingers? What do you think?


  1. Talking as Prewriting....


    Nope, sorry, not for me either. LOL I think I would be pretty much like you. Um... yea... so.. there's this thing... this thing... erm... Gah!

    I think a digital recorder is good when you have an idea and you can't sit down and write... but well, otherwise, outline the story? On Paper? Yea, mkay!

  2. Definitely with you on the anti-talking-as-prewriting bandwagon. It works in movies and TV, usually really well, but as Marilyn said, it kinda fails miserably on paper. I hate hate HATE reading

    "So, like, are you doing stuff ... um ... tonight?"
    "Er...yeah, I, er, guess so. I think. Maybe."
    "That's cool. Like, whatever."

    *headdesk repeatedly* If your character isn't saying something important, maybe they shouldn't be saying anything at all!

  3. I'm with you! I couldn't possibly talk as prewriting. And while an outline probably helps some writers, and it's certainly worth trying at least once to find out, I really resent classes that force me to turn in any prewriting. >.< This could be why the TAs don't like me, hee hee.

  4. Marilyn: Writing just works so much better for me. I once grabbed a pen at work and wrote notes all down my arm while sweeping the stairs. Good times.

    Other Caitlin: Exactly! I mean, people stammer and stumble over words, so doing it a little in dialogue wouldn't bother me... but it's something SO easy to overdo. :/

    Su: I hate that! It's so annoying. Most times, I'd just write the essay my way, then write up the outline afterwards. :P