Writing v. Speaking: Writing Is More Artificial…which is not a bad thing

One of the most satisfying aspects of writing and posting something daily is…you guessed it…writing and posting something daily. Writing is artificial in comparison to speaking. What do I mean? When you speak, it is mostly stream-of-consciousness, with opportunities to course-correct, amend, update, or renounce utterances on the fly. I hope all that makes sense. 

Both speaking and writing propagate words into the world. But the spoken word is often uttered with less care and painstaking than the words of a careful writer. The impermanent means you can afford to be a little more free-flowing and off the cuff, less careful, less precise, overall. And for some, their emotional state may cause them to say things that will be briefly heard and pass into the ether more quickly than if they were to write the same things for posterity.

Writing is really, rewriting. That’s what makes writing ”artificial” by comparison, since it is an abstraction from verbal language. Very close, intimate friends and companions will of course engage in “re-speaking” for the sake of clarity. Understanding and being understood are precious to intimates. It is the foundation of intimacy. So often, some “re-speaking” goes a long way to preserve and strengthen it. Of course, both are ”sequential” forms of communication. Each word, whether spoken or written, follows a clear start-to-finish linear progression. The visual arts – painting, dance, video, and certainly the art of music are also “artificial” forms of communication, like writing is, but they do not present information in a strictly linear format.

That striving for understanding is where speaking and writing share the highest common goal. If you speak to someone and you are careful to read their body language, you can make observations about whether they are hearing you and understanding you. And you have the opportunity for feedback. Not so with writing. Which is another aspect that makes writing artificial in comparison to speaking. 

If you’re writing, you’re only present in your readers head in the vaguest way. Your words are all you have. No possibility of reading the signs of body language. So, there is a lot of re-writing, re-thinking, restructuring. This ”artifice” is what makes it challenging and rewarding as a skill to be honed. But it has the benefit of helping you to clarify your views, think through an idea, maybe see if from a different angle. That’s a benefit that writing can grant to anyone.

As I’ve written something for ”public consumption” each day for a couple of months straight, I notice my own thinking is becoming more disciplined and streamlined at the point I attempt to communicate my thoughts. So, I still have a meandering, serendipitous mind when it comes to exploring and indulging my interests, but I’ve gained a structure when it comes time to tell about what I’ve been grokking on. This is a good thing. No one likes endless rabbit trails and non-sequiturs in conversation, and certainly not in decent writing.

These months of daily immersion have helped to clarify and streamline my thoughts, making me more conscious of what it is I want to say, and hopefully in the neatest, clearest, easiest to understand manner. I have a long way to go, lots of words to cut, and I look forward to getting better.

1 thought on “Writing v. Speaking: Writing Is More Artificial…which is not a bad thing”

  1. Oh yeah, I totally get how writing can feel ‘artificial’ because I myself sound much more articulate in writing than in real life. Thanks for this post, Greg!

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