Words, Words, Words
“You need to blog more.”
Not unexpected advice. In fact, Apocalypse Ink Productions is historically very polite about my preference for silly tweets over effective updates. Still, there is an understanding that I ought to be more available.
As such, I’ve adapted the below from a speech I wrote, introducing myself to a public speaking club. Your first speech is designed as an icebreaker, to let people know more about yourself. I figure that’s a decent way to get back into the habit of talking …
I love words.
I’m the author of two novels, and my short stories are featured in several anthologies. My poetry appears in national magazines. Writing is one of my great passions.
I’m also an experienced actor. I perform in one-man shows and in ensembles – once, even before the entire congregation of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
So why is talking about myself so damned difficult?
Because the very things I enjoy have trained me to conceal myself.
When writing, the author’s voice must be recognizable but not flashy. A great writer is one who turns a phrase which nobody else could write, but who slips that phrase into a flow of conversation. Only Stephen King could write, “Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.” And yet it sounds like a homily we’ve heard at our grandfather’s knee.
When I write, some accuse me of being much too in love with the beauty of language. I’m fond of men like James Joyce and Walt Kelley, poetic Irishmen whose words carry us away. Men who turn phrases like, “All Moanday, Tearday, Wailsday, Thumpsday, Frightday, Shatterday.” Or, “We is confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”
So when writing, I work to hide that playfulness with my run-ons, and synonyms, and rhythms. To conceal my true voice.
When performing, there is no greater triumph than to be utterly submerged within your role. A young Leonardo diCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. And the feeling? Oh, that feeling. When the moment carries you away, and even though you’re speaking lines you’ve spoken a thousand times before – it’s sublime. Indescribable.
It’s someone else’s voice.
But still. There are people in the world who manage to combine those skills of writing and performance into a very real, very personal triumph. The kind of people that I want to emulate.
Spaulding Grey. Garrison Keillor. David Sedaris. Mike Daisey.
These are the new storytellers. The modern masters.
They are speakers and monologists. Men who come onto a stage and speak to you, not as a character, but from their authentic selves. Sharing their life experience, their philosophy, their outrage. People who share their truth, even as they spin beautiful words together.
Though sometimes … they still can make it up.
In the first drafts of this piece, I found myself lapsing back into an old, bad habit – making up things about myself. As Jackie O’Shea says in the wonderful Irish film, Waking Ned Devine, “I’m not a great man for telling things the way they are.” But great writers, great speakers, don’t need to stretch the truth to keep an audience entertained. They need the truth of their voice, of their passion. Their training.
I do this to learn. I do this to grow. I do this to understand how better to communicate, not from behind the smoke and mirrors of language or buried in another man’s words – but to share myself with a brighter, broader stage.
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