conversational shorthand

I’m pinning down words today. I write a half formed sentence and get up to walk around my apartment. At one point, I lie fully on the ground headphones on jamming to music. As the next sentence comes to me, I leap back to my chair. I have three drafts of very different blog posts all half written along with two voice recordings of thoughts I have for even more writing that I feel I’ll never get to. I suffer from a perpetual backlog of what I could share.

I’ve tasked myself today with meaningfully responding to a soul filling email and letter from two separate friends one of whom is brand new to my life whereas the other has known me for over a decade. The sentiments I want to share are there but, whew, it is a task to draw them out of my mind.

The true problem is that I have too much to say and not enough space to do so. Space not in the physical sense — I could write a 400 page letter but that would be quite frightening to receive and frankly silly to write. This is why I’ve never appreciated or enjoyed Twitter with forced word constraints sapping sentences of meaning and context. I don’t have enough space emotionally in the sense that my capacity is limited. I don’t want it to be though! I long for the magic abilities of extroversion. Instead, I have my own emotional Twitter-like constraints that sometimes help me prioritize and other times make writing a simple letter difficult.

As the pandemic wears on, I’m becoming uniquely familiar with the limits of words. I’ve found myself longing for the conversational shorthand between people who know you well where you can start to say something only to have them nod knowingly without you ever having to finish the thought. That shorthand builds the foundation upon which conversation can proceed and build to more complex ideas. With writing, one must share each detail, connect each dot, and cross every t. It’s a strange experience to go through such a long period of time without access to that shorthand and to instead have to practice drudging back up those pesky important details. Phone calls can bridge this gap but I loathe them. I’ve often used this analogy but they feel like the act of eating a protein bar convincing yourself that it’s a real meal. It fills you up but not in all the ways you need. At least with writing, I have an awareness that I’m settling and wrestling with the medium.

As always, I must remind myself that this won’t be the only letter or email I’ll send to these lovely people. It’ll all unfold in time — all of my questions, all of my thoughts, and all of my well wishes. It’s quite the task to try to find a way to send the written form of a hug from afar but I appreciate the practice this time is giving me.

2 Comments

  1. CRK

    I know this too well! It’s so frustrating to start something and not finding the words to be happy with it so now what I do is whenever something comes to mind, I write it down on a Note app and then put all the pieces together.

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