It’s been a while since the last posting. The problem is, I can’t think of anything to say. A friend of mine, over the past few years, has been writing his memoirs, which are due for publication next year. But when I say writing, he’s been doing it in a way that I don’t think I could. He’s been dictating them into the computer using a voice activation programme (or whatever they’re called). Nevertheless, just to prove my point, I’m going to try dictating this to see what sort of product emerges.
The trouble with talking is that it moves too quickly. You don’t have time to balance the sentence, structure the argument – or rather, even if you think very carefully before you speak, what you say is not part of a larger batch of words, but simply something separate, independent, expressed in the instant of saying it. That’s OK when you’re doing workshops or working from notes because then you’re interacting with other people or things and that gives you a different sort of continuity. But when you’re sitting here as I am now with a blank mind and no idea where I want to go with this, all it produces is garbage. In fact, it actually brings home the immediacy of speech. That seems a strange thing to say, but the act of speaking is such an instantaneous thing that, once you’ve spoken the sentence, you’re left with silence, just a blank, and nothing to link to what you’ve just said. With writing, it’s different. The words lie on the screen or page in front of you, part of something that’s unfinished and which you can juggle around, delete or add to. It’s only finished and delivered when you’ve shaped the whole thing the way you want it to look and sound. As I’m saying these words, they’re just vanishing and only tenuously linking with what’s gone before.
You wouldn’t believe how painfully slow this process is. I could have written more than this far more quickly than I’m speaking it (and it would have made more sense).
God, this is so dull. I’ll try to think of something more interesting to say for the next one (and I definitely won’t be dictating that). I thought I might say something about the visitors we had but then decided against it, because they’re “followers” (I hate that word) of this blog. Talking here about what we did would seem terribly “cosy”. Private contacts with any of you should remain private. (If that sets you thinking that we got up to things that are unpublishable, wash your mind out with soap immediately.) Part of the conversation with one of them, however, did reveal that writers’ blogs don’t actually fulfil the purpose of attracting new readers. What happens is that the same group of followers tends to leave comments and this gives the impression that they’re part of a clique. And that gives people who come across the blog the impression that it’s a private club, so they feel disinclined to say anything themselves, because they’re outsiders. I certainly don’t want to discourage comments here, but that seems to be true of this blog and most of the ones I follow myself.
I’ve had enough of this. I’ve switched off the mic and reverted (gratefully) to the keyboard. It was the repetitious nature of what I was saying that got me in the end. I always read my stuff aloud when I’ve finished writing it and that always highlights stylistic as well as other flaws. I’ve left in the repetition of ‘gives … the impression’ in the previous paragraph because it illustrates the disjunction of dictating, the fact that it’s a process of regurgitating lumps of words which don’t necessarily relate to those around them.
I’d love to hear if any of you (not just the clique but others) have tried dictating and, if so, how successful or satisfying you found it to be. It’s so utterly different that I’m still not sure how to define it. (The above attempt was woeful.) In a way it’s the difference between thinking in sentences and thinking in paragraphs. (I look forward to the day when I’ll start thinking in novels.)
(And also to the day that I don’t use quite so many brackets.)