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You're A Terrible Writer

You are a terrible writer. I am a terrible writer. Humans are terrible writers. We didn't see the development of an alphabet until around 1500 BC, well into recorded human history. Most of our traditions have been passed down orally or through drawings. Very few of them were in writing, even after the invention of the first alphabet. Humans are, however, natural communicators. We like to interact with each other and with the world around us. It makes sense that there was a natural development of language. And it makes sense that we used that language to develop something like the written word.

Writing itself, however, is an ineffective form of conveying communication. I'm not saying that reading is ineffective. In fact, reading improves recollection. I'm saying that writing as an activity is highly ineffective for the human brain. For instance, did you know that as you read you have micro vocalizations? Right now, your mouth is moving a little bit with each word you read. Your eyes are darting across the page in a way to fill in the blanks of what you missed so that it makes sense of these sentences. That's a simplification. But the point is that you read the way that you speak. So why aren't we taught to speak well before we're taught how to structure sentences on a page? I can't tell you the number of people I've talked to in my life who have come up to me and said, "I can't write. I am so in awe of your ability to write because it comes so unnaturally to me." And I always wondered why? Writing is simply having a conversation on paper. Then I realized it's still hard, even for me, to write the traditional way. I have the compulsion to tell stories, so I write the. Writing them, though, isn't the part I enjoy. I live in a space of development and ideas. For me, telling a story is the fun part. The actual act of writing, however, has been the bane of my existence, mostly because I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. I'm only just now understanding my own needs when it comes to how I function with my passions. Writing is something I have always turned to, but it is also always something I have found myself struggling to do. I've been in this cyclone of torment since I was a child. So then I started thinking, well, how are we taught to write in school? In high school, we were taught how to structure an essay, and how to make an argument or a point. I can remember talking about adverbs and adjectives, identifying parts of a sentence, and where to split a paragraph. I started wondering why we had to be taught those things, when it's perfectly clear, without knowing their identifying names, how to use them as we speak. I have had amazing conversations with all of those people who said that they can't write for the life of them. They're almost all amazing conversationalists, but they were never taught that they can write simply by speaking. I majored in English in college, and I was still never taught, not once, the most effective way to write for the human brain. When I started to dictate my writing, it felt so unnatural that I almost quit. But then I stopped and I asked myself, "Why does this feel so unnatural when writing itself is the unnatural thing?" So I kept going because it felt like my last option. I haven't touched the keyboard once since I started this article. It's something I've had to teach myself, something I'm still learning to do, because no one would take the time to show me a better way.

I don't know why this isn't taught in school. I don't know why it isn't brought up as an option. But I do know that I'm not the first one to think of it. Obviously, there's this technology that I'm using right now, so someone had to think of it. I'm not the first writer who's thought of it, either. Dostoevsky used it to write The Gambler. Charles Dickens acted out his scenes and dialogue in order to know how to write them. Henry James was such a huge proponent of dictating his writing that he would answer questions in the same way he wrote his books. The Gambler was written in four weeks. Dostoevsky simply spoke out the book to his stenographer. Most often, the thing that we're going to say is more fluid than the thing it would take us double the amount of time to write And, time is an issue for all of us. You might have a full-time job, or a child, or a parent to take care of, or a pet, or maybe all of those things. Dictating is a practical tool for the in-between times. If you feel like you never have enough time to write, you can write on your commute. You can write while you're cleaning. You can write while you're eating ice cream in the bed and gazing off into the distance. You don't have to be at a desk, staring at a screen, hands on the keyboard to write anymore. I encourage you to get used to the sound of your own voice and get used to a speaking cadence. Once it becomes a habit, it will be infinitely easier than making yourself sit down to physically write something out.

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