Before you flood me with a million comments pointing out exactly what all my many faults and deficiencies are, perhaps it’s best that I cut you short and tell you the specific shortfalling I have in mind! My friends, I am absolutely useless when it comes to maintaining any sort of regular written correspondence with anyone.
Yes, it’s true – for somebody who can contrive to find any excuse to rattle off a page of text at the slightest provocation, I am far from adept when it comes to staying in touch with friends and family, or for that matter, anyone at all via the medium of the written word; it wouldn’t be overstating the matter to say that I fail abysmally. Ask me to string together a couple of thousand words on any given subject, and I’ll do so at the drop of a hat, tell me to put a report or business case together to meet a last-minute deadline and you’ll have it dropping onto your desk ahead of schedule, challenge me to write a story on the spur of the moment and I’ll come up with the goods before the words are out of your mouth. (I vividly remember attending a training course, where all the participants were instructed to write a hundred words in five minutes based on the brief: ‘A snowman’. Everyone else wrote instructions on how to build one, only I wrote a story about a lonely snowman, which earned a spontaneous round of applause from the group!)
I digress! The point is, I can happily do all of the above without a second thought, but send me a chatty email, expecting a prompt and equally chatty reply, and I’m afraid you’re likely to be facing something of a long wait. I have letters sat on my ‘to do’ pile that really should be written to people who really do deserve the five minutes of my time it will take to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, but whose correspondence has somehow fallen into some sort of black hole where time stretches out indefinitely. After around three years of procrastination I reach a point where it would be so embarrassing to reply that the only option is to spontaneously write, exclaiming surprise that my correspondent hasn’t been in touch for so long, (that’s just wrong), or to pretend I’ve died, been abducted by aliens or been held hostage by Somali pirates, (also wrong, and hopelessly implausible).
Even should I ever get my act together and write, it’s usually a painful experience – both for myself and the recipient, as anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of one of my letters, emails, notecards or even anything but the most basic of IMs will attest to. When it come to written communication – believe it or not – I suck!
It’s not often that I’m baffled by something about my own character, but this is one of those occasions. Why should it be that I should struggle to even come up with the words to write to a friend, when at the same time I’m churning them out nineteen to the dozen on this blog? The only explanation I can come up with is that – when it comes to writing – it’s easy, provided I can disassociate myself completely from the intended recipient; however throw in anything akin to a ‘real’ connection, bond or relationship with the reader – an emotional tie – and I hit a mental and emotional brick wall… in fact, I find it easier avoid the issue altogether than commit to strengthening that connection.
Inworld, I’m the same: bump into me in a social situation and I’ll happily rabbit on, ad-infinitum in open chat, but throw me a friendly IM and I’m reduced to a tongue-tied, awkward and inept conversationalist, for whom any exchange of pleasantries becomes a traumatic experience.
The truth of the matter, I think, is that as long as I can preserve that essential element of distance, I’m fine. You’re a reader, or an avatar, another resident – a vague idea of a person that is somewhat removed from reality. However, cross that invisible, but very real line, to become another human being – a person, and all of that so well hidden away reticence to connect on a ‘normal’ level comes to the fore. I shut down, hide away and hold back.
Heaven forbid I should ever meet you in real life!
And, if you are waiting for a reply from me… I promise I’ll get around to it, eventually – and, if not, you can blame those Somalian pirates!
Mr Writer, why don’t you tell it like it is?
Why don’t you tell it like it really is?
Before you go on home
Stereophonics – Mr Writer