Using Words

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One thing I’ve always struggled with just a bit is my ability to translate my thoughts into words. When I write them down, I typically don’t have a problem. When it comes to speaking them, that’s where I falter from time to time.

There are times when I’ve been sitting in interviews and feel myself slipping into utter destruction and the only way to pull myself out was to craft some kind of visual aid. If I’m in a meeting room with a whiteboard, I’ll definitely take advantage of that because when I can draw out or otherwise illustrate what I’m trying to convey, I have a much better time actually saying it. A couple years ago, I had a technical interview that I would have otherwise failed if I hadn’t be able to illustrate the processes I was trying to describe that I was making up in my head as I went along.

Some people are really good with speaking. I’m not one of those people. What I want to say and what actually comes out are two different things.

Don’t even get me started on trying to start a presentation or other conversation where a lot of people are intently listening to me and waiting for words to come out of my mouth.

On the other hand, if I had a to write a lengthly technical description of something, I’d bust it out in no time. As I’m writing this in fact, I’m not even looking at my screen, but instead outside the bus window at the traffic passing by.

Interviews have always been a struggle for me because there are so many things I want to say but being able to organize them as they come out verbally is something I’m not quite sure how to fix. When I’m interviewing with someone, I try to make it clear that my strength in explaining things lies with my words on paper (digital or otherwise). I can write directions for anything in a heartbeat.

There’s one key that makes this so easy for me: I can go back and review it.

I try not to edit my words as much as possible. Whatever I put down is typically the truth, even if it sounds shitty or a bit off. And when I say the truth, I mean the unfiltered thought. I don’t typically go back and censor what I’m saying either. I don’t have time nor do I actually care to. All I want to do is tell the world what I’m thinking.

Sometimes I wonder if I should write technical documents for a living. Become a technical writer. I’m sure I’d do pretty well at that. I write a lot of documentation for the team I work on and manage on a regular basis. I’ve single-handedly created processes that people now blindly follow without a second guess because they believe that what I’m saying is true and is right. No one questions the directions I give them if I give them said directions written out.

Sometimes I get funny looks if I tell them how to do something verbally, though, and I totally understand.

As I reflect on situations like that, I realize I get ahead of myself in the process as I work through it in my head. Once I speak the words of event think about them, I’m already onto the next step. As I write, I can’t do that. I’m focused on placing one sentence at a time onto the digital or physical paper and don’t move on until I’m done.

Some would describe that as a very small sign of a mental disorder. I’m sure at least one person would say it’s OCD-like. Some would probably ponder a slight autistic quality about it.

Who knows. I might have any of those things. I know my younger brother is autistic. He’s terrible when it comes to interactions but that kid is damn smart. Growing up, he took to video games like flies and dog crap. He’s five years and change younger than me but he schooled me in just about any video game we played once he got the hang of the mechanics.

Once I got the hang of the mechanics involved in writing, I did the same thing.

I’m not super social, and I’m all right with that. I can spend all weekend in front of my computer writing about stuff and discussing topics with people I never see and not have a care in the world. I could also spend al weekend on the beach with my camera taking photos without speaking a word to anyone.

I bet if I was to do some more research on the autism spectrum, I’d probably find some qualities that I happen to possess. I’m sure we all do in some form or another, but that doesn’t make us autistic. The spectrum has become really wide and we put more and more people in it because of vaccines we don’t know how to classify them any other way.

I’m sure if a doctor told me I was slightly autistic, I wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t feel any different. It would explain my tendencies, but they’re mild enough that with enough effort from other angles, can be suppressed. Most days I just choose not to suppress them.

Take now, for example. Most days I’d be napping on the bus on my way to work because why not? Today, I decided to pack my laptop and continue writing. I didn’t get enough time this morning to write and I really enjoy it. A lot of people are sitting around me with their eyes closed, probably thinking about nothing. I’m sitting here bettering myself through words. I call that a big win.

Now that this paragraph puts me at a thousand and four words for a rather simple topic, I want to close with this one thought: as a society we try to make everything black and white; I’m super guilty of this. We’re not black and white creatures, though. There are literally an infinite number of facets to each and every one of us.

Don’t put someone down because of their inability to do something particularly well. I’d bet you ten bucks in whatever currency you use that there’s a variant of that skill they’re really good at. In my case, I’d hate to speak publicly because I’m not that good at improvising. I could write a speech for someone in no time at all and master the hell out of it.

We’re all incredibly different. Remember that.