Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Carry a Big Stick

Harry, seventy plus years old, gay and garrulous, wants to know if I’m okay. I’m “even more silent than usual,” he tells me with his impish smile. He’s a sweet, good-natured guy, but the connotation is that there’s something off about me because I don’t talk much.

Am I that quiet? In work mode, I guess so. I thought I left the silent, shy version of myself behind years ago but it comes out when I’m buckled down on a deadline. Which, at Books & Books, is most of the time.

Still, I don’t see the point of yakking for yakking’s sake, except to make others more comfortable. It’s a skill I’ve developed somewhat over the years but nothing that comes naturally. That’s part of the reason I enjoy groups of people; there are others to share the burden of filling dead air.

I told Harry I felt great. In less of a rush (or with quicker wit), I could have used humor to prove to Harry how great I was.

“I like people to see me as the strong, silent type.”

“When you don’t talk much, you’re at less of a risk of saying stupid things.”

“God only gave me forty-seven million words in this lifetime, and I’m trying to use them judiciously.”

One thing I’ve noticed. In crowds where I don’t speak much, when I do open my mouth, people listen. On the rare occasion that I actually have something decent to say, this works in my favor. When I’ve been the victim of my own logorrhea, I’ve wanted the ground to open at my feet so I could disappear with nothing but an inward groan and a sheepish wave goodbye.

That’s why dialog is so much fun. You have weeks to put the perfect phrase in your character’s mouth, whether you want her to be dazzling in her erudition or cringe-worthy in her ignorance.

Truthfully, I wouldn’t mind being mute.


  1. Hullo AJC,

    Nice post.

    I too am sometimes collared by the "Are you alright? You're awfully quiet." when feeling fine. Like you too I am often listened to out of all proportion to my wisdom or thouhtlessness and can be found to make witless, miss by a mile funny, or completely misguided statements.

    Doesn't stop them listening though. Sometimes it must be really good stuff and sometimes they must be looking forward to the next faux pas. Some folk never learn.

    That goes for them and me of course!

    Nice to see you posting a bit more regularly.


  2. Hullo AJC,

    Been backtracking some of your posts. I had forgotten that I wanted a copy of the Apricot dip. I see you have it now.

    My email is Alistair1403@yahoo.com if ya wanna send it.

    {I could do with some brownie points just now}


    the comments pass word was 'famboner'. Now THAT should be a real word.

    maybe a famboner of a hangover?

  3. Hi,
    Was just re reading this one too and was caught by the line

    'when you don't talk much, you're at less of a risk of saying stupid things'

    I was struck by the thought that since communication is only 20% what you hear and 80% what you see, there's a helluva chance your just going to look stupid instead.

    Just a heads up on that one!



  4. I'd forgotten about the 20 / 80 split - classic.