‘Proper’ Speaking Can Kill Our Storytelling Abilities

“I’m working-class, and want people to know I’m not unintelligent

and all the other clichés that come with it.” – Timothy Spall, British Actor

OK, upfront, my bias.

I say Black people have rhythm – driving, pounding rhythm – coursing through our veins! It doesn’t mean that we are all able to impress others with how ‘well’ we dance or drum or sink a basket; it means when we surrender ourselves willingly to doing something a ferocious rhythm is released within us. We breathe freer and think better when we move within that rhythm, taking us to the more intuitive animalistic part of our human nature.

I also think all other cultures have their own rhythms, and just like there are trans-people, sometimes you might be born with the rhythms of another culture, not know it, and be thought the ugliest duckling in your birth culture. And then there are some people who can’t find any rhythm that fits them – not until they combine several cultures and produce their own unique rhythms, becoming creators who impact upon society. Last, and feeling the least among us, those whose sense of intuitive rhythm has been repressed and buried and forgotten.

When I write my stories the audience I envision

are working people like myself.

But maybe not as big a reader as I, and writing passionately only when they share protest or celebrity news on Facebook or caption a photo in a tweet. Maybe there are some kids, and definitely lots of work hours.

I know that to connect with them – when they’re not looking to connect – I need to call out to their instinctual rhythm. In trying to do it through the medium of writing, I don’t aim to impress with my perfect grammar and grasp of proper sentence structure. I trying to use my words to impact; to burrow into my audience without them knowing how it happens.

I write for people to speak my words aloud

like dialogue.

For me, the ideal experience of my writing would be to have a small group of people get together and read aloud one of my essays or stories and discuss it. Their reading will be much more animated and flowing if the writing aims for rhythm, over and beyond the grammatically correct.

I love to have other people critique my writing, and have a special fondest for those who are quick to spot grammatical errors, awkwardly structured sentences, and suspect word choices. I appreciate the help tightening up my writing. Recently Kelli, a neighbor, read over some of my writing and had a list of corrections and suggestions. Some I adopted, but with others I had to explain my grammatical misdeeds were deliberate.

EXAMPLE: Kelli suggested: "Re-phrase, ‘Recently a 30s something friend…’ to ‘Recently, a friend in his 30s’…”

I read the two aloud. I like mine, ‘Recently a 30s something friend…’, because it flows, has rhythm, comes at you. Now if a more grammatically correct phrasing is suggested that has equal rhythm, I'd consider it.

Then Kelli (admitting she was a “traditional grammarian”) recommended changing my Story Category titled ‘Us Teachers’ to ‘We Teachers’ or ‘Teachers’. I told her the ‘Us’ was very intentional. It echoes ‘catering2us’ (thinking about marketing considerations). Also 'Us' sounds more assertive, more exclusive than 'We'. 'We' is the Coca-Cola commercial. 'Us' is the Black Panthers, fists raised.

There is strength in being able to translate the power of the oral -- into power of word on page. (I intentionally left out 'the', which would make it more grammatically correct: ‘into the power of word on page’). Speak both ways out loud. You might not agree with my version, but you will understand the impact is different.

I have the painter Frida Kahlo’s image up

on walls and shelves staring at me from

five locations around my apartment.

Frida – she was held by her own glance. Her eyes locked to herself, so as to go beyond the eyes and mumbles of society; of Diego her husband and rival; of her fears and lifetime of pain.

I want to help struggling writers learn how to hold their own glance as intensively as Frida, giving their instinctual rhythm the room and confidence to emerge without worrying about or judging the form it takes.

First you express and release. Then you step away and celebrate that experience of raw energy. When you return to your first draft, you do so with curiosity, on the lookout in the writing for what still interests you or what you realize is missing. It’s a process of returning continually to your own glance until you are utterly fascinated by it. Ultimately it is about listening to your own heartbeat and letting that pulse your expression.

Welcome to Catering2Us - Trayce


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