I just finished up my last post of the week for Powell's, where I've been guest-blogging since Monday. As I was thinking about what to write, I realized I had the urge to share something over there that I don't think I've shared here yet, even though I've thought about it a bunch, and even started a few posts about it but never pushed them forward. And it's not that big of a deal, but I kind of feel disingenuous writing about the radio interview I'm set to do tomorrow without being a little bit more forthcoming about what's actually making me anxious about it, instead of just talking in generalities. (And I'm cribbing from the Powell's post a little bit, so if you're over here from there, bear with me and I'll get to some new places by the end of the post, I promise.)
I mean, all the generalities are appropriate here too -- I’ve never done any ive radio before, and I’m not entirely confident in my ability to be engaging and articulate on the fly. I trust my writing enough that I don't feel like I can truly hurt myself with an e-mail interview, to an extent that I don't trust my talking. I haven't really internalized the ability to stop and take a breath, and actually formulate an answer before I start talking, and so on a lot of my phone interviews I feel like I give them half a sentence of real answer and then I fumble my way to the end of the paragraph.
But that's all stuff that's normal and expected, and no big deal. What makes me anxious about this stuff, and I'm really kind of annoyed that I haven't blogged about this before, but I have somewhat of a stutter when I’m not entirely comfortable -- I'd call it a slight stutter, but there are situations where I can be fairly dysfluent, if I'm having to make an appointment on the phone, or something like that, where there's no way around whatever words I need to say. It’s probably noticeable to a small degree in regular conversation –- but probably a lot more noticeable to me, in my own head, than to whoever I'm talking to. I've talked about it to some friends, at various points, and a few have said they never noticed it, but I'm not sure I totally believe that. Once I’m comfortable with someone, it fades into the background pretty quickly and really isn't an issue at all -- I forget about it and it disappears. Certain dumb stuff, like having to introduce myself on command, or one of those orientation games where you need to go around the circle, that stuff is really where I find I have a noticeable problem. Normal conversation, nothing really.
In an interview setting, it ends up kind of up for grabs. I’ve had a bunch of phone interviews about the book, with newspapers and magazines. When I’ve been able to establish a rapport pretty quickly, when I’ve felt comfortable with the person, it’s been fine, and I’ve actually been pretty pleased with how I’ve done. But there have been a few where for whatever reason I couldn’t find that comfort level, and was struggling with it the entire time. I haven’t yet figured out how to make them all go as well as the ones that do, so I really don't know what to expect with the radio thing. It's live, in studio, which is tons better for me than a phone thing -- it's usually not a problem in person, and I'm significantly more comfortable in person than on the phone. But the added complication of a microphone and the knowledge that there's an audience out there makes me not entirely confident.
Yet I acted on stage in college (and a little bit in the law school parody shows, but I don't really count them) without a real problem. Partly because when able to rehearse the lines, I could figure out where to breathe, and see where I kept stumbling over the words, and work to fix that. On the fly it's more challenging. And I've been taking improv comedy classes where, for the most part, I think I'm able to manage it in the scenes, certainly more than in the first-class-around-the-circle introduction stuff, where it's fairly obvious I have a stutter.
I think why I haven't blogged about this is because, to some degree, writing about it makes it a bigger deal than it is. It's not a big deal. And I don't want this post to make it seem like it's more of thing than it is, or that it's really something real that's a problem in any significant way. It's not. I'd guess much of the time people I'm dealing with don't notice it, and even if they do, what's the difference and it hasn't really impacted anything that's gone on in my life. I went to a hypnotist once, actually -- I read a book somewhere (I've read all the books about this stuff) that said that could help. He said he didn't think it was nearly severe enough to want to treat me, and that I should think of it as an endearing quirk. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but I certainly think it's part of the reason I write. Maybe even a big part of the reason I write. I write because I can type all the words in my head without worrying about whether I'll be able to say them. I mean, I don't want to overstate it. I also write because I'm introverted and kind of scared of people, and oftentimes have the courage to write things that I don't have the courage to say. Or at least that I can write them more articulately than I could ever say them. Perhaps this post not included.
I've taped two podcast interviews so far, and neither has been posted. One for AOL, which I actually thought went really well, and the stutter wasn't a problem much at all, and I'd be surprised if it's noticeable in the audio. And the other for a site called Written Voices, where I wasn't really able to get into a groove, and I expect they'll have to edit the audio a fair bit, because I absolutely stumbled over stuff.
The other nice thing about it, and I touched on this in the Powell's post too. It means I’m rarely polished enough to fake it. And I feel like maybe there's some sort of charm to that. In others I feel like I like that characteristic. There’s a genuineness about not being polished enough to fake it. I like people who don’t sound like they’re reading from a set of talking points that they decided they wanted to communicate, and who never get beneath the surface. But as I write that, I realize it's not the same thing as what I'm saying, and there's no reason why someone who speaks like a radio host can't be a warm and genuine person too. But maybe you know what I mean. Maybe not. In any case, I need to get some sleep.
Listen to me Friday morning, if you like, on the Brian Lehrer show -- 10:40 on WNYC in New York, or the Internet feed is here. Cross your fingers it's not a complete mess. :)