“Howdy” Lingo – Neighborly Talkin’ in Non-Fiction

As a writer, I take pleasure in seeing other writers find the proper ‘Voice’ (and I’m not talking about the television show with four judges, people) for their articles or stories.  In fact, finding a story’s ‘Voice’ is a very large part of having a reader relate to what a writer is putting out there.  I mean, the impact of Flowers for Algernon would be lost without Charly’s unique dialogue throughout the story, or the down-home twangy drawl in Of Mice and Men added a warmth and realism that would have been considerably less convincing if the tale had used proper grammar.  As a writer, I often utilize different grammatical effects to relay specific character-related quirks or personalities, changing from what type of tale or story I’m telling to the format I’m presenting it in.  And I wouldn’t trade the opportunity employ every skill or trick a writer has to convey their messages to their readers.  However, as a writer, I like to think I know when creative use of language is best utilized and, with the exception of fiction and, possibly, the greeting card business, I’ve rarely found “Howdy” lingo used in non-fiction articles or stories to be efficient tools of the trade.  As a matter of fact, I’ve more often found the frequent use of neighborly-speech dismaying.

With the ever-apparent “dumbing down” of educational programs (Let’s face it, even 15 years ago when I was in high school, we were only asked to read one Shakespeare play and, if you guessed Romeo and Juliet, you guessed correctly; and we never touched on Steinbeck, Orwell, Kerouac, Lee or Buck to name a few of the Greats.), and basic human conversation (Must I point out the vocalization of OMG?!, LOL, or WTF?!, to name a few?), I’ve often taken solace in the knowledge that most writers know when and where to use informal ‘Voice’ in their literature.  One of these places to bolster that perception I’ve grasped at (like a drowning man clutches to a life preserver!) could always be found in the newspaper.

All but the smallest rags have managed to maintain a formality to their articles, a finessing of language, that supported my wishful thinking that not all of literature’s society was caving into the idiocy that people needed smaller words in order to relate to the literature.  So one can imagine my disappointment when I open my local Sunday newspaper to find no less than a science article from an Associated Press writer in Houston using neighborly-speak such as, “Heck, astronauts…”, “Astronomers figure…”, and “Some old-timers….  With such informal terminology, how can one be expected to not conjure images of two old pig farmers standing knee deep in mire going back and forth casually about “that there importance of asteroid travel by the boys over at NASA by gosh“?

Perhaps only I am bothered by this liberalization of non-fiction; maybe today’s society needs simple, friendly words to make possibly dry subjects entertaining?  (They are competing with the Kardashian sisters after all.)  Let me ask, however, what happens when you hear a journalist use terms in writing such as heck, figures, and old-timers?  Does it instill images of professionalism and intelligence, or are you left with pictures of a good ol’ boy him-hawing about the weather or the crops in the field?  Without much stretch of the imagination, people might be able to see how many, many other people, professional and otherwise, might be led to the same imagery. And, as a writer, I am left to wonder if this article could not have been better verbalized if it had been scrawled on a napkin at 3 a.m. by a NASA-interested pig farmer who had had one Red Bull too many?

Re-emergence…The Writing Cocoon

All right, so I’m back from my little get-away.  And I’ve decided that one of the first things I’m going to do is drink party talk to you.  Now, don’t you feel special?  I had quite a bit of time to think during my unplug from the cyber-reality that has taken up more than its fair share of our daily lives.  One of the main things I’ve come to determine is that Justin Bieber needs to be shot there are so many more hours in a day when a person isn’t constantly thinking about/checking up on their FB status, their Twitter feed, or scanning through their email accounts – not to mention the bigillion other electronic fixes.  Boredom takes on a whole new persona when you’ve:

  • Exercised
  • Walked the dog
  • Planned out the day’s meals
  • Visited with friends
  • Read a book
  • Dedicated time to writing
  • Dedicated time to editing
  • Walked the dog again
  • Visited with more friends
  • Watched the telly/movies
  • Went on a leisurely walk
  • Went out with friends
  • Walked the dog again

And all of this accomplished before a 12 hour period has cycled.  The best thing about it, too? You still have time to be bored and there are still technically 4 more hours in the day for you to deal with if you subscribe to the totally asinine belief that people should get only 8 hours of sleep a day!.

As a writer, I came to the decisive conclusion that most, if not all, of this “boredom” time could be re-invested into my writing.  Having gone through a drought down-cycle (Can we say “Sahara”, baby?) recently in my writing, the idea of re-investing myself so thoroughly back into writing was met with some kicking and screaming hesitation.  But do you know what I learned?  (That walking so much after being the world’s biggest couch potato led to the world’s stiffest woman?)  I learned that my aforementioned (Think back some blog articles ago, people.) apathy toward writing wasn’t actually toward the writing at all!

Instead, what I learned was the overwhelming need to market myself and my writing was leaving the horrible aftertaste in my mouth that I was associating with the writing itself! 

You’ll only ever have the slightest inclination as to what a revelation this was to me.  The relief was enormous.  Here I was, a writer my entire life, tagged as “The Writer” in casual and formal conversation since before I’d hit puberty, and the idea of writing was distasteful and distressing to me.  Me?!  However, I learned during my disconnect, that the writing itself hadn’t become the enemy, the pressure to market had.  I’d become obsessed with knowing who of my friends had the “latest thing” published; I needed to share and re-share every writing-related Tweet I’d posted, share and re-share every FB blurb about my books, or share and re-share my blog articles.  Then I’d become addicted to seeing how many times my shared item had been re-shared by others, commented on by friends and strangers alike, and “liked” and viewed, and so one and so forth.  During my disconnect I learned three things:

  1. I am not a marketing genius.
  2. I would rather spend my time writing.
  3. I have far less back and neck stiffness and pain when I spend my time writing on the laptop instead of “surfing”.

Number 1 was pretty simple.  I may have held a lucrative job as an advertising agent for a national company but, when it comes to pimping myself, I need help.  Number 2 is something I used to know at one point and had forgotten.  And number 3 just contributes to less bitchiness irritability bitchiness on my part.

At this point in the blog, I’m sure, people are wondering why the fuck I’m bothering to write about this?  Main reason?  It’s my blog and I can do what I want.  Another reason is because I’m hoping that my own revelation can help others in some small way.  During my own down-cycle I had at least a dozen writer-friends tell me how they were becoming more and more disconnected from their writing.  For some unfathomable reason, they turned to me for advice.  But I had none to share.  I mean, who was I to give advice on something I was A) going through, and B) didn’t know how to fix for my damn self, much less someone else?  So, basically, the whole point of my cyber-therapy in this article is to reveal to others what I did, finally, learn, and that is this:

Maybe it’s not the writing pissing you off.  Maybe it’s the ever-present, ever-pressing need to market/promote yourself.
And, if you’ve eliminated that entirely, eliminated every other aspect of writing-related items from the list of “Is this causing the fucking problem?“, and it is none of the above.  Well, maybe, just maybe, it is the writing.  And then, I ask you, why the fuck are you still doing it?