Burn This Homily* To The Ground: The Moral Virtue of Silence

  (*for homily, read “platitude” “trope” “so-called wisdom” or “widespread bullshit”)

There isn’t any.


Oh, wait, that was hardly the excessively worded deconstruction that I usually enjoying inflicting on my hapless readers. I suppose I should go into more detail.

Those who read my blog but haven’t met me might not be surprised to learn that I am frequently just as verbose in person as I am online. Those who know me on Facebook, but not really in person, will be aware that I post a good deal of banal bullshit on my own life (updates on pets, how much sleep I’ve had, how good coffee is, why adulting is so hard, all the exercise I’m doing, the fact that I’ve actually done laundry and now have clean knickers, why I’m having surgery yet again and yet somehow surgery can’t cure being a clueless git who gets herself injured all the time) in addition to the sharing of various political articles (the next person who says “echo chamber” to me is going to get… look, I want to say throat punch but let’s be honest: a violent temper in my case doesn’t equal actual violence and the worst I’m going to do is get enraged and glare at you, so let’s just imagine I am way more badass than I actually am, alright? NOW QUAKE IN TERROR YOU FOOL)… holy crap, where was I?

The coffee just kicked in. I am bouncy and alive and, given that I had surgery on my hand just over a week ago, involving a general anaethestic which generally drops me on my butt with overwhelming fatigue and literal chemically-triggered depression for 2-3 weeks, this is a miracle.

I like to talk.

I have a lot to say.

I don’t have much of a sense of privacy, except in a few key areas which will surprise no-one. I’m usually quite willing to discuss things that do surprise people – the only thing that gives me pause is making them uncomfortable (as some discussions do leave people thinking “Holy fuck, how do I respond to this? Was this a grave confessional?” and I wish I could just tell them, no, dude, seriously, I talk about shit, I talk about everything, I don’t really give a fuck as long as it’s not making you uncomfortable and unhappy). If things butt up against my “oh wow suddenly I don’t want to talk about this, that is such a weird feeling for me…” line, then generally I will say so (being a bit of a people-pleaser – yes, really – I’ll start out trying to soft-pedal a change of subject in the hopes of not having to shut down a particular line of inquiry).

People like to critique other people for sharing boring shit on social media. Here’s my response to that [link], but to TL;DR: filter and scroll on, my friend, this is an amazing superpower you have. I’ve had people admit to me that they’ve filtered me because I just post so much and then I look at their feed and realise that they’re incredibly selective about what they post; I often feel a brief moment of envy and wistful admiration that they can do that. I am just not built that way. I never have been.

I have, in the past, felt ashamed of being so open. It makes me vulnerable. I’m an easy person to hurt. It used to make me feel foolish, when other people invoked their right to privacy and managed to deal with their problems and their lives without turning it all into a GIGANTIC BREATHTAKING HILARIOUS TERRIFYING NARRATIVE that could be shared with all and sundry.

Because we do have a trope that very talkative people are foolish, or shallow. We have a strange sort of societal notion that really valuable people are quiet and thoughtful (as though those things have to go together, honestly). There’s a lot of “well, who needs to hear about that when there are more important things?” (scroll, my friend. Scroll like the motherfucking wind)

There’s a lot of “No-one needs to know everything about your life” memes. Well, no. But I also don’t see a lot of romance in shutting up, either.

There’s a lot of “Empty vessels make the most sound.”

Spare me. The fact that I’m caught up in my giant breathtaking narrative in no way makes me superficial. It just means I like communicating. I like telling stories. I like reflecting – aloud, for an audience. It’s how I roll. If it’s not your thing, that’s fine; I don’t get to tell people what they should listen to or receive. I was shocked when I realised that I’m not alone, that there are a tonne of other people out there who live inside this constant stream of consciousness, that it’s not a completely abnormal way to exist. What a huge relief that was! We are numerous. We are vocal.

We are storytellers.

I read a lot of romance novels, either of the standard present day drama setting or the science-fantasy/paranormal settings. I’m a big marshmallow when it comes to those sorts of things and I enjoy them greatly (when well written, at least. And plotted. And charactered. I am quite picky these days).

The romantic male protagonist (because they tend to be quite heteronormative, but I do read a few that aren’t) tends to be silent and brooding. The heroine (see previous parentheses) tends to have to guess at his feelings and desires. Even in well written ones, the heroes aren’t overly communicative. There’s an element of toxic masculine tropery in that, but it doesn’t just apply to the guy: it applies to the women as well. They tend to be relatively quiet. Often, the bouncy, babbly, talkative women are sidekicks, or immature teenage sisters, or best friends who are tragically marked for death (Scream springs to mind). And the bouncy, babbly, lovable talkative guy rarely gets to have his own triumphant story.

That’s not true of all genres, but there is a running pattern.

I want a talkative hero. I want a romantic sexy hero who never shuts up. Maybe he babbles and gets embarrassed, maybe he’s just bouncy and a storyteller, but he’s not brooding, he’s not uncommunicative, he’s not living in a silent well of sexy broody tragedy, he’s just – well – a talker. There are probably things he doesn’t talk about, maybe that’s where the hook is, but who knows?

We have this idea that people who talk, people who communicate well, hell, even people like me who communicate more or less constantly… aren’t interesting. They’re superficial. They have no rich inner life. I’m not sure why. Maybe there’s less for the reader/viewer to figure out (hey, babble is a defense in many cases; you know we’ve got plenty of mystery of our own, hmm?). Maybe it runs up against that vicious “show, don’t tell” rule which means a main character probably shouldn’t be too self aware.

I did in fact get told this would be lazy writing if a character understood themselves well enough to realise some of their own flaws and try to actively work to correct them.

What, characters can’t get therapy?

A lot of which is – by the way – about talking, and about giving yourself permission to talk, and to feel, and to be open in a safe space about a whole bunch of shit that previously you thought you shouldn’t bother anyone with or that you were overreacting about and honestly, in therapy, it doesn’t matter whether you’re overreacting or not – what matters is that you’re reacting, and that’s interesting, and why, and what does it mean, and does it help and what do we do with it now?

This post is about talking. It’s about telling stories. It’s about, yes, run-on sentences and poor grammar and firing off ideas as they march through my talkative, talkative brain.

And it’s about telling you, that if you’re one of those people who, like me, has so much to say, even about the little things, all the little things, and you’re tired of people implying that you’re shallow or stupid or boring because you have so much to say – it’s okay. It’s really okay. Seriously? The only thing we have to worry about is making sure we let other people get words in edgewise. It can be hard to learn to listen when you have so much to say all the time, and if that’s a problem you have, I promise, you can learn and work on it and it gets better. It doesn’t mean you have to shut up all the time, just pick your moments.

It’s okay to talk. Honest.




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