Verbal Fat





I like to talk a lot. If you know me, you probably know that I will just keep talking about stuff if I am excited about something.

I have noticed that the more I talk, and the more excited I am when I talk, this one thing starts to happen. All those noises I spelled out above start creeping in. I think that it has to do with my brain running much faster than my mouth, and the noises are my mouth trying to get my brain to slow down, perhaps send the information that the mouth was supposed to be conveying once more. I call this thing “Verbal Fat”, and everyone has a different expression this terrible habit.

I have seen massive verbal fat before. When I was in college I was required to take some sort of public speaking class – there were two or three options. I forget exactly the name of the one that I chose, but I remember two things from it. First, the entire text of The Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carol. Second, the amount of improvement that one of my classmates had with his stutter.

I don’t remember his name, and I don’t know the particular problem that made this classmate’s ability to speak so problematic. He had an extremely severe stutter that made it downright exhausting to speak with him. It may have been some form of Asperger’s Syndrome, or something else on the Autism spectrum. It may have been a severe anxiety disorder, perhaps a form of OCD. I am not sure. I think there was something about particular types of sounds that he just couldn’t get past.

I do remember that even reacting to his name when attendance was being called the first day, he stuttered. There is exactly one syllable in the word “here” – and he stuttered over that syllable. In a public speaking class. From day one – moment one – this guy was fighting to get his words out. I know that I was not excited to be in this class with him. I am not sure what he thought about his stutter, but he seemed determined to figure something out.

And he improved.

Considering his disability, he probably improved more than I did. I learned how to memorize a short speech, and how to present it decently well, with inflections and tone and all of that. By the end of the quarter, this guy went from a starting point of stuttering over problem sounds 5 times per sentence (and getting past these problems by repeating the sound 5 times or more) to being able to get through an entire speech only stuttering 2 or 3 times.

That is downright phenomenal! I got to watch him go from being totally burdened by his stutter to it shrinking into a relatively minor (albeit very noticeable) negative social habit. It is something that I would like to witness again. To see someone take their major issues and absolutely dominate them.

He learned how to trim down the verbal fat in his dialogue. This is something that I would love to learn how to do. At the time of writing, I have exactly one podcast episode up. Pretty much the only feedback that I have gotten from it is about how much I ramble. One of the first things that I say in the episode is that I had to edit out dozens and dozens of instances of verbal fat in the form of “um” and “uhh”.

All of that is verbal fat. Things that don’t help me. Things that annoy my wonderful listeners. Things that just generally aren’t pleasant to listen to, and everyone would be better off if I would just stop doing it.

It has been nearly 8 years since I was in the class with this guy, but I distinctly remember the particular way that he dealt with his own verbal fat. Whenever he would start stuttering, he would lift his right foot about 6 inches, bending at the knee. Then he would kick it down and drive his heel strongly to the floor. The strength of his kick was apparently expressive of how severe his problem with forming any particular word.

I am going to try something with my next recording, that I have heard other people have tried when in front of a microphone. I’ve printed out those words I typed out at the beginning of this post. I am going to be recording a discussion tomorrow with a friend and I am going to put my “umm” sign on the wall above her head so that I can just look at it instead of saying it. I’ve got a second one as well that I am going to offer to put over my own head so that she can do the same.

A work.

This post has, in the writing, turned into a very interesting list of things that I am striving for. It is not very topically interesting for nerds, storytellers, or gamers. But I think that many people might like it, so I am going to post it anyways.

It’s a big damn world, and there is a portion of it that I want to live in. But I’m not in it now.

I am speaking metaphysically – the physical space that I live in right now is actually pretty cushy and I kinda like it.

I was reading an article (this one, if you care. Doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the rest of my post here.), and I came across a quote from Seneca – “If a person doesn’t know to which port they sail, no wind is favorable.”

I’m not 100% sure that Seneca actually said that, but it is still interesting, and it got me thinking. I realized that this quote is very generalizable, and remains true no matter who is trying to apply it to themselves. It applies to the person who knows the ‘port’ which is their destination by affirming that, yes – you have taken a few steps in planning that can help you find success later. It also applies to the person who is dissatisfied and has no plan by motivating them to answer the question “where do I want to go with my time and energy? At which port would I like to drop anchor, sell my ship, and never return from?”

With my website (that you are on right now) and my podcasts (which are available at these links here), I am trying to get to a ‘different port’. I am in a job that is not within my preferred career and holds little value over a consistent paycheck and interesting coworkers. I am trying to get to a ‘port’ where I can actually shed this daily distraction from my real goals.

And that is the thing that struck me – I want to leave something behind. I’m not entirely sure that I really knew that in a real way before. I want to take all of my life, throw it on a ship, cross the metaphysical Mediterranean, and unload my ship in a city that I have sorta heard about but have not yet experienced because I have not been able to set up shop and walk the streets and meet the people. One problem is that I am not entirely sure that I know the way to get there. Hell – I’m a little worried that I don’t even know where it is that I want to go.

I think that it will help if I further define the port that I want to get to. This may change en route, and I may find that I will have to settle a new country and build a new port if all of the characteristics that I desire are not able to be found in any one city – or if I get shipwrecked along the way.

SO. my characteristics of the metaphysical ‘port’ that I want to get to:

-Independent from larger Corporate Culture: I know that I don’t want to work for a ‘Large Faceless Organization’, and this may be my insistence towards a rebellious mindset, or just that I have totally ignored the ‘American Dream’ ever since…well ever since a while ago. I am not sure if I would be satisfied working with/for a smaller organization or if I want to be entirely independent. I’m not sure that this distinction matters.

-Contribute Clearly : Related to the point above, I know that I want to be in an organization where I am indispensable. Not that I ever think I will be totally irreplaceable – someone out there must have a skill set similar to mine – but I want to be able to see how I contribute and how I do not, and I want this contribution to be meaningful.

-Creative: I want to be able to wake up and have the freedom to sit there and write or speak or draw or something, no matter the particular medium, and scratch my creative itch. This and two other things (included in my next points) are some of the most intellectually satisfying and stimulating things that I have ever done without other people directly involved.

-Learning: I want there to be time in my day for me to pursue knowing something that I did not know yesterday. This could be flexibility in my day-to-day schedule for improving the things I am doing, it could be the ability to enroll in college courses (or even entire degree programs) that I find that I want to learn, or it could be picking up a new podcast about that hobby that I want to try to pick up.

-Flexibility: I want to be able to leave. Not the particular job or occupation (dependability is an important thing), but I want to be able to do my work from home (maybe a home studio?) or from a coffee shop. Or the basement of the library. Or from Tokyo. I’m not sure if I simply want a regular scene change or if I want to be doing my work in these other places… but I know I don’t want to be told to sit in the same office every day. My current coworkers may not realize it, but I change my cube at work every single day. Usually the change is just a new post-it with a cool quote on it, and sometimes is more drastic, but it always changes.

-Empowering: I want to be able to pursue the things that I find valuable. That could mean finding a person that is willing to do all of the administrative things that I no longer want to do, and it could mean making enough money to go give a whole bunch of it to small business owners in Columbus or farming families in the Congo.

-Empowering: I want to be able to help others pursue the things that they find valuable. Similar and related to the previous post, I want to help others achieve their goals, as well. I want to find the family that has done everything it can to find a job and hire the mom and dad so that they can finally pay off some of those bills without worrying about feeding their children. I want to recklessly hire people – people need jobs to get them out of poverty and if I can hire them first and figure out how to use their talents later I will.

I think I know the way to the port. I think I know how to steer my vessel. I think the winds are favorable, even. Time to shove off and get some work done.