Last night I had the memorable experience of being interviewed for an online teaching position by my laptop. I’ve had interviews in person, over the phone, and quite possible via Skype (I just can’t remember if that last one actually happened…). But I had never been interviewed by nobody.
The institution in which I applied decided it was best and most fair for all applicants to take part in an on-demand video interview. I did this by following a link, signing in, and clicking the “begin interview” button. I was then given questions which I had 30 seconds to prepare for. Then my web cam started recording and I was supposed to answer the question at my monitor with no human or cyborg participation on the other end.
It was by far the weirdest interview I’ve ever had.
Now, I’m used to talking to myself on camera. I had a vlog for over a year, which I updated weekly. This, however, was different. This was me trying to make a good impression on someone that could potentially hire me for a job. This was me trying to be eloquent (which is hard enough in person) with only one take. With vlogs, I could go back and re-shoot a sentence or two if it didn’t come out right. With this interview, I was confined to one take, and what I said could not be edited or clarified. To make things worse, there was even a time limit. When I wasn’t staring awkwardly at my laptop’s camera, I was eyeing the ticking clock, worrying about how little time I had left.
As you can imagine, that could only help my inability to communicate concisely. After half an hour of this, it was finally over, and it is now out of my hands and into those with the power to hire, or laugh my pitiful audition to scorn.
I may come off like it was the worst experience ever, but it actually wasn’t too bad. Sure, I flubbed a bunch of easy-to-pronounce words, said “um” a lot, and couldn’t remember where I was going with a particular point after a minute or two of talking, but in the end, I felt I answered as best I could (all things considered). Perhaps knowing the questions in advance could have helped, but knowing me, it probably wouldn’t have helped enough to make that big of a difference. Speaking – especially to nobody at all – can be very difficult for me.
That’s why I love writing. When I write, I am able to formulate my words how I want them. I can gather my thoughts as I’m typing (much like I’m doing now), and by the time my fingers catch up, I’ve had enough time for my brain to know what it wants to say. No hemming or hawing, just words flowing.
For me, it’s a way I can communicate comfortably. Words don’t come to me as fast as I’d like while speaking. While writing, however, the right words come at the first attempt (more often than not, at least).
When I first started writing short stories and novels, I wouldn’t outline a thing. Usually I would have a topic in mind – sometimes even just a word or phrase – and then I’d start writing. I always found that the longer I wrote, the more I could make the story make sense. I would find connections with plot and characters, and in the end I could tie everything up nicely. Flying by the seat of my pants is how I got into writing in the first place.
I outline now before I write stories. As good as I am at making things up as I go, I find that if I have just a small map of where things should go, the stories flow that much smoothly. There are many times where I’ll just ignore the map and take a lengthy detour, but it does help me turn my stories into something more.
This is how I’ve evolved in my writing, and this is the difference between putting words on paper and speaking. If there was a way I could talk in slow motion so my brain could keep up, that might suit me better. Having to talk about important things – even things I know a lot about – can make my tongue tied and leave me stuttering and stammering without a coherent thought in my head. If speaking were more like writing, maybe I’d be better at it.
I’ll just stick with writing. That, I can do.