Catfishing with Words: Illiterate In Person, Genius on Paper

Photo by Abdullah Öğük on Unsplash

One day, I was sitting in the living room, watching the news. I forgot to spell a word, so I turned to one of my sisters. “Hey Marian?”

“Yeah?” she said.

“How do you spell ‘saw’?” I asked.


“The word ‘saw’! Like, ‘I saw a bird in the sky.’ Please! I’m being serious! Tell me how to spell it!”

She stared at me for a long time, before she said: “S-A-W.”

“What?” I said, dumb as bricks.


I sat there and stared at the wall, envisioning the three letters emblazed on the surface. Then, it clicked. “OHHHHH!” At that very moment, the gears in my brain started churning, and I finally snapped out of idiot-ville. “Thanks Marian!”


Sometimes, I catch myself sounding real stupid when I talk to others. I’ll try my best to tell a story that ends up all over the place, or worse, forget the story mid-sentence and sputter into silence. It’s at these moments where people deduce that there’s not much going on ‘up there’ and stop talking to me about complex subjects. But, when they read what I write, they stare at me, back at the words on paper, and then ask, “Is this really you?”

I don’t know if this is an introvert thing or something else, but I’m a much better writer than I am a talker. This makes it hard to be taken seriously at parties when people rely on your verbal skills to measure your intelligence. I’m often measured an “eh,” until that person reads an essay I’ve written. Then, they start to see me in a whole different way. Sometimes, they’re mad, as if I’ve betrayed their judgement.

A Journey of Sounding Less Stupid

I’ve tried to improve my speaking skills by taking an Intro to Public Speaking course in college, but I wasn’t satisfied.

I decided that the only way I’d know if I’m a good talker, is if I can sit and film myself talking.

And let me tell you — nothing is more excruciatingly awkward than sitting in your car and filming yourself talking.

I sat in my car on a hot August afternoon. The sun hit my front window and branded my forehead with its rays. I rubbed my forehead, muttering obscenities as I pressed record on my phone. Using a tripod, I propped it onto a surface and start talking.

I stuttered. Paused. And “ummmm”ed more than I ever did in my life. I looked back at the videos I took in horror as I stared into space for nearly a minute before I continued where I left off.

Embrace Your Strength

When it comes to either writing or speaking, there are some of us that are better at one than the other.

It was hard to accept that I’m a better writer than a speaker. Of course, I won’t give up on improving my speaking skills, but for now, it’s okay to embrace my strength, which is writing.

But, when I meet someone new, I hope they don’t meet me when I forget to spell “sky.”

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