I talk too much. I always have. I’m self-conscious about it. No, not in the sense of spy movies or the “Loose lips sink ships” way. I understand what is public knowledge and what is not, and I would never, ever betray someone’s confidence. I simply—and literally—use too many words. All the time. For everything.
I know I use too many words. I hate it. There are few things worse than telling a story in front of a group of people and seeing an army of eyeballs glaze over. And I don’t blame them (or their eyeballs). I can take a tale that warrants thirty seconds—tops—and turn it into War and Peace. If you knew how often I used the phrase, “Wait, I forgot what my point was…” you’d be disappointed in me. Some people make their point with words that pack a punch; I prefer the system of erosion.
My name is Amy. And I am verbose.
Side note: I was in seventh or eighth grade when I learned the definition of the word verbose. I never forgot it because I was reading a book called 500 SAT Words and How to Remember Them Forever! (Yes, that was the actual name of the book.) The book used mental pictures and homonymy to create vivid recollection of definitions. For instance, verbose sounds like verb hose. Imagine a hose pouring out unnecessary words—including verbs—by the bucketful. There you go. Verbose = verb hose.
And… I forgot what my point was.
Ah. Using too many words—or pleonasm, as we like to call it in the “People Who Get Dictionaries for Christmas” club—is one of my greatest downfalls. I long to be cool (think Steve McQueen, brooding and aloof), but I am, sadly, the opposite of that. Cool people don’t slobber all over themselves. I do.
Thank goodness for my mom.
See, what I consider to be one of my greatest weaknesses, my mom saw as one of my greatest strengths. “You have so much to say!” she’d tell me when I was little. “I don’t know how you have all those words inside your head. You should write some of them down!”
The first story—the first real story—I remember writing was in first grade. I wrote it on triple-spaced handwriting paper, the type kids use to practice printing uppercase and lowercase letters. I taped the pages together end to end and held up the final product. It was nine pages long and had something to do with a princess. I remember thinking how much work it was and how I would never again be able to muster such a monumental effort. It was my final opus. I was six.
Then I discovered the sport of ice hockey. Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Blues in 1996, and I fell in love. I bought every hockey magazine I could find and scoured the library for books on the sport. I memorized players’ names and stats and favorite foods and childhood stories until I was a warehouse of obscure and relatively useless knowledge. My parents and siblings were the beneficiaries of this information, usually when they were trapped at the dinner table.
“Amy, you know so much about hockey!” my mom said to me one evening, thirty-seven minutes into a riveting story about the time Jacques Plante took a puck to the face and needed over two hundred stitches. “You should write about it! Why don’t you write articles about hockey?"
And so I did. We were homeschooled—which means my mom was my teacher—and she tailored my curriculum to boast a heavy writing emphasis. She drove me to the library multiple times a week to check out all the books I wanted, and she bought whatever books the library didn’t have. She transformed tests into essay form and made sure I was studying the most comprehensive literature and writing courses. And, to keep things fun, she’d take me to the rink on weekday mornings to watch the St. Louis Blues practice—and then interview the players. (Back in those days, very few people other than the media watched the practices, so the players and coaches were easily accessible.)
“Hi, my name is Amy Marxkors, and I write a hockey newsletter. I was wondering if I could interview you for an article?”
My first interview—ever—was with Tony Twist, the infamous Blues enforcer. After that, a litany of NHL players and coaches followed. I was thirteen.
I am a writer today because of my mom. Where I saw fault, she saw potential. She knew that the only difference between a flaw and a gift is how that energy is directed.
Running, for better or worse, is a revealing sport. It highlights our weaknesses and uncovers hidden strengths. And, sometimes, the two aren’t wholly unrelated.
We all have weak spots. We all have flaws. We all have areas about which we are self-conscious—whether they are seen or unseen. They key is to identify those areas and find a way to redirect what can be perceived as a negative into something uniquely positive. (It is a fine line that separates stubbornness and determination, after all.)
Our weaknesses can become strengths. They can become platforms to reach and help other people. They can become motivating factors to drive us to do something we otherwise never would have dreamed of doing.
Don’t look at a flaw and see a barrier. Look at a flaw and see potential. If you’ve got it, own it. Transform it, redirect it, defy it—do whatever you need to do to say, “Okay, this is where I’m at. Now I am going to use this to…”
Fill in the blank with something awesome, folks.
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.