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Paul’s Style Guide for Speaking

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. - Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been listening a lot to the things that I say. For me, it’s less about using slurs, and more about how people feel when they hear what I’m saying. Here’s some general rules I’ve been trying to use:

  • Never use the word “actually”. I don’t think, inherently, that the word “actually” is a bad one. I just hear it more and more in situations where (a) it’s being used as a verbal pause (“Well, like, actually, um”) or (b) it’s usage is lazy, and could be deemed condescending. In most cases, I can leave it off entirely, but in those rare cases where it might make sense, I’ve found “really” to work well.
  • Instead of “nice”, say “kind”. It’s true, that old adage “Nice guys finish last.”; at least in the anecdotal cases 16-year-old me gathered. Still, nice seems to not have the same feeling that it may have had. Colloquially, nice doesn’t have a good connotation. Instead of calling someone nice, I like to say they are kind. “That’s kind of you to say” sounds much more courteous and supportive than “That’s nice of you to say.”
  • Don’t swear, if you can help it. I don’t do News Year Resolutions, really, but the timing was perfect this year because I started my roller derby coaching season on the 6th (I needed a running start; I said a lot of cusses). If words have power (they do), swearing is the way you assert aggression. I have said one bad word this year, and it was so that I could show my aggressive support my roller derby ladies in all their endeavors (and carried with it a more powerful meaning; one of them even said “Whoa, coach just cussed.”).
  • When clear direction is needed, avoid adverbs. Deryck was the one that pointed this out, and it was the catalyst for avoiding “actually.” If you need to be direct, be direct. Don’t embellish what you’re saying with adverbs. You’re providing guidance, not writing prose.

I don’t necessarily think everyone should use these rules. In fact, I’ve developed these based on experimentation and as I’ve been working harder to listen rather than speak.

“We weren’t playing to click tracks, everything was reliant on Josh’s tempo,” Sanchez said. “And if it grooved, we kept it. That’s the beauty of some of those first few records, there’s a lot of movement. We didn’t rely on a machine to guide us, we relied on each other to have each other’s backs. I think that’s what makes some of those things special, that it is so very organic.”

In Keeping Secrets will always be my favorite Coheed album.

I apprenticed working sound at a local venue when I was younger. I remember the first time I was handed a set of drum triggers. I thought “this is the future!” I can remember the time I learned about click tracks, and thinking “oh man, this is going to change everything!” It was like technology meets music, and that’s where I thought I would fit right in (being both computer nerd and punk rocker).

As I get older, I’m finding that I like those things less and less. Coheed, in particular, has their live set timed with a click track now, and it’s been kind of a bummer to miss the improv that I have come to love about the band. You can tell the difference between a tight and “professional” click track show (and you can get a lot more going on when you have everything tied to the click), but I don’t prefer those shows anymore.

Charles Bradley - Why is it So Hard

Rolling with the Storybird crew, I’ve become more and more detail oriented with my art (because many of them are so good at finding those little details that make something “great”). Live performances are the thing that help me connect with other musicians, and just the Bradley’s face, with the song that he’s singing, get me right in the feels.


so here’s a fun story about this movie. guess who loves this movie? me! i do! i love this movie. i love this movie so much that when i was in the 7th grade and i saw “first wives club 2” on pay per view i was like: HELL YEAH!! FIRST WIVES CLUB TWO!! NO ONE TOLD ME THERE WAS A SEQUEL!!!

here’s the synopsis for first wives club 2:

disgruntled first wives take their ex-husbands’ new lovers under their wing.

sounds great, right? awesome viewing material for a precocious 11-year-old.

so i buy this movie, and like, three minutes into it i’m starting to feel suspicious?? like it’s really low quality and my girls are nowhere in sight?? how come none of the first wives are the same?? how come they’re alone in a bedroom with mood lighting?? why is she taking off her shirt?? why are they both taking off their shirts?? WHY ARE THEY—

here’s what i did not know about first wives club 2:

  • it is a lesbian porno of no relation to the beloved 1996 classic.

so of course i, horrified that i’ve accidentally bought porn on my family’s account (and in that state of panic that kids work themselves into whenever anything regarding sex is mentioned), quickly shut off the TV and go upstairs and watch an episode of veggie tales to like, cleanse my soul and apologize to jesus, and that’s that.


  • you have to pay for pay per view.

so the end of the month comes and i have completely put this incident out of my mind, haha, i accidentally bought porn, how funny, TELL NO ONE. right? and i’m sitting at a nice dinner with my mother, my stepfather, and my very religious aunt deb, and we’re just talking about farm things, whatever, when suddenly my mother puts her fork down and says, “okay, there’s something we need to discuss. as a family.”


and i’m like, running through a list of people i know who could conceivably be dead, and fantasizing about my mother announcing that she’s going to buy me My Own Computer Just Because U Earned It Kiddo, and she pulls out a piece of paper that says DIRECTV across the top. and i’m like: OH NO.

"i received the tv bill today," my mother said, and i was like, shoveling potatoes into my mouth as fast as i could because i knew that when i went to PORN PRISON they weren’t going to feed me this kind of quality starch. "does anybody want to tell me who purchased the pornography?"

as a reminder, a quick table survey:

  • my mother, surprised and disappointed by the porn bill (innocent)
  • my stepfather, a grumbly old cowboy who just wants to sing along to kenny chesney and watch the hunt for red october (innocent)
  • my aunt deb, a super religious catholic whose best friend is a nun named Sister Placid (innocent)
  • me, the 11-year-old with a mouthful of potatoes who definitely purchased the lesbian pornography


my mother said, “i’m not going to ask again.”



my mother shook her head and put the bill down. “this was incredibly inappropriate,” she said. “skip, deb, whoever. buy that shit on your own time. i’m not paying for it. what if molly had seen it?”


"don’t expose my kid to that crap."

  • DON’T
  • MY KID

"if you want to watch porn, fine, but do it in private and don’t expect me to pay for it. i can’t believe one of you did that in the living room."


but molly, why didn’t you own up to it and explain that it was an accident?

  • are you fucking kidding
  • i did not want to go to porn prison

the fun conclusion to this story is that i never owned up to it, which means that there are 3 people in the world who have not solved the mystery of the lesbian porn. a quick survey:

  • my mother, who lives every day wondering whose porn she paid for
  • my stepfather, who probably wishes he knew less about his wife’s sister’s porn preferences
  • my aunt, who probably wishes she knew less about her sister’s husband’s porn preferences

but molly, why don’t you own up to it now, with the safety of time and distance and the knowledge that porn prison isn’t real?

  • are you fucking kidding
  • this is the best thing i’ve ever done
Quote IconI’m afraid I’ll go berserk, rip the Elvis Costello mobile from the ceiling, throw the “Country Artists Male A-K” rack out onto the streets, go off to work in a Virgin Megastore and never come back —

Rob, in High Fidelity.

I never realized the goal of owning a record store, but my earlier tweet is in this similar vein.

Quote IconFor we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Ephesians 6:12

Needed this today. I found it more insightful for me personally on a micro level: the real problems today aren’t solved with fighting/war, but with thoughtfulness, and empathy, and love.

I’m not one to quote scripture (I usually keep my spirituality to myself), but even if you’re not religious, it can still serve as a sort of poetry.