Speakers (at least, those without speech writers) should first develop their ideas in clear, concise, written prose, before foisting them upon captive audiences. This seems obvious. But it may not be so obvious to writers that they should also be speakers. In fact, writing seems to demand quite a different set of skills, a different environment, and different motivations than speaking. Those are the three reasons writers should also be speakers!
Writing Skills / Speaking Skills
A writer is willing to edit, rewrite, tweak and cut to get just the write combination of words. A speaker must think on her feet. A writer must be willing to spend many, many hours alone with her thoughts, and a speaker must be willing to expose her thoughts very publicly. A writer has files of resources to draw on, and access to the internet for bibliographic data, fact checking, and other reference work. A speaker must either forgo the security of all that background support, or carry enough ‘proof’ in her head to satisfy questioners on the spot. A writer can move forward along a track of thought systematically, but a speaker has to deal with tangents and rabbit tracks, as she places her ideas into the turbulence of conversation and engagement.
Develop those speaker skills, and your writing will improve as you get immediate feedback on your ideas, answer questions about your assertions, see blank faces, hear your words said aloud (clanking like cymbals, or resonating with passion?). Your confidence and awareness of the connectedness of ideas will enrich your written work. Your speaking may be in small, friendly settings, or larger, more challenging venues – start small, work up. Offer yourself as a book group leader, discussion facilitator, quick book digest presenter, or podcast guest. Offer a Bible meditation, or other spiritual thought-starter for a prayer group. Ask friends directly to let you formally present the gist of your latest book and then discuss it together. Cultivate conversations. Grow, improve, deepen, by uttering your work frequently.
Writing Environment / Speaking Environment
How lovely is the easy chair where you curl up in jammies to scratch out new material in the early morning, chipped tea cup at hand, dawn in window view, kitty curled up on your toes. How awfully different the platform, dais, or lectern where you stand in more formal (and certainly more uncomfortable) attire, hit-and-miss sound system interfering with your message, eyes registering every bored face, internet user, and discreet tip-toe-out-er. But despising the speaking environment is no excuse. You still need to utter those thoughts to remind yourself they are gifts, given by God to be shared.
Develop a detachment about where your words are said, and you’ll find they flow more freely when you try to write in uncongenial environments. Practice using your countenance, your voice, your passion to improve even the worst speaking environment, and your writing voice will improve dramatically. Learn to forgive non-listening listeners, and you’ll more easily forgive all the non-reading readers and the non-reviewing reviewers!
Writing Motivation / Speaking Motivation
Often, I write just to get the idea out of my mental space, or to clear all the notes from a file into a coherent document. Sometimes, the work itself – a poem, perhaps – is the motivation for spending time writing, and the pleasure of a a finished work is its own reward. I write to accomplish a deadline, fulfill an obligation, answer a question, beg for help. Some of these same motives will push me to speak of my ideas to others. Even to publish a work, we may only need the motivation, “to make it available, if anyone wants it” (hence, most blogging, self-published work, poetry). We will not see those who read, and the transaction is free of any demand for a response. When speaking face-to-face with actual people, however, we usually are motivated by a desire to teach, to help, to give to them from whatever resources we have. This is a much more personal transaction, even – and, maybe, especially – when we speak for a large group, because we feel more vulnerable, exposed, and aware of audience response.
Writers will write better if they get in touch with this deeper motivation, and learn to handle the personal exposure that speaking face-to-face entails. Our culture is so full of anonymous transactions, broadcast communications, and parallel-path interactions, that speaking affords invaluable practice in vulnerable self-donation. Also, each time you develop your ideas for a new audience, tailoring it to their needs and interests a bit, you rehearse and give new life to those ideas. They must come down into the real world as living words in order to continue to have life on the printed page. Words were meant to be uttered, and the written word is not a sufficient substitute for words shared on the wings of sound.