Saturday, January 10, 2009

Speak, Write, Now, (or) Speak Right Now

In the quest for writing excellence, we constantly train. We never "finish our degree" because we always seek to improve. We pore over self-editing books. We practice staying glued to our chairs. We participate in workshops on plot development. On the bookshelf within arm's reach, our Sally Stuart's Christian Writers Guide is dog-earred and filled with post-its. Our favorite novels are strewn with passages that are high-lighted, noted, and dissected in notebooks. And we speak.
What was that? Wait a minute. Did I say, speak? As in, publicly? Or more like talking out loud to the characters in our heads?
I meant publicly.
I mention this with trepidation, because I have few qualifications as a public speaker. I have little background. My resume of past speaking engagements is extremely minor. I have no calendar of bookings. But, yet, speaking is part of what I do, or rather, what I am learningto do by practicing in any small way I can.
To distance ourselves from speaking is to shortchange our publication and marketing efforts. We can blog all day, but we must also be willing to get out there with our voices and talk, not only about our books and articles, but about all the issues which with they are connected.
Speaking is all about inspiration and promotion. So I encourage you to get over your shyness, and put yourself out there.
This doesn't mean you have to start signing up for conferences. Who are you anyway? Especially if your like me, without much of a background to go on. But you have an audience. You have family and friends, and your church body. You have your child's school organizations. You can lead a Bible study, or teach a Sunday school class. You can develop a book club or guide a critique group. You can read at a nursing home. You can speak on behalf of others.
I once found myself working as a volunteer at a conference. My only job was to introduce a guest speaker. That doesn't sound very difficult, until you find yourself standing in front of 400 people with about 30 seconds to spit out some basic information in a clear, concise way (and, okay, with a little wit hopefully). It's a bit nerve-wracking.
But even that little opportunity helped me to develop my speaking skills.
I encourage you, as a writer, to speak whenever, wherever you can. Act in a play; take part in a reading; don't back down from opportunities to share your work with anyone who asks.
I would also like to recommend a great book. Speaking with Spirit: A Guide for Christian Public Speakers by Dr. Wanda Vassallo should go on every writer's (speaker's, pastor's, etc.) bookshelf. Using Jesus as her primary example, Dr. Vassallo engagingly helps us discover how to build self-confidence, how to engage the audience, how to stay on track, how to WRITE a speech as well as deliver it, and how to speak spontaneously. Get this book and start speaking out!

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