The Value of Writing

As someone who does a lot of public speaking, I find that writing my thoughts down is very valuable. Do I therefore always take the time to do it? No. I should though, and am currently trying to do it more.

In my experience, writing can be helpful to my speaking (including conversations with people) in three main ways:

• For those times when I’m feeling hesitant or anxious about speaking my thoughts out loud (or anxious about being heard and taken seriously if I do speak them out loud), writing helps me strengthen my voice, articulate my thoughts.

• For those times when I know what I want to say, and am pretty sure people will listen, but I just can’t seem to boil my thoughts down to an organized and concise, listener-friendly package, writing helps me get focused and increases the likelihood that I will remember all the points I want to cover, and also be respectful of other people’s time. (I do sometimes read from a prepared piece of writing, but I only do that if I really feel I absolutely have to. Reading from a page isn’t usually as engaging as just speaking naturally.)

• For those times when I’m in an agitated emotional state, or just feeling like my brain is an overstuffed, jumbled attic, writing helps me “get my words out” so I’m less likely to inflict that emotional state or jumbled attic on fellow humans, whether in meetings or informal conversations or what have you.

Lately, I’m feeling I need to kick my speaking up a notch. I need to get a lot more organized, less rambly. Some of my most important speaking opportunities are the citizens’ comment times in local government meetings. At City Commission we actually have a time limit; it’s 3 minutes. I think this is a very appropriate time limit, and unlike some of my fellow citizens I don’t mind it at all. It is a challenge though!

At other public meetings, citizens don’t have a time limit. But I want to engage people, respect everyone’s time, and be fair to others who are waiting to speak. Yesterday in several different public forums I felt that I talked way too long and rambly! People generally consider me a good, engaging speaker but I know I have room for improvement in the areas of conciseness and organization.

To others who might be in the same boat, I would say please keep on showing up and making your voice heard! If you notice things about your public speaking that you want to improve, great — go for it! But also, don’t beat yourself up, and don’t use whatever flaws you think you have as a speaker to keep you from sharing your voice with your community.

And for those of you who just hate speaking out loud in front of people, writing is also a great way to talk to people. Writing is really an amazing human invention, come to think of it. Writing allows us to reach people all around the world and across time.

Some of the people who’ve made the biggest impact on my life are people I will never meet because they live on the other side of the world or because they died centuries ago. If they hadn’t put their words in writing, I’d never have gotten the benefit of their wisdom and encouragement.

From an eco-footprint standpoint, what I love about the written word is that it’s a low-tech, low-bandwidth means of transmission.

Write your words down; they might really help someone. They might even help make the change you want to see in the world.