Giving a speech is no more frightening to me than writing a novel. You will note that I didn’t say public speaking wasn’t frightening. It is. But so is writing. In both cases, the fear is the same: does anyone really care about what I have to say?
I write to communicate. I believe I’ve got ideas worth sharing with others. I believe, despite my fears, that what I have to say will mean something to my audience. I believe my books can make readers laugh, cry, think, and feel. I believe my speeches can make a live audience laugh, cry, think and feel, too. More often than not, I make my audiences laugh, but I’ve been told, on occasion, that a speech I’ve given has left audience members shedding a few tears.
Of course, public speaking isn’t the same thing as writing. The experiences differ in three important ways:
- When I’m giving a speech, I dress a hell of a lot better
than when I’m writing. I can’t recall ever putting on lipstick before I sat
down to write. For public speeches, I’ll poke around my meager supply of
cosmetics and attempt to pretty myself up.
- When I’m speaking in public, I don’t have the opportunity to
go back and fix what I’ve said once I’ve uttered it. If I’m writing, I can fuss
and revise and polish each sentence before I move on to the next sentence. With
a speech, once a statement has left my mouth, it’s out there forever. Because
of this, I usually type up my entire speech ahead of time. No index cards and
single-word cues for me. I write out the whole thing and do all the fussing and
revising and polishing in that draft. When I actually give the speech, I don’t
read it. I often don’t even look much at what I’ve written. But I have the
draft in front of me, with all its fussed-over, revised and polished sentences printed
out. Just knowing I took care with those sentences at some point gives me the
courage to keep going.
- With a speech, I get instant feedback. If I say something funny and everyone laughs, I know I’ve succeeded. With a book, there’s no instant feedback. I’ll write a passage that strikes me as funny, and then cross my fingers and hope the passage will amuse my readers. But I won’t know for sure until my editor phones and says, “That line about the casseroles was hilarious,” or until I get some reviews, which might be a year after I actually wrote the line about the casseroles.
Despite these differences, public speaking and novel writing are pretty similar in my mind. Both require a leap of faith. Both require confidence that I have ideas worth expressing. Both make me feel vulnerable. Both are kind of scary. But if things go well, if the world agrees with me that my ideas are indeed worth expressing, both make me feel exhilarated.
However, I’m not going to wear lipstick when I write. Only when I speak.
Judith Arnold has a busy public speaking schedule this year. She recently presented workshops to writers’ groups in New Hampshire and Maine, and will be leading a discussion at the NECRWA conference in Massachusetts in May and speaking at the Romance Writers of America national conference in July. She’s been putting her lipstick collection to good use.
In the meantime, the Kindle edition of her new mystery release, Dead Ball, is priced at only $1.99 for a limited time, as part of a special promotion at Amazon. Grab a copy while it’s discounted! You can visit her web site to learn about her independently published romances. For more information about her upcoming titles, discounts and deals, please sign up for her newsletter.