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April 6, 2015

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April 20, 2015

What Writing Taught Me

April 17, 2015

Last week for the first time in my life, I stood in front of a group of people and communicated.

It’s not that I haven’t tried some form of public speaking before. During a term of winter Bible school I gave a class presentation on the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and the beauty and mystery of the story, which I had seen clearly before I stood up, disappeared in the inane shuffling of my words.

Another time, on a bus returning from New York City street meetings, we participants were given the opportunity to share our testimony. Sure, why not? I thought. Singing and handing out tracts on the congested sidewalks of NYC had made me bold. I walked to the front of the bus–and promptly forgot what I was going to say. I stuttered a misplaced phrase or two and sat down again, red faced.

But when I was asked to teach a couple of workshops at the CLP Writers and Artists’ Conference, I chose not to think about those times.

I remembered instead the time I stood in front of a literary group and read a poem I had written.

The time I stood at a funeral and read a tribute to my best friend.

And the time only last summer when I gave an informal, fifteen minute talk to a group of older ladies at a seniors’ retreat. Informal, because the ladies were sitting around a table, and I chose to sit at one end of it, rather than stand to give my talk. But if I could give a fifteen-minute talk to them, surely I could multiply that by five and teach a workshop for a larger group.

When I stood up in front of the writers at CLP to give my first workshop, I saw only a blur of bodies with vague heads perched on them somehow. If you were sitting in that workshop, I can’t promise I knew you were there. But as I concentrated on communicating the information I had set out to give, a few faces became distinct.  Gina, author of Home Joys and online friend whom I had only just met in person; Samantha, fellow writer for Daughters of Promise magazine; Beth, an old acquaintance with roots in my home community.

The next day was better. I began seeing not just blurry bodies, but people, real people, writers like me.

I talked to them about writing, this thing I love, and afterwards I was elated.

Sure, I regretted certain vague points I could have made more clearly, regretted, as always, talking much too fast.

But I had done it. I had talked to a group of people and saw them not as a crowd, but as individuals with whom I was trying to communicate. And in the pure concentration of that communicating, I forgot the bulky, terrified body behind the podium and became myself.

This is what writing has done for me.

I started as a shy girl with no confidence in myself and even less in my writing, with only a dogged determination and a need to communicate all the bottled and vague thoughts of my existence.

I continued until one day I realized that I had things I wanted to say. I wanted to communicate with others, and now my only task was to drop into a form of pure concentration and SAY those things, to forget the fear, to forget the bulky body hidden behind the podium and speak.

This, this, is what writing has done.

9 comments

  1. I started to pursue writing more when I realized I was better able to communicate some of my more complicated thoughts. I think eventually it could translate into me becoming better at presenting topics. I know it has given me some confidence sharing testimonies, etc. I still dislike public speaking though.

    I’m glad you found your voice!

  2. I told a friend that my goal was to sit on the second row your and Stephanie’s workshop and grin and nod everytime you looked at me. I knew you were both scared stiff – but you did SO well. I would have never guessed that you had not done much more public speaking. I hope you do more! And I sure wish I could have heard your Saturday workshop. Maybe I’ll have to get the cd.

    So glad I could meet you in person. It makes your writing even more real to me to know the person behind the words.
    Gina

    1. Thanks for sitting there smiling and nodding, Gina. I didn’t know it was planned, but I sure know it helped. So glad I could meet you in person also.

  3. I didn’t get a chance to tell you (so many people), but you did well on Saturday. Congratulations on surviving it with dignity.

    Do you think the courage comes from a growing awareness that you have something to offer the rest of us, that you not only can offer it, but that you should, even must? That you have not learned these lessons just so you can stash them in a drawer to warp and fade?

    The price of a gift is that it cannot be kept to yourself, or it loses its value.

    1. Yes, I think the courage does come from that growing awareness. Funny you should know about that–I hadn’t put it into words.

  4. For a “first timer” you did wonderful, Luci! I was so looking forward to the topics you covered, and yes, you have inspired 🙂 It was a blessing to be able to meet and greet with you, so now I can put a voice to the written words.
    “We don’t write because we want to say something, we write because we have something to say.” -unknown

  5. Yay Luci!! I love this post do much. Now I’m wishing I would have been there, smiling and nodding for you. <3 I'm proud of you and I really, really love how you write.

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