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Monday, May 20, 2013

I Write Speeches


Over the past few years, friends and family have learned of the enjoyment I get from writing. Further, they've seen snippets here and there of my writing skills and have expressed their enjoyment at the content of what I write, as well as how I write.

The first time I was asked to write a speech, I was surprised. It's one thing to write a speech for myself, how I would speak, but to place myself into the mind of someone else and write for them? I couldn't understand what was being asked of me. I know that people do it- ghostwriting is the technical term- but I don't get how they do it. Every individual has their own style with which they talk, and unless they're willing to make it patently obvious that they weren't the one who wrote the speech, it doesn't make much sense.

The person insisted. He couldn't, couldn't, write his own speech. He can speak off the cuff, but the forum where he was speaking didn't allow for that. He needed a speech that he could read from. That's where I came in.

Somehow, I pulled it off. The speech was a great success, I was told, and he was very happy with what I had done for him. Meanwhile, I was grumbling that I had received no credit and no recompense. The things we do for friends. The grumbling, of course, was to myself and only temporary. I'm genuinely happy to have helped him and to have made his speaking engagement a successful one.

Since then, I've written several partial speeches, some full speeches and edited quite a few more.  Each time, I try my hardest to cater it to the person I'm writing it for, as well as the venue. Bar Mitzvah speech? Cutesy, no big words, and assume that the art of speaking has yet to be learned. Sheva Brachos? Short, sweet, a joke or two, some endearing thoughts and creative brachos.

The other day, I was asked to edit a speech for content and grammar for an event that I had never written for and had no idea how to write for. When I explained this to the person requesting it from me, he brushed me off and said that he trusts me. Misplaced confidence, perchance?

Yes and no. I was present for the speech. He's not a speaker, which surprised me, because he gave me no indication that he wasn't. What I mean by that is, I was writing a speech that needed the emphasis to be placed on certain words; carefully timed pauses before jokes, or an emphatic point; and all sorts of other nuances of speech that we always incorporate when we speak. For a speech that was supposed to be read word for word, straight from the paper, it was very technically advanced. There were colons, semi-colons, commas, question marks, ellipses, exclamation marks, bold lettering and other such indicators on how the speech should have been spoken. We even went through the speech, more than once, and I walked him through how he should be saying virtually every word. Only once did he mention that he wasn't sure if he could pull off a specific sentence.

Needless to say, without going into it, the speech did not go how I had envisioned. While everyone else was enjoying the speech, I was sitting there cringing at each and every perceived mistake of his. In my mind, it was a disaster.

Only after the speech was over, when the audience burst into applause, did I realize that I had been all wrong. He may not have spoken the words correctly or said  over the jokes in the best way possible, but the words he spoke accomplished what they were intended to accomplish.

He reached the hearts of more than 150 people, inspired them, encouraged them, and made them believe that they could achieve tremendous things. Had I said the speech, none of that would have happened. Not because I'm a poor speaker but because I'm not him.

For the first time since I've started writing for others, I was completely happy that I did not receive public acknowledgment for my work. It would have taken away so much from the speech that, on the contrary, I would have been upset had I been mentioned.

No one there, except for the speaker, his wife and one other knew that I had had anything to do with the speech. I told no one, and there were many moments where I had the opportunity to say something and held back. True to this blog, I'm Learning to say Nothing. It was a remarkable evening and it holds many memories that I'll cherish for years to come.


PS Naming these sort of posts "LtsN" didn't seem to garner much in the way of interest, so while they'll still be a staple of this blog, the names will be slightly more creative.

PPS Oh, and if you want me to write a speech for you, my email's on my Blogger profile :)

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