Thursday, March 6, 2014

On Learning To Write - Backwards

by Bert Carson
1984 - Learning to write
If you looked at the blog title and thought the topic was going to be penmanship, it isn't. I'm going to share an aha that was so in my face for over thirty years that it I didn't see it until very recently.

I'm sharing it for three reasons:  First, my blog post for Venture Galleries is a day late and this one has been kicking around in my mind for almost two weeks. I can't get to the ones just below it until I get it written and off to Caleb Pirtle.  Second, I woke up a few minutes ago knowing exactly what I want to say.  That translates to this - the dream god told me to do this, NOW.  And third, it crossed my mind that what I'm about to share might just might be beneficial to you.  So, lets get on with it.

That's me in the photo, serving as master of ceremonies at the 1984 Ryder Truck Rental, Memphis, Tennessee, First Annual District Banquet.  Ryder always hosted banquets to honor our lease customers' drivers, however, until 1984 we conducted them individually, for each customer.

As an aspiring professional speaker, I'd joined five local Toastmasters Clubs.  That meant I attended a different meeting every day of the week. I took that drastic step because, for forty years, my entire life up until that point in time, speaking in public held two positions in my life:  It was the skill I most wanted to master and it was my biggest fear.

That's why I talked my District Manager into combining all of our small safety banquets into one big banquet.  He agreed if I would MC the event, which had been my plan all along.   Five hundred drivers, wives, dispatchers, and transportation managers attended along with various corporate representatives from Ryder's headquarters.

That was the first speech of what ultimately became an eleven year career and countless professional speaking gigs all over the states, Canada, and a select few countries.  It's also how I learned to write.

I've never attended a writer's convention, taken a single course in writing, or spent a summer at the University of Iowa Workshop.  I learned to write by walking countless miles across a zillion stages, in front of hundreds of thousands of people, telling stories.

What does that have to do with writing?  Aren't the most important things in writing, mechanics, story arcs, punctuation, character creation, and drama?  Since I learned writing the backwards way, my answer won't sync with the answer of "school trained" writers.  In a word, my answer is NO!  The single most important thing a writer has to learn is how to entertain an audience.  You don't learn that by putting commas in the correct position, following a story arc, or formatting for Kindle with Scrivener.  At least, that isn't the way I learned.

Learn to write by joining Toastmasters Club and forcing yourself through the ice breaker speech.  Then speak at every opportunity and use every one of those occasions to let your audience show you what they want to hear, which is ultimately the same as what they want to read.

And, if you don't have time for Toastmasters meetings, try this backward way to effective writing.  Record your writing and when you're ready for feedback, post it in blogs, email it to friends, or set up an account on SoundCloud and upload your audio clips for the world to hear - that looks and sounds like this: