3 Writing Tips from a Tedx Presenter

At its core, TED’s mission is to do for others, to share with them “ideas worth spreading.”  And while “doing for others” was also core to my mission as a Tedx presenter, I cannot deny how much this experience has done for me.

So, in keeping with the spirit of “doing for others,” I will embed how I benefitted within 3 tips for any writer:

1.Write about something you like and want to get to know better

Since you’ll be spending a lot of time writing, revising, and editing your work, you’ll ideally want to choose a topic you like and want to get to know better.

You wouldn’t choose to begin and develop a relationship with a person you didn’t like or whose company you didn’t enjoy keeping, so refrain from doing this with your writing.  The more you like your topic, the more time, attention, and care you’ll give it, and as a result, you’ll produce better work and get more out of the experience yourself.

How I benefitted:  I got to know my content so well that it is now like family to me; it’s a part of my life and visits me often.  My Tedx talk was about using a little mnemonic to feel better, so at times when I’m feeling off, content from my speech visits me and reminds me what to do.

2. Thoughtfully, vigorously, and ruthlessly edit your writing

When you are writing for yourself, write to understand; when you are writing for others, also write to be understood.

To this end, you must be willing to delete some or much of what you have labored to create, even if what you have written has become like family to you. While I know that this is difficult to do, take heart:

How I benefitted:  Every vital idea, image, and metaphor I wrote and deleted is still with me and is still part of my family.  Like the content I kept in my talk, the deleted content also visits me and helps me, typically by enhancing my understanding of something happening in my life.

3. Trust yourself and take action

When I started this journey, I did not know much beyond the fact that in the end, I would be standing in front of an audience, sharing a speech I had written and memorized, and advancing PowerPoint slides.  I also had confidence that I could do this.

How I benefitted:  This experience reaffirmed my belief that I do not need a concrete destination or roadmap to get me to where I need to be; I just need (1) to leave enough time to reach my destination in case of detours or road blocks and (2) to take the next best action one step at a time. I also am benefitting from knowing that since I made it to the top of this mountain, I can also make it to the top of other mountains.

May you likewise go forward on your writing journey with confidence in your ability to reach your destination, and may you too benefit from your experience in ways that are specific to you.

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Catch It, Newcomb Style

volleyball

I thought it was called “Nuke ‘Em” when I was a kid attending summer camp in the 1980s, but it’s actually called “Newcomb,” and I loved when my counselors announced that we were playing it instead of its bigger, burlier brother, “Volleyball.”  Newcomb was easier to play.  It was slower-paced.  It involved less skill.  It allowed me to, even required me to, catch the ball and hold it for a few, slow moments before sending it back over the net.

I can now appreciate this as a way to respond in life.

How many times a day does someone drop, lob, or even spike an expected ball over the net and into my court?

And how often do I react, “Volleyball Style” – hitting the ball back, quickly, and without thought?

(No disrespect to volleyball players intended; your honed instinct and fast action on the court are assets; my blind, habitual reactions are often liabilities).

The next time life sends a ball into my court, my desire is to catch it, “Newcomb Style”.

To first accept the ball, and then to hold it, for at least a few moments. Long enough, perhaps, to see this ball not as a threat, but as an offering, an opportunity, or a teacher.