Life and Writing Advice is a blog series intended to help writers, editors, and freelancers learn from each other. Sometimes the most helpful information is knowing that we’re not alone in our experiences, that others can empathize with us, and that we can learn from others.
Once a month, we give a writer a prompt question. Then we post the writer’s response. Get ready to read about personal experiences that impacted or changed writers’ and freelancers’ lives. We hope this series connects people and provides inspiration. Let us know your thoughts about our series in the comments!
What have you learned about content writing from public speaking?
Like it or not, first impressions play a significant role in how others treat you. When I ask others how they first perceive me, they often comment on my voice. They say I have a soft, girly, and fairy-like voice. With a voice like mine, people often talk over me within mere moments of conversation. And for a long time, I let them.
People say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. As a writer and editor, I find the notion of having no second chances difficult to reconcile. I crave opportunities to review, revise, and edit everything I do. But unlike these words you’re reading, first impressions don’t come in easily revisable drafts. To manage my first impression, I went to the root of the problem—my manner of speaking.
Speech, Debate, and My Red-Hot Nerves
In an effort to push myself, I joined my high school speech and debate team. After spending weeks writing a passionate persuasive speech, I felt ready to present. In this moment, my lack of stage presence undermined the quality of my work. My face, neck, and chest blazed red-hot with nerves. Every meticulously crafted word fell to bounce innocuously at my feet—never reaching my audience.
To both my relief and dismay, my debate coach signaled for me to stop. He gently instructed, “I need you to speak with the intention of being heard. Don’t present unless you’re ready to be heard.” In my mind, I thought all speaking carried an intention to be heard. I struggled to understand what I could do differently.
Questions, Answers, and My New Resolve
Speak with the intention of being heard. This phrase played through my head for days, my mind searching for some sort of hidden meaning in such obvious words. Did I want to be heard? Logically, I knew that I wrote down my ideas with the intention of sharing them. I chose to stand in front of peers and speak.
But did I want to be heard? I put so much work into that speech, but if people could hear it, they could criticize it. Perhaps exposing myself and my ideas frightened me more than I realized. For me to fully articulate this speech, my intentions, words, and actions needed to align.
When I gave my speech for the second time, I spoke with a new sense of resolve and clarity of intention. I projected my voice out to bounce against the far wall, demanding to be heard. No longer diminutive and fairy-like, my words advanced with purposeful inflection. My newly energized speech reached the audience and summoned a smug look on my coach’s face.
Writing, Speaking, and My Personal Mantra
Since that initial speech, speak with the intention of being heard has been my personal mantra. Despite its initial reference to the volume and projection of my voice, this phrase now embodies a complexity of meaning. It motivates my every interaction—from first impressions and beyond. Now, my every communication thrives on my determination to not only listen but also be heard.
To that end, I write with the intention of being heard, not merely read or skimmed over. To me, hearing suggests a level of internalization and resonance with my audience. What I write should have resounding clarity in each reader’s mind. More than the transfer of information, I want my writing to leave an impression and facilitate experience. While I value the needs and expectations of readers, I find purpose and passion in setting my intentions as a writer.
As obvious as it may seem, I invite every writer to examine their intentions, regardless of the content they write. While intent is difficult to convey, you may find that you feel stronger about your writing when you write with purpose. So beyond just assessing who listens, I ask you “Do you want to be heard?”