Write to Me, Talk to Me

In 2018, as part of my year-long test for a 2nd degree black belt in martial arts, I kept a video log (vlog). I made several posts each month to share what I was learning through inspirational messages about setting goals, etc. Most of the time, only members of the black belt team saw these, but about once a week, I posted the video to Facebook as well. These videos, chosen for their generally applicable themes, got very favorable responses.

All those likes and comments made me think maybe I had the makings of a book if only I transcribed the messages I shared. I envisioned splicing the posts together in a logical order, writing a few transitions, filling in a few blanks, and voila! I’d have a book.

So, for the past several weeks, I’ve been listening to the old recordings. A lot of them were, indeed, uplifting and wise. I can feel genuinely proud of what I had to say and how I conveyed the ideas.

But when I started actually writing them down, word-for-word, I discovered something: speaking well and writing well are not always the same thing.

Throughout history, there have been great orators who motivated crowds to rally around a cause. They inspired action and the elevation of character. Some of these people, like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., constructed their speeches so eloquently that they made the connection between writing well and speaking well seem obvious and natural.

But the reality is not so for many of the rest of us. At least not when speaking extemporaneously.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that some speakers bring their words right to the listeners’ hearts with their pitch, pace, or tone. Their varied dynamics or expressions create an earnest or emphatic quality. Their vocal mannerisms make others take notice.

But the transcripts of those engaging and inspiring speeches sometimes end up being bland at best and rambling at worst. The delivery was everything. I may have fallen into that camp with the better vlog posts.

Others craft their speeches with great care and find the most beautiful phrases, but when they read them aloud… Meh. I see this at author readings. People who can create the most fantastical worlds in their minds cannot bring their voices to echo the magic of their own words.

They are two separate skills, speaking and writing. We often lump them together as “English class stuff”, but no. They are very different. They use different talents and require different training. One is linguistic, the other artistic. One is rhetorical, the other dramatic.

And so the transcriptions will not result in the mostly polished rough draft I’d hoped. I’m not even entirely sure how I’ll structure the piece, or in which niche I’ll try to market it. Are there many middle-aged ninjas out there who like to read?

But one of the themes in the vlogs was the importance of not giving up. “Failure is an option. Quitting is not.” So, I’ll keep slogging away at the project, trying to find the best way to share the lessons I learned on the dojo mat that might best help my readers, whether or not they’ve ever punched or kicked a heavy bag (a piece of equipment, not a reference to myself).

Can you think of times when you witnessed the writing and speaking skills coming together beautifully? Can you think of times when one talent outshone the other? Please share your observations in the comments!