on thinking out loud

I joined a local Toastmasters club in August 2011. Funny thing is, I’d spent four years weeding every filler word, every ah and um, from most of my conversations as well as my presentations. (I’d helped found one of the nation’s first natural burial preserves, which provided my choice of subject matter.) It was only then that I dared join Toastmasters.

They laughed at me. That’s why you join Toastmasters, they said.

But as I wrote this in late January 2012, I’d given exactly two Toastmasters talks. While honing my writing voice helped unlock my ability to speak, it still hasn’t helped me think on my feet. Even outlines lend too little help. I need a crutch tucked behind the podium: a script, carefully memorized because speaking.

Memorized because speaking, like writing, is about spontaneity — or the illusion thereof. Memorized because writing, like speaking, is all about the right word in the right place; hundreds of right words in hundreds of right places. Memorized because once I’ve found the right words, I’ve so utterly bonded with them that I go blank and stumbly if I lose even one.

Funny — and I figured this speaking business would be easy once I’d weaned myself of those filler words. Thinking of all the natural storytellers and yarn spinners I’ve listened to over the years, some of them lousy writers, makes me jealous. But so it goes.

From the drop-down menu, a handful of talks. The first, the icebreaker, was meant to be personal — an introduction of sorts. Think of it as “about me” on steroids. Yeah, that’s a cliche; but the subject matter still roils me. The second called for organizational skills — a serious challenge for slow thinkers like me. No clue what part of the Toastmasters manual I was following for the third and fourth.

Read on … and if you’d like, tell me what you think.

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