on thinking out loud

Note: I’m reorganizing this site. Moving stuff around. Modifying it. Might look different from one day to the next. Just so you know ….

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. It was only then that I dared walk in the door, nervous as I was.

They laughed. Getting ride of the ah’s? That’s why you join Toastmasters, they said.

But when 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 before I speak.

Memorized because speaking, like writing, is about spontaneity — or in my case, 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. It didn’t pan out that way. Bringing to mind 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, which presumably I gave in 2013. I guess sometimes I just like a good rant.

Revising this in mid-2016, it’s been roughly three years since I’ve left Toastmasters. My life took a different turn, though I’ve forgotten what precipitated leaving the group. It wasn’t for lack of value. They (the proverbial “they”) say Toastmasters is the world’s largest self-help group, and I could buy into that.

At every Toastmasters meeting, the group appoints an “ah counter.” Funny — every so often, in my day job, I suggest that colleagues appoint “ah counters” at home. I doubt anyone’s taken me up on it. But just think. It’d be such a blast for the tykes around the supper table to keep a hashtag chart for each um, er, ah, like-uh that slips out mom’s or dad’s mouth … that kind of thing. A chart doubtless showing improvement over time. And — a learning experience for them as well.

No tykes? Teens will do, or sweethearts, parents, friends, colleagues; whoever’s handy at the time. Of course, you need to have a sense of humor about this. Minus that, it’s … well, never mind. You’d just have to find a different way. Which come to think of it, is what I did. And now? I’m working, in fits and starts, on that damnably difficult matter of the scripts.


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