What We Know

I had the great pleasure of speaking to a chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) this weekend. The event was extremely well organized, and its sponsors did much-appreciated legwork to drum up what was a surprisingly large crowd for a Saturday afternoon. So let me extend and official Author thank you to Mary and her dedicated team. This was a new presentation, and it was fairly long (two hours), and while I had a power point presentation to serve as a guide for the lecture, I did not and really could not memorize the entire thing. Still, I did what I thought you ought to do in this instance and wrote up some notes on 3 X 5 cards for each slide. That way, you see, if I didn’t know what to say I could just look at the card there would be some ideas.

Funny I even bothered.  Once I was actually speaking to the audience, it was as if I had contracted a severe case of dyslexia. I couldn’t read the cards. I tried looking down at them once and they might as well have been written in Latin. In fact, the exact same thing has happened every time I have written notes for any kind of public speaking, and it wasn’t until this weekend that I understood why.

For me, everything I need or want to say resides within me – all the stories, examples, and ideas are already there. The notes, however, are outside of me, and simply by looking them I am taken away from where I need to go to find what I want to say. At the end of the presentation, a young woman came up to me and thanked me and mentioned how something I had said had resonated with her.

“It’s like I had known it," she explained, "but I didn’t understand it until you said it.”

She was absolutely right. She did already know it. We always know everything, but we need constant reminding. The cards were intended to remind me, but it is always the experience of the audience that reminds me instead, for it is from them that I am guided into myself to find what I feel most needs to be said at that moment. So in this way, the audience reminds me of that which they themselves wish to be reminded.

All to the good. When it goes well, everyone is happy, for everyone is glad to learn again what they have always known, just as our closest friends remind us of who we are.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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