Ok, so you’ve agreed to give a speech. Whether it be for your job, at a corporate event or even social occasion, first comes the hard part – getting started.
Writers block, primarily associated with writing, is a scenario in which the writer loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown.
Writers block is something we all encounter at some point. I’ve prepared more than 20 speeches over the past year, for work, Toastmasters and social engagements. And there have been times when I’ve found myself sitting at a desk, primed to write a speech and the words just don’t seem to flow. What follows is frustration, irritation and angst.
What Causes Writer’s Block?
Before we discuss the solutions for shaking off writer’s block it’s important to recognise the two most common causes, in the context of speech writing:
- Lack of Clarity: You are unclear about the message you wish to convey
- Large Ego: You think the first edit must be a perfect speech
The first cause can be easily resolved by reading my blog post How To Prepare For A Speech. In summary, it’s important to consider the core theme or message you wish to convey. If this is not very clear to you then you will struggle to put it into words.
The second cause derives itself from a person’s obsession with trying to create a masterpiece on the first draft. To overcome this obsession you must realise that the first draft of any speech is not the final draft – it need not be perfect!
With all of that understood and accepted, let’s talk about solutions.
Overcoming Writers Block
The good news is that there are a few simple steps you can take to get past speech writers block, and firmly on your way to finding the words you need. The next time you get stuck when trying to write a speech, consider these four steps:
1) Shut Off Your Computer
Computers are not for idea generation. Even worse, they serve as distractors, gently pulling us away from the task at hand. So turn off the great distractor! You can produce your entire first draft of a speech on paper, or sticky notes, or on a whiteboard. And by doing so you will greatly reduce the chances of suffering from writer’s block.
2) Develop a Brain Dump of Ideas
As noted previously, the writing process should begin with an outline of what you plan to talk about. At this point, don’t worry about crafting the perfect opening, and definitely don’t get muddled over transitions or specific details. Simply start by listing your ideas. Create a brain dump of your main thoughts. Once you have your ideas on paper, it becomes easier to see themes and ultimately organise your speech.
If you’re going to use your speech to tackle a broad topic and you’re struggling with the starting point see if jumping ahead to the middle bit helps. Remember you’re only in creative mode at this juncture and speech writing doesn’t need to be a linear process!
3) Create an Imaginary Friend
The reality is that a good speech isn’t about picking the right words. A good speech is about making your audience feel special. You need to show emotion. To make life easier just imagine yourself speaking to a friend.
Still stuck? Call or email a friend and talk about the main messages you hope to convey in your speech. Use them as a sounding board and take notes on the response. The beauty of bouncing ideas around is that it gives your head a shake. Mix in someone else’s opinion and thoughts and you rapidly move from writer’s block to ideas galore.
4) Take Some Time Out
So how can you get back into your writing groove quickly? Sometimes it happens by simply taking some time out. Give your brain a reset – it will be thankful for the break, and you’ll be surprised at the jolt of creativity when you return to writing your speech.
As if the pressure, panic or worry isn’t enough to deal with, writers block can create havoc when preparing for a speech. But I’m confident that if you apply the tips presented in this article you will overcome it and the end result will be a more compelling, relatable and conversational speech.