It could be the greatest speech of all time.
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech – truly a perfect oration if there ever was one – delivered on the National Mall as part of the “March for Jobs and Freedom” Rally in 1963.
This was a turbulent time in America. And this was a dangerous speech to have delivered. King does it not only with style, but with a linguistic grace that few have ever been able to replicate.
When I listen to King’s words, I am in awe – not just for what he says – but in the knowledge that he sat down and wrote this out, crafting messages and phrases that would resonate long after his untimely assassination and continue to inspire people whose parents had yet to be born.
I talk a lot about great writing on this blog, and how important it is to be able to coalesce ideas into language that moves people to action and fundamentally changes the way people see an issue.
It’s too easy to just watch the 15 second clip of the end of this speech that every news program is going to play tonight. Watch the whole thing through.
Every red-blooded American man’s favorite comedic movie (or darn near close) must be Caddyshack.
Among all the classic scenes is the one where Ty Webb instructs a young Danny Noonan to concentrate and just “be the ball” in an effort to help him become a better golfer.
The results were more comedic than impressive, but the lesson is a good one, no matter how far Danny’s chip shot landed from the pin. (“Right in the lumber yard.”)
And it came to mind as I crashed a project this week: a speech for a client that needed a top-to-bottom rewrite in just hours.
I was able to pull it off, to the client’s great delight, because I allowed myself to “be the ball.” I knew this person, cold: his logic, his voice and his factual information, to the point where I felt as though I was writing for myself. I put myself in the room, at the podium, speaking to the group of people he will address. I turned off all external inputs – save for spellcheck – and just wrote what needed to be said.
He was so happy he even allowed me to take a second pass at it this morning, and the results are.. well.. we’ll see tonight when he’s at the mic reading the words I wrote for him. But I think it’s gonna be just fine.
What are your best ways to write?
I love to write.
I have loved it since I was a kid. I remember creative writing exercises in fifth grade, letting me stretch my imagination and my vocabulary at the same time. I remember straining (happily) to tell a story through mere words on a page. To keep the details together and make it make sense. To define a beginning, a middle and an end. To have a hero and a villain. To have a happy ending.
As PR people, we get paid to be great writers. More pointedly, we get hired to be story-tellers. We translate the gobbeldy-gook brought to us in various forms, and weave it (don’t say “spin!”) into a narrative that is factually accurate and creatively mesmerizing. Our job is to make people care.
And it all starts with great writing.
We can’t write enough. We can’t practice that story-telling craft enough. We can’t ever stop getting better at doing that thing that makes our audience sit up and say, “Wow. Tell me more.”
What’s your favorite part about writing?
There’s something in the air, people. Can you feel it?
March 1 is off to a glorious start here in New York City – the sunshine and not-so-chilly-anymore breeze makes me imagine Spring like a rookie baseball player in the on-deck circle: chomping at the bit to step into the batter’s box and take a cut at the first fastball that comes his way.
Yes, I am very excited that warmer weather – even if it’s not officially “here” – is very much right around the corner. And that means the First of May can’t be far behind. (Thank you Jonathan Coulton!)
And since it’s Friday ShareDay, it’s time to revel in the glory that is someone else’s well formulated content. (cue drum roll)
So here’s a post on the most formidable skill you can build, no matter what you do for a living: your ability to write well. Thanks Dave Kerpen for penning a post I wish I had written myself.