Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Just the Advice I Needed

I fooled myself. After more than two years of spilling my thoughts onto this blog, I fooled myself into thinking I could write.

(Notice I didn't say "fooled myself into thinking I'm a writer." I'm not that delusional. Oh sure, I write therefore I am a writer. But writer is one of those words I always hear with a capital--Writer. I admire writers. They bring me such joy. I write some stuff, and I enjoy it, but I'm no Writer.)

My problem was that I needed to write something a little more than a blog post, although it was the blog got me into trouble in the first place.

My grandfather passed away last week. My mother suggested that, since I'm "the prolific writer in the family," I write and deliver the eulogy. Thinking that I knew my way around a sentence by now and likely wouldn't become too emotional to deliver those words, I agreed. Egad.

I thought about what to write for a week before putting pen to paper. I quickly jotted down an introduction and let it languish until I devoted most of yesterday to writing.

I did all the things you're supposed to do. I jotted down ideas, memories, and stories. Then I stared at the screen. And ate lunch. And called my parents. And weeded. And did the dishes. And finally, after all that distraction, I wrote a first draft. It was rough. I knew it could be better, but I just didn't know how.

Then a little birdie came to my rescue.

I'd been doing something that reminded me of Grandpa, and I wrote a Facebook status update about it. My friend Karen commented, "Sounds like the beginning of a eulogy to me." I'm not sure if she was kidding or knew how much I was struggling, but I read her comment, saw a flash of light, and rewrote the introduction on the spot.

That left the rest of it. Which didn't flow. And didn't necessarily tie into my new introduction. Karen messaged me that I needed a theme. I told her I didn't. What I meant was that I'd exhausted all my ideas, and there was no thematic way to tie together the ones I already had.

Then I saw a theme from the new introduction. In a flurry of rewrites, I messaged Karen, "I have a theme!"

I slashed paragraphs, moved paragraphs, and reworked sentences. I was like a woman on fire. I finished my writing and thanked Karen profusely for her sage advice. Without knowing what I'd already written, she knew exactly the right advice to give.

It was like magic. Or destiny. Or like I was talking to a good friend who also is a writing instructor, which is exactly what I was doing. I'm going to guess she's been good at that job. I just hope her students appreciate her half as much as I do right now.

My next hurdle is public speaking. I've never had a problem with it, but I haven't done it in a long time. The Brady Bunch imagine-everyone-in-their-underwear advice seems a bit out of place in a church. I don't want to stick my nose in my printed speech, but I don't want to look at the wrong person. My eulogy isn't a tear-jerker, but it is a funeral after all. People are bound to be sad, and looking at the wrong weepy face might just get me started.

Any suggestions? Pick a stoic stranger and direct the speech at him? Focus on an empty pew? Pretend I'm alone in my bathroom? If you have tips, I'm in the market. Social media brought me the words; maybe you can give me the speech.


  1. Talk to each personas you look them in the eye as if they are the only one there in the room with you...even if 100 people. Be real and people will connect with you. You will be admired for being able to do it all during an emotional time.

  2. I always look at people's foreheads when I am talking to a large group. That helps me get my nerves under control and it appears like I am making eye contact with the audience.Then,once I get comfortable, I make "real" eye contact. Use your husband as your anchor..look at him if you start feeling emotional. So sorry about your Grandfather...your family is in my prayers


  3. I did Toastmasters once and found it very helpful for public speaking.

  4. Susie: I am confident you will do just fine