I signed up to a course that I hoped would improve my public speaking. The course was called Improve Your Public Speaking, so I was pretty sure I was in the right place. You see, I wanted to become a ‘publicist’s dream’ (as a friend recently put it).

My aim to be a publicist’s dream stems from my novel manuscript being ever so close to finished. I had hoped by now I’d be awaiting an agent’s enthusiastic reply, so I’d use this time to develop skills in the art of flogging it off … arh … engaging with my audience.

Oh, the best laid plans. I’m still working on the latest draft, but … The course taught me so much more than I thought so I’m sharing my newfound wisdom here about ‘flow’ in speaking as it relates to writing.

Going public pic large

Every week of the course each member had to present a 3.5-minute talk on a topic of their own choosing. Among other things, I shared the importance of telling your story and the ingredients for clear written communication.

As we all know, articulating our knowledge and opinions helps us consolidate how we feel and what we understand about a subject. This has been useful all by itself. Writing is important for public speaking, but labouring over each word can sometimes get in the way of delivery. Course facilitator Sarah Denholm says this is one of the traps for people for whom the words really matter. Then again, knowing words comes in really handy in terms of clarity, structure, pace, tension … but I’m preaching to the converted (and swaying off topic).

I experienced itty-bitty feelings of flow during the first four weeks of the course, but the very last day was a real buzz! So many aspects combined to create a state of flow; of being present. I was prepared. I’d practised. I knew why I was there. The audience responded at least as well as I’d hoped and planned for. The words came without my digging or pushing.

That’s flow. There is nothing like it.

And the crossover between speaking and writing is profound. Of course, both rely on words and rhythm, pace and pausing. Structure is important, particularly a strong opening and closing. Moreover, the confidence I felt (not without significant nerves beforehand) was linked to breath and breathing; grounding and noticing how posture affects my thinking; and practise, practise, practise. All great reminders that to achieve a state of flow we must create the conditions.

I really did apply myself to improving my public speaking. I prepared and practised for about three hours’ a week. Imagine if I applied this time, energy and creativity to ‘improving my writing’? Certainly, dedicating three hours’ per week for five weeks to public speaking meant that other aspects of life were neglected, but writing is my thing so surely three hours wouldn’t be asking too much?

I went to SD’s course for professional help in an area related to my work, but I found it equally useful physically and creatively. When I thought I was wanting to become a publicist’s dream, actually I was learning how to talk about story. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find more than I was looking for at a course where words, rhythm and intuition count for so much. I enjoyed the tangible reminder that preparation and practise improve our skills (quite fast).


Have you had one of these lately? A flow experience in another part of your life that you can bring to your writing? Or perhaps you’re just hanging in there with this flow business and are still not sure about it? If so, I recommend Susan K. Perry’s blog — yes, another bloody blog!  Or you might read back through mine, particularly this one on Writing in Flow. As always, all thoughts received with interest.


  • Sarah
    4 years ago - Reply

    Flow state: great topic Ann! This is something I experience more and more as I get older, both when I’m speaking in public and when I’m playing the piano; and it’s only possible in both cases for flow to occur when I know the topic/music so well that I get out of my head and immerse myself in the material itself. I’m present – and boy, if we have an audience during this flow state, can they tell if we’re present or not!
    Flow seems to occur best when I’ve set a clear goal, stretched the boundaries a little so that I’m engaged and stimulated (but not so far that I’m having to “hang on”); and then – as you point out – it’s about practising. The willingness (or dogged determination on the days where willingness is absent!) to practise is absolutely key to success – and it can be one of the hardest things to do. We don’t have the time/energy/focus. But when something matters, as your writing so clearly does to you, then it has to be worth it!
    Thanks for the reflection.

    • AnnBolch
      4 years ago - Reply

      This is a really nice summary of how we reach flow states. Thanks, Sarah :-).

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