Which is Easier, Speaking or Writing?

January 17, 2013

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Many writers desire a move into the realm of being a speaker. Some preachers decide to pick up the pen to extend their influence. Still others aspire to be a jack of all trades.

Is it possible to do both? Which one is more difficult, speaking or writing?

I have been speaking for over 15 years in various settings. Within the last few years I have made a foray into the world of writing. While attempting to exercise both sets of communication muscles, I have found writing the harder workout.

Speaking and writing use many of the same components, but in different measures. Here are a few of my observations:


By: Gavin Cockrell via Flckr.

1. Hooking your audience 

As a speaker, the margin for error on the opening is slim. If you don’t create a desire to listen in your audience within the first few minutes, they will quickly retreat to the land of cell phones and daydreaming. Yet, all is not lost. A distracted crowd regains focus with the right amount of voice inflection, eye contact, and interesting tangents.

In writing, a lost audience is virtually impossible to regain.  In fiction you have between 50-100 pages. Blogging is even less forgiving, affording you one paragraph.  We all know Twitter only gives you 140 characters!

The hook in writing is more essential than speaking.

2. The Journey

While speaking, your audience travels multiple roads with you. Only the most devoted followers will travel every intersection and off ramp in your 20-40 minutes of speaking. Even so, listeners can walk away with an understanding of at least part of the journey, feeling impacted by your talk.

In writing, you travel a single road. Your job is engaging your audience to keep them interested throughout the whole adventure, teasing them with road signs of what is ahead to keep the pages turning.

It is always easier to guide someone on a side street than a cross-country adventure.

3. Creating Mental Images

When I started teaching, if I wanted an illustration, I had to physically bring a prop with me to prove a point. Creativity was essential, but could come from something as ordinary as a rock. Now, through technology, laziness becomes a temptation. We throw images on a projector, even stooping to call boring bullet points an illustration. In spite of this, creating imprints on the mind through speaking and presenting is easier than writing.

While using the pen or the keyboard, your images and pictures must come alive through words and descriptions. If the reader cannot envision your content in their minds, you have failed to set the scene. Employing something as simple as a rock while speaking gives me confidence I have embedded a basic picture in the mind of my audience.  Painting pictures through words uses a greater level of creativity, while still carrying the risk of failure.

Anyone can bring a rock to a presentation, but can you paint a portrait using your words?

Where are the similarities?

In both art forms, growth and improvement flows from practice. When you receive both positive and critical feedback, coupled with a continued desire to learn, you can sharpen your craft.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his work Outliers, estimates success is not based solely upon natural ability. Continual practice, adding up to 10,000 hours, can qualify one as an expert in their field.

The bottom line: 

One gift may come more naturally, but both crafts require great effort to hone them. What are you investing 10,000 hours into?

Which art form comes with more difficulty for you? Speaking or Writing?


Since we are discussing both writing and speaking, take a look at what NoSuperheroes has to offer.

My full length book on Grace, Death of the Modern Superhero.

An Ebook on Galatians entitled Never Enough, available for free to subscribers, as well as Kindle.


My Speaking Page

(Take a look at where I will be speaking in the coming months or to find out how you can book me.)


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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God