Writing And Speechmaking

I PRESUME that no one will venture to write an article or deliver a lecture who has not studied the subject of which he intends to treat. It is, however, well known that even when that has been done, a writer or speaker often forgets, at the moment when he needs them, several points and illustrations which he had intended to present in connexion with his subject. This can be avoided by the following means.

Supposing that a speaker has considered the occasion of his article or speech, and the matter at his command, he will have selected four or five main branches of his subject to be expounded in a predetermined order. These branches he can summarize each in a word or two, and then "place" the symbols of his ideas in the parts of the hall in which he intends to speak. If he does not know the hall, he may place his headings in a familiar "house" such as I have already described in Chapter XVIII.

The next thing for him to do is to consider those main headings or items one by one and extract from each idea all the detail that he can, by the process of expansion of ideas given in Chapter XV. This will prevent possible oversight of important details and also provide suggestions for illustrations and similes of all kinds.

When this is done, two or three selected sub-headings and illustrations may be placed under each head, each summed up in a word or picture or symbol and these associated with the places in the "house."

In memorizing the points of a speech it is far better to use the ancient system of "places" or "houses," than to form the sub-headings into a list or series connected by the Roads of Thought. The Roads of Thought, however, should be used jointly with the imagination for fixing the required points in their respective places, so that when the speaker is approaching the end of one of his topics, he has only to turn his attention for a moment to the next "place," and all that he wished to recall will spring up before his mind.

In the course of a debate one may desire to remember the points of an opponent's speech, with a view to referring to them, perhaps in order, when one's own turn to speak arrives. One method is to write these on a piece of paper and then turn to the notes one by one; but this generally has rather an enfeebling effect. Merely to memorize them is not very satisfactory either, for it nearly always involves a certain amount of mental preparation of the second point while one is still speaking about the first.

A good plan is to fix your points as they occur, in your "house," or, if you like, upon the different parts of the person with whom you are debating. Each point can thus be fixed and left to take care of itself, while the mind is kept free to consider other matters as they come up. It also gives one the advantage of being able to keep one's eyes on one's opponent throughout the whole of the debate.

What I have written with regard to speeches applies also to a large extent to writing articles. I consider it a very good plan to ruminate before making any notes for a forthcoming article. Sit quietly; turn your attention to the subject; expand it with the aid of the Roads of Thought. While you are expanding it certain items will impress you as of special interest. Remember those. Next consider your readers— what they already know, their point of view and their interests. You should now be ready to decide in what order to discuss the various points of your subject. Write these down if you like, or better, keep them in a "house" until you are ready to settle down and write the article.

I would strongly recommend speakers and writers to go over the subject mentally several times on a number of successive days, before proceeding to speak or write. In such rumination the mind often finds ideas, points of view, and similes which may otherwise remain for ever unknown.

Before closing this chapter I may say a few words about learning poetry. When you take up a verse, first understand it. Then, in order to remember the words, it is a good plan to impress upon your mind the first word, the principal word, and the last word of each line in turn. Learn the first line. Repeat it to yourself. Forget it. Learn the second line. Repeat it. Recall the first line and repeat both together. And so on.

While learning, ask questions, and answer the questions in the words of the poem. As an example, I will take from Shakespeare's "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" a portion of the advice of Polonius to his son Laertes, at the moment of his departure to a foreign country—

Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Let us consider the last line. The principal word is "false." The subject is falsity. To get the feel of the line, notice that the first word is "thou," the last "man."

Now to questions. Whose falsity is referred to? Thou canst not then be false. Is it a matter of choice ? No. Thou canst not then be false. When ? As mentioned before, when following the advice, "To thine own self be true." False in what way ? False to any man. Not to a particular man ? No. Thou canst not then be false to any man.

But do not be content with mere learning of the words. Poetry, by reason of its beauty, tells more than its words; it calls up new life in us, to witness truth felt as well as known.

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