The most remarkable thing happened to me in the weeks leading up to presenting at TEDxCherryCreek Countdown: I discovered what it means to create in community. Not, “create community,” but create IN community. And it felt amazing.
I’ve always been an idea generator. I’m a writer and an academic, but most of the time, I’d much rather be outside leading walks and hikes, or even doing yard work, than sitting at my computer. Through the process of developing my TEDx talk, I figured out why writing has always been so hard for me, even though it’s the one skill that has been the mainstay of my work for decades. Left alone to write and think, I end up tying my ideas in abstract knots, obscuring their power and exhausting me in the process. The act of developing a talk is so different from writing an essay, or a blog post. It’s about letting the “idea worth spreading” shine by laying it out clearly, neatly, illuminating it through relatable examples and coming full circle at the end in a way that people listening to it can understand the first time. I found that I couldn’t really shape it alone.
The process of developing and communicating ideas can be lonely and isolating. As one of my academic advisors said to me years ago, “Writing is a very solitary pursuit.” But thanks to the advice of the TEDxCherryCreek team, I gave my talk, in various stages of development, over and over again to different people in my life, shaping and refining and polishing it based on their suggestions. I made changes up to the very last day before the event, sharpening my examples and giving the idea at the core of the talk room to shine.
In the end, I delivered a talk I am proud of – a talk I could build an entire course around! I could not have done it without my friends and colleagues, whose insights helped me untie the tangled knots of my own thinking process. Even with all of my experience as a communicator, developing my talk brought me new appreciation of the importance of simplicity and clarity in writing and speaking. My talk was truly developed in community, for the purpose of building community. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity.