Monday, April 11, 2011

How To Write A Speech in 51 Easy Steps

September 2010

1. Accept an offer to give a speech about books and interior design at The Mercantile Library in Cincinnati, Ohio on Monday, May 16, 2011 at 7pm.
(The Mercantile Library. More info HERE.)

2. Tell your friends how excited you are. This will be your first big speech!

3. Look up online how long a 45 minute speech is. Discover it's 35 typed pages. Realize it's double-spaced pages. Feel better.

4. Decide to be organized and write it over Christmas break in order to give yourself five months to edit it and rehearse.

December 2010

5. Decide not to write speech over Christmas (you're going skiing -- what were you thinking?) and instead to write it during your upcoming two month hiatus from blogging when you will have oodles of time.
(On the way to Mammoth Mountain)

January 1-February 28, 2011

6. Spend your blog hiatus relaxing and letting ideas for speech slowly marinate in your brain. Feel terribly clever you are doing this as it's bound to result in a much better speech.

March 2011

7. Return to blogging and thinking about writing the speech.

8. Decide that the most sensible time to write it -- duh -- is obviously over the upcoming spring break when your husband and son will be away skiing for a week. Get excited at how productive you are going to be once the house is empty.

April 2nd, 2011

9. When son and husband drive off, race upstairs, fluff your hair and sit down at the computer. Feel excited.

10. Light a candle.

11. Decide you need some coffee.

12. Go downstairs, grind coffee beans, brew moka pot, heat milk. Refill sugar bowl. Unload dishwasher because that's where all the clean mugs are.

13. Go back upstairs. Open a new Word document. Type "Mercantile Lecture, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 16th."

14. Just below that, type "A 45 minute speech = 35 double-spaced pages."

15. Just below that, type the first sentence of your speech. Feel excited!

15. Spend the next three hours reading the current issues of Vogue, Vanity Fair and Architectural Digest. Marvel that new editor Margaret Russell has managed to make you like AD again.

16. Get back on the computer but first quickly check eBay to see if there's anything good. Place bids on six items. Try to cancel two of them, fail, and then talk yourself into believing that you still really want them.

17. For some reason, feel exhausted.

18. Decide to call it an early night so that you can get some rest and write all day tomorrow.

19. Go downstairs and watch "The Tourist" on Demand.

April 3rd, 2011

20. Next morning, look around and realize your house is a MESS and that it's impossible for you to work in a MESSY house.

21. Spend the next two hours Windexing, polishing silver and moving furniture around.

22. Make a mental note that you want to paint living room bookshelves black at some point in the future and leave a voicemail with Saul, your painter.

23. Get gas for car (in case there's an earthquake) and since you're right there, run into Trader Joe's to buy fresh flowers for foyer, dining room, kitchen, office and master bedroom. Cut and arrange flowers.

24. Sit down to computer. Feel energized.

25. Realize that since this is a lecture about books and design, you should probably look through some of your books. Spend the next three hours thoughtfully looking through them.

26. Notice it's getting dark out and that it would be way comfier to work in your pajamas than in your pants.

27. Feed cat and check fridge for dinner. Wonder why husband didn't stock it for you before he left.

28. Decide all you really feel like anyway is a cup of instant hot chocolate and some Gummy Bears.

29. Watch "The Town" (director's cut) on Demand.

April 4th, 2011

30. Wake up excited to write.

31. Make coffee, eat breakfast, sit down at computer by 8am.

32. Answer call from Saul, the painter. He has the next three days free to paint the living room bookshelves black. Ponder whether this might not be the best time for painters to invade your house because you have a speech to write. Decide that having husband and son out of the house (i.e. absent from painting chaos) is an opportunity you would be foolish to pass up.

33. Drive to hardware store and buy two gallons of black semi-gloss.

34. Since you're around the corner, stop by framers and pick up vintage newspaper photo of Winston Churchill and wife Clementine in South of France that's being framed.

35. Go back home, make some instant hot chocolate and sit down at computer.

36. Write eight sentences in three hours and realize they're really good ones. Calculate how many more sentences you still need to write to make 35 double-spaced pages.

37. Take a 15-minute cat nap which weirdly turns into 90 minutes.

38. Go through your stack of books and remember how great "Tender is the Night" is. End up reading the first half again.

April 5th, 2011

39. Painters arrive at 8am. Supervise them while they remove your books from shelves and stack them accordingly.

40. Grumble to yourself that having them here is really going to mess up your writing concentration.
41. Spend the day alternately staring at your computer and going downstairs to check on painters. Stand with your nose pressed against plastic sheet taped to living room archway and try to calculate progress from their blurry shadows. Wonder if they think you're creepy.

42. Back in your office, look through the Facebook photos your husband has just posted of ski trip and add funny comments to each one.

April 6th, 2011

43. Wake up feeling vaguely nervous. Spend entire day at computer and succeed in cracking the outline for the speech. Feel fantastic!

44. Realize it's dinner time, you're still in your pajamas and the cat hasn't had lunch yet.

45. Sort out the cat and celebrate cracking the outline of your speech with a bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade and episodes two and three of "Mildred Pierce" on HBO. Notice that Guy Pearce is oddly slim-hipped.

April 7th, 2011

46. Feel so good about progress made yesterday that when a friend asks you to go see "Jane Eyre" with her in an hour, you accept immediately. Hang out in the lobby for an hour afterwards talking about Michael Fassbender.

47. Go home, feed cat, change flower water, snack on Gummy Bears. When husband calls, tell him you can't talk because you're working.

48. Write painters a check and ask them how soon you can put books back on bookshelves. When they tell you 7pm, set your iPhone alarm.

49. When the chime goes off, spend rest of night painstakingly creating "bookscapes" for each shelf.

50. Just before you fall asleep, realize that husband and son will be home in 72 hours, you have a blog post to write for Monday and that you haven't showered in two days. And there is seriously no food.

April 8th-10th, 2011

51. Spend the next three days at desk in your robe and pajamas. Write like Charlie Sheen on Red Bull. Wish you actually had Red Bull as coffee ran out yesterday. Only leave computer to eat (instant hot chocolate, stale Pringles, bread and jam, bread and cucumbers, bread and cheese and a couple of pears you find in the back of the fruit drawer).

Somehow, get first draft of speech done. It's 38 pages double-spaced and needs editing but it's going to be great. Seriously consider whether this could lead to a lucrative new career of travelling around the country giving speeches.

Feel excited!


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Procrastination really is the thief of time!! But, that said, although it took aeons to actually write the speech, which we are sure will be a huge success, you do seem to have achieved a great many other things. Not least the painting of the bookshelves which, in our view, look superb in black. We loved too the newly framed photo of Churchill and Clementine.

Concrete Jungle said...

I hope the speech meets with as much success as changing the bookshelves to black.... oh lala they look fab!

meenal @ maison marigold said...

I just fell off my chair laughing!!! you are hilarious, Lisa and you make my favourite pass-time( namely, procrastination) sound like a whole lot of work!!I'm sure your speech turned out fabulous..isn't everything great created in the last minute?? and if it is any consolation, the bookshelves turned out fab!! what a fun post to start the week..have a good one!! xx meenal

Patricia said...

Ooooh I just loved reading that!!

Those bookshelves honestly look so fantastic.

Patricia said...

# 2 comment

Bit of a habit of mine, sometimes leaving 2 comments.

Just wanted to say you really are your own person. I find you fascinating.:)

Jenny said...

Your shelves look great!

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Lisa, your newly painted booksheleves look divine. Goodl uck with the speech writing. I dread the public speaking although I have to do it regularly. I've never got a hang of it. Hope you are happy with the newly furnished space.

holly aka golly said...

I'm excessively diverted! V. V. funny! Good luck!

Dandy said...

omg, absolutely hysterically funny. u r bridget jones. :) this is a wee film.

The Fashionable Traveler said...

Hilarious! Your post, relieved the guilt of my Monday Morning, "I don't want to go to work" procrastination routine. Good Luck with the speech.

Sunday Taylor said...

Hi Lisa, That was hilarious. Hasn't this happened to most of us. But at least you got your bookshelves painted, what a great look! And all your bookscapes, how fun is that, absolutely love them!

helen tilston said...

I know your speech will be interesting and inspiring. Lucky listeners.

Love how you speak of how we distract outselves for the main project. I am doing this same thing right now.

I hope you publish your speech.

Your bookshelves look fabulous

Miss Whistle said...

Oh my goodness. What a perfect thing to read on a Monday morning. The truth is: You Will Be Brilliant. I have no doubt.
Secondly, I relate so well that I scare myself.


Tricia Rose Rough Linen said...

Brava! Well done!

Your cat has lunch?

Tammy@InStitches said...

This really made me laugh because I have to give a talk on blogging in exactly 3 days and I don't have anything started yet ! 35 pages you say ??

jools said...

I was on the edge of my seat! Congratulations on all you have accomplished. I seriously wish I could go to Ohio to hear you speak.

mickie said...


margaret said...

Oh Lisa you are scary! Somehow you described my working life to a tee!
Black book shelves look Great!

24 Corners said...

We all know that procrastination produces brilliance! Without it your bookshelves would still be white (they look amazing!), your Winston would still be at the framers, flower water would be all gucky...frankly, you probably wouldn't even have had flowers, the books and magazines you read and the movies you watched that were obviously needed for inspiration wouldn't have been read or watched, house might still be messy...and most of all, this grand post would have likely been about something else entirely and then where would we be?!
I consider procrastination another type of genius producing rabbit hole and your journey down this one is the proof of that!
Congratulations on accomplishing so much (look at ALL you did!!!) and on being asked to speak to the masses for the first person...what a very fortunate crowd that will be!
xo J~

A.U.G. said...

Good Day Lisa,
Mammoth is exceptional but the drive from the coast to the mountains was a bit grueling for me as young lad. I am sure my attempts at alleviating the shear boredom it all with song and babble rather perturb my parents. I am sure Luca had you both rolling with is jovial mannerisms! Have an exceptional week.

Kate @ Savour Fare said...

Makes me wish I was planning to be in Cincinnati, Ohio in May. Your creative process is eerily like mine.

Unknown said...

Can we discuss Michael Fassbender a bit longer? I have recently done a PHd thesis on him and can give you some interesting facts...if u like.
You are high-larious.

Betsy said...

As an avid procrastinator, I have had many days, weeks, and months like yours. It was hilarious and very enjoyable to read. Going to try and come and see you in Cincinnati. Any plans to be in Lexington, KY.

Katie Rob said...

This sounds soooo much like my timeline for every single one of my graduate papers.

On the upside, your bookscapes look pretty fantastic.

dana said...

a. May book flight to Cincinatti
b. Will buy single copy of AD since I disliked it so much I've let my subscripton lapse
c. bookshelves look great
d. this is your best blog since hiatus, perhaps you might consider more procrastnation?

Anonymous said...

I love your video-blogs but seriously your written words are just delicious to devour. I read them slowly as if to make flavor sink in. I enjoy them sweetly as the aftertaste lingers....

jennifer said...

This scenario is eerily familiar to me....except for the part where the speech actually gets written in time to give it......those bookshelves look smashing in their new, glossy black wardrobe change!

I adore your blog, btw.

Unknown said...

I am grinning from ear to ear! It must be the creative woman thing, since I feel the same and under pressure perform much better then with loads of time. The sheer knowledge to have to cater to husband and kids soon makes me work so much better.
Hope to get a glimpse on to that speech one day!!
Those shelves are marvelous!
35 double pages, hmmm?!
Good luck and all the best for that day!

Simple Good Beautiful said...

With your wit, I'm sure your speech will be informative and entertaining.

As I do quite a bit of writing in my work, a friend thought it appropriate to give me a paperweight that says "The ultimate inspiration is the deadline."

So very true. Why is that??

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Freaky. Have you been peeking in my windows? Aside from the fact that I don't particularly like Pringles, this could be my life.

Dianne said...

I would love to listen to you speak on any subject! I marvel at how many things you did while writing the speech...the bookcases being my favorite. Do tell, how was Jane Eyre?

Helen James said...

so witty and oh i could relate !!! will you post the speech after you give it.? you truly are an inspiring person x

Jane said...

I think until the deadline is looming over one's head like a Grim Reaper style scythe it is very hard to actually prepare these things far in advance, at least that is my experience.

35 double spaced pages is a word dense speech that's for sure but I am quite an ad libber. I find 20 Powerpoint Slides will do 45 minutes quite well, but that is for boring legal presentations, not witty and insightful decor based ones!

Ps love your shelves in black.

pps Margaret Russell has made me love AD again too she is so clever.

pps I agree about Guy's hips.

kamila said...

What a hilarious post! Feels like I am reading about myself, except you did not stop to bake a cake and spend hours researching the "perfect" recipe in the middle of it all. Love all the photos, too.

Serenknitity said...

What a great post. I was on the edge of my seat re the bookshelves. Black - are you sure? Obviously, a greater style maven than myself (and a far less timid one) knew what she was doing – they’re fantastic.
I always joke that if my family went away for more than a week I’d get scurvy – looks like you’d be the same, after perusing your can’t-be-bothered-to cook-for-myself menu!

skirmishofwit said...

Giggled throughout reading this post! I'm sure the speech will be wonderful - I wish I could attend. Your painted bookcases look absolutely gorgeous.

Teacats said...

Fantasticv post! Hoping you'll do a video log of your speech -- I would LOVE to hear it! I adore the topic! And yet another procrasinator here too! BTW -- thanks for the reminders to clean the house and tidy the garden BEFORE I can work! LOL! Your bookshelves look amazing in classic black -- please post some more photos of your shelf-scapes!

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

Anonymous said...

thank you for another terrifically clever post.

your bookshelves are beautiful in their black coats.
styling bookscapes is related to writing, i'm sure. i'm a writer too and the work of building relationships between words and ideas is (for me) like designing/styling.
maybe someday some scientist will prove that they are related activities.
i say styling, tidying, ____ is to writing as warmups are to athletic activities.

and it's a small thing, but ... were you feeling love for the "oddly narrow-hipped" guy pearce?
can the slender-but-muscled get some love in hard times?

-- a slim-hipped fan of your blog

jamielynn3 said...

Loved this :) So on point on what it's like to be a writer!

Angie Muresan said...

Oh, but those bookshelves in black look marvelous!
You make procrastination sound so fun, Lisa. Good luck on giving the speech!

wild thyme flowers said...

OMG, this was so much fun to read! I know the feeling. I am so easily distracted and when feeling under pressure I feel compelled to comfort myself with things that relax and inspire me. Hence I'm reading your post when I should be attending to proposals for upcoming weddings and events. But we'll get there. And Lisa, BIG congratulations on your inaugural (I think ?) speech ! I'm sure it will be fantastic.

Anonymous said...

When is this speech?

Simple Pleasures said...

Loved this post!! you're description of procrastination and eventual crunch is embarrassingly familiar.

I'm impressed you have a draft of your speech written more than one month before the speech. That is not procrastination in my world - starting it one week before is plenty of time (right?)

Paul said...

Reading your blog is step 19 in my mission to write an essay about the influences of Brecht's epic drama on Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" by tomorrow morning.

Mary Ann said...

As someone who just had to give her speech, not once, but three times, after procrastinating in a most similar matter, imagine my big grin when I saw your feet there at the other end of the sofa, then read about the painters and the Mike's and "can't talk cuz I am working." In my case, I was so absorbed in research I just knew I was going to leave something "brilliant" out. Then the slides got wonky. Computer burped. You name it. Not enough Mike's or Three Horse Vivacious to quell the fear. OK, almost.

You go girl!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

I love you guys...your comments have made me smile and laugh to no end today. :)

Tricia Rose: Yes, my cat does have lunch. Every day. Is that weird, do you think? Despite being an outdoor cat, he also only pees inside in his litter box. Usually, when I get home, he is at the window, glaring at me, crossing his legs. I swear.

Elizabeth: Can't believe you have done a PhD on Michael Fassbender. Can I have your life? Anything you want to share about him, PLEASE DO.

Simple Good Life: I don't know why that is, but it IS. Glad I'm not alone!

Pamela Terry and Edward: I don't like Pringles either but I was too lazy to leave the house. And the bed head situation was rather alarming.

Dianne: I liked JE very very much.

Anonymous: I have no issue with slim hips...just would prefer mine to be smaller than his. :)

Brad: May 16th. Cincinnati. Mercantile Library. Be there.

Paul: I just choked on my Vitaminwater.

Mary Ann: Computer burped? Slides wonky? You're going to give me nightmares...!

Vava (aka Virginia) said...

You've a movie in the making. Star those black shelves!

Acanthus and Acorn said...

I do think there is something to be said about letting ideas percolate for awhile and then have that really good frenzied stress you describe (so perfectly) to churn out good work.

I did not figure you for the instant cocoa type!? Try the Williams-Sonoma real chocoate flakes or power on the stove, it's a delicious 10 minute distraction!

While my husband and daughter go away for spring break next week, I will suffering through having all the hardwoods refinished...UGH. Right now I should be emptying out cabinets, moving chairs, lamps, get ready, but I find myself here instead!

Good luck with the edits!!!

Anonymous said...

I've had Scharffen Berger homeade cocoa and Swiss Miss instant and there's something about instant that transports me back to third grade and a wonderful feeling of the first independent act of childhood -- boiling a pot of water all by nine year-old self.

Lovely and hilarious post. Thank you!

gluttonforlife said...

I got agita just reading this!!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Acanthus and Acorn: That sounds delicious -- must try. Although my absolute favorite hot chocolate is at Angelina's Tea Room in Paris -- they ship to US now. Their Chocolat l'Africain is thick, rich, multilayered, delicious.

Anonymous: Love your comment. You nailed it exactly.

pve design said...

Wishing I was still at the University there and taking a break to hear your speech. It is a great town and you will wow them. Paint the town black to match those fab shelves of yours.
I love your ability to multi-task in a step by step style.

victoria said...

I have just wasted a lovely few minutes reading your account. Here I sit in my thatched office in my garden in Wiltshire UK not writing my article!
By the way I used to go to many reel parties at Gargunnock!
will be back...

Bill Geis said...

tres amusant!

Lynne said...

I absolutely love your blog - have been following you for the last year! This blog entry was just brilliant because it is exactly what I do when preparing my presentations. I am usually asked to provide slides and supporting material ahead of time and I just can't - I am a creative like you and it takes me a while to be inspired. I change my presentation pretty much up to the minute I go on... I just know you will be fabulous!

V ä v a! V e v e! said...

So, doing something you want to do instead of doing something you don't want to do, when you really should be doing the something you don't want to do is the definition of "Procrastination", huh!? And all along I thought that was what defined "Choice!" I had better go tend to all those things I was 'choosing' not to do!

Such a treat to read your blogs again!! You are a stitch!

Susan's Snippets said...


If being pressed to write/give a speech has you delivering to us this hysterical blog...

i say become a speech giving hog!


Sue Blaney said...

so glad i'm not alone in my avoidance of things i want to do...but really don't.

i plan to be at your speech on the 16th!
this was wonderful preview of YOU!

thanks for coming to the mercantile and cincinnati

Joanne Hegaty said...

Hi Lisa
Lovely blog. I have just had lunch with a friend of yours, Tony Harlow, who told me to check out your blog. I am marrying a good friend of his and I also have a blog. ...hope you visit ..

Allison said...

This is my first time reading your blog and this is very, very funny! I read it while procrastinating, of course. I love what you did with your bookshelves. Please tell me what color you used on the walls!
PS It seems like you got an awful lot done while you weren't doing anything!


I feel you... Invited to speak at the Illinois Recycling Association conference June 7, 2011. I know me, and should start preparing now, right?? Will put the clip on my blog. The mission--should we decide to embrace it--is to have FUN!Cheers! Lynne of AOM

The French Tangerine said...

So glad I found you! This post was hilarious! LOL!
From your newest follower,

Marla said...

Nothing like writing a speech getting in the way of life. But this is now most people live and thus their presentations are horrible. Why risk your credibility by leaving your speech preparation to the last minute?

iffatali said...

Death is more universal than life;
everyone dies but not everyone lives.
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