Somewhere in the last decade, there was a year or two (or maybe three) where we would download each and every fresh sermon from Rob Bell, convert them to disc, and play them back in the car on long trips.
Some of you disagree theologically with Bell on a thing or two (or maybe three) but his speaking style was unique.
And uniquely distinct.
I don’t know to what degree it might have been noticeable, but if I were asked to speak somewhere, I’m sure there were elements of that speaking style that crept into my own, not unlike the person who spends two weeks in London and returns to Houston with the slightest hint of an accent beginning to form.
More recent downloads at our house include Greg Boyd and Andy Stanley, but Bell’s homilies were always a mix of prose and poetry. Disagree though you might, he is always engaging to listen to. He knows how to get people talking.
It’s the same with writing. I tend to take on the style of the person I’ve been reading most recently. Frankly, if you’re an aspiring writer, or even an aspiring blogger, I can’t stress the value of reading good writers; of reading the best. Want to write better? Then read more.
Oswald J. Smith built Toronto’s Peoples Church into Canada’s first — and for a long time only — megachurch. When he was away on missionary trips, some of which encompassed months at a time, his philosophy was to always book guest speakers that he felt were better than himself. If you’re an aspiring teacher or preacher, I can’t stress the value of listening to great speakers; of going out of your way to hear the best, especially hearing them in person.
Every Friday night, I have a ritual of catching up with the blog, Best of YouTube. I’ve noticed however that my never-diagnosed ADHD self is most reluctant to commit to videos longer than about four minutes. I tend to watch the short ones and skip the long ones, which lately have been getting much longer. My attention span doesn’t lend itself to War and Peace or a ten-part series on A&E. For that reason, I minimize my own potential to return to school and get that coveted Masters degree, nonetheless I am committed to lifelong learning. I absorb knowledge — and ideas — like a sponge. Books fill the shelves in various rooms, at times lining the stairs; my computer is literally choked with bookmarked articles; and the aforementioned sermon discs fill several spools.
Read the best.
Listen to the best.
To borrow (and misuse) a term from the HTML side of computing, I look for rich text. In computer parlance, rich text refers to text that has been ornamented through bold face, color, underlining, a change of font, use of italics, subscripts, superscripts, and enlargement.
Rich text in speaking or writing could mean something just as intricate and interesting, but I use it to refer to content that is enriched, through cross-reference, powerful illustration, authoritative delivery, passion, and thought-provoking ideas. We live in a time-starved world, so don’t settle for fluff.
And… if you find yourself parroting someone else’s style in your speech or composition that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it might be called the highest form of flattery.