Today, I pretty much finished writing the state of the city address. Between now and Thursday, all we'll be doing is tweaking it as the mayor practices reading.
This has been a terrific writing challenge. I've learned a lot, and I think my writing has taken a major step forward.
Early in the process, Funk loaned me On Speaking Well, by Peggy Noonan. It quickly became one of the most influential books I've ever read.
Her guiding principles for speech writing are really simple. They're almost obvious, except they never would've occurred to me if I hadn't read them. They're basically this:
The strength of a speech lies in the logic of its argument and the policy at its core. Everything else is just bullshit.
In other words, don't set out to write a moving speech, or a funny speech, or a speech that'll inspire or anger. Just write a logical argument as clearly as possible. And make it about something real. And let all that other stuff -- humor, inspiration, anger, the full range of emotions -- emerge naturally.
I think this is something I've stumbled into accidentally, through the course of being a writer and trying to improve. But now that I have it before me as a basic formula I feel like a karate student who has finally mastered an advanced move.