Ghostwriting And Bar Mitzvah Speeches

Two weeks ago the kid I used to hold like a football came home from middle school and told me he felt weird because he heard himself using my words at school.

“Dad, it was my voice but your words coming from it.”

I told him he must have sounded extra smart and incredibly eloquent and he rolled his eyes at me. Wish I had that on camera because he hates when his little sister rolls her eyes at him.


Ghostwriting and Bar Mitzvah Speeches

The big guy’s Bar Mitzvah is just around the corner so we are working on his speech. I can’t tell him I don’t like his rough draft because he will take it personally and he doesn’t understand how critical I am of speeches and writing.

Part of what I do and have done for years is write for a living and that includes speeches.

Criticism comes with the job and I am well acquainted with praise and with scathing reviews in which people have suggested I must have paid for my degree.

Writing is subjective so I am not surprised or particularly concerned by it. Some call Jane Austen a very fine writer but Mark Twain disagrees.

I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
– Letter to Joseph Twichell, 13 September 1898

It is not hard to find many more examples of authors slamming other authors. The great ones get the same treatment as the awful ones.

But this is not about those guys. It is about trying to help a 13 year-old boy express his thoughts and ideas in a coherent way that will hold the attention of those attending the service.

Probably more important to me that he gets something out of the experience of writing the speech. Probably more important that it helps him to become a better writer and maybe a more critical thinker.

Those are skills that will always serve him well in life.

Reality V. Fiction

Yesterday he and I went to see The Desolation of Smaug. We very much enjoyed it but I didn’t tell him that there were moments where I was picking apart the movie.

Moments where I was silently pulling apart the layers and thinking about what makes the story so entertaining and how I might approach it.

Parts where I listened to the dialogue and wondered if the conscience of the movie recited those words so effectively because he is a great actor or because he agreed with what he said.

When I look at what my son will be speaking about I smile because I relate to it and because I think it is really good for him. It is something that is applicable for life in general.

If you’ll indulge me for a moment I’ll share it with you.

It comes from Pirkei Avot, Ethics of our fathers. There is a section that says the following:

“Rabbi Shimon the son of Elazar says: Do not try to assuage the anger of your friend in the height of your friend’s anger; do not try to comfort your friend when your friend’s deceased lies before him; do not question your friend at the time your friend makes a vow; and do not seek to see your friend in the time of your friend’s humiliation.”

It is about timing.

When To Speak And What To Say

People often talk about how they came up with the perfect comeback for an argument hours after it is done. Or they mention that they would have said something in a particular situation but they didn’t know what to say.

What they often forget about is timing.

It is being cognizant of the moment. Sometimes knowing when to speak is more important than what you say.

I like this because again it is applicable to your entire life, personal, professional…everything.

It reminds me of lots of business conversations I have been a part of. Conversations where we talk about how we could give the right words to a client but that it was up to them to make those words believable.

Up to them to take action and make those words more than just letters on a piece of paper.

Only this time around it holds far more personal interest because my job and my responsibilities are a bit different than when I get paid to write.

What do you think?

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  3. Barbara December 17, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Quoting Mark Twain and Pirkei Avot sum you up pretty nicely, no? I think you know how to (not) proceed with your son’s bar mitzvah speech and will trust your feelings.

    Will I see you tomorrow at the Hangout?

  4. Jens P. Berget December 17, 2013 at 12:16 am

    I don’t know much about Bar Mitzvah speeches, but I agree with Larry. It sounds like a good advice to let him speek, and give him advice about how to use the best words possible to say what he wants to say.

  5. Larry December 16, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    I think letting him speak about what he wants and how he wants is the way to go. I certainly think you can offer guidance and make sure he is in the ballpark. If it is his speech, he will feel more proud, the moment will be more memorable for him, and he will deliver it more confidently.
    Most. B.M. speeches I here seem basically the same. I think if the kid would write it, then the speech would be more unique, interesting, and revealing.

    • Joshua December 16, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      Hi Larry,

      That is sound advice. My primary focus with him has been to help trim some of the “fat” and to get to the point a little bit quicker, but it is his words so I feel good about it.

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