The host of a recent event interviewed me in front of the audience after listening to the speech I gave. “Which do you enjoy more? Writing or speaking?”

I was perplexed by the question, and when I did answer, I heard an edge in my voice.  It was as if he had asked me which of my two daughters I love more. I have a profound, intense relationship with both acts of creation. I love each one equally, differently, and see them as inextricably linked.

For days after the event, I thought about that question. At first, I looked at history for my answer. Which one have I done longer? Which one came first? For a class assignment when I was seven years old, I had to write something to present in front of an audience. I remember sitting in front of my window at home writing my first song. I stood on the cafeteria stage, shaking in my shoes, and sang from my soul in front of a small audience of my peers and parents.

When it’s cold outside and I’m feeling lonely,

sometimes I just don’t know what to do.

So I look outside and what do I see?

I see the birds and the bees,

and the flowers and the trees,

that’s what I see

that’s what I see

that’s what I see

that’s what I see

and it pleases me!

By middle school, I separated the acts of writing from speaking to appear confident and brave while ensuring a great deal of personal safety. I stood in front of larger audiences, delivering monologues written by other people and pouring passion into the roles I played in theater productions. Late at night, though, the true grit came out in my journal. My pen dared to write the words and ask the questions I could not speak to even my closest friends.

As an adult, the act of writing sustained me when I could not speak. At times, I wrote with the same intensity I had in middle school. I filled pages in the privacy of late nights and early mornings. I wrestled with experiences, emotions, and questions. The words that I wrote terrified me, exhilarated me and, ultimately, held the key to my finding the courage I needed to speak.

I remember the moment I rediscovered my voice. I was a participant in a weekend-long course focused on personal and professional development. We were working in small groups on a particular exercise. After seeing what each of us did with the assignment, my group chose me as the strongest example from our group. Within minutes, I was in front of the room on a stage speaking to a group of 150 people. I had one minute to make an impact. In that moment, my experience of writing and speaking reunited. I chose a topic that was personal and real for me and used humor and energy to share it with the entire group. The room exploded with laughter as I made my point and used my voice to make an impact. Clarity landed that afternoon with the force and precision of the Blue Angels. Speaking from the heart about things that are true and real was what I was meant to do.

As I processed what it meant for me to do more public speaking and writing, someone asked me why I had felt comfortable performing on stage in theater productions yet experienced hesitation or nervousness about public speaking. “When I stand up and speak now,” I answered, “it’s me they hear and see. I’m not playing the part of Aunt Rose or some other character I learned how to be. If I open my mouth to speak in front of people now, I am as authentic as when I write in my journal. For me, that’s an act of courage. It’s standing in front of people, whole and seen, holding back nothing and connecting with others in the most real and raw way. It’s divine, exhilarating, and completely crazy courageous.”

When the host of the recent event asked me which I enjoyed more, I gave some quick answer about how I love both writing and speaking, equally and differently. If I were asked that question again, after writing this piece, I would have more to say. I would say that speaking invites an immediate, transformative connection. It’s the flashier of the two activities and, like a wedding, creates a public, palpable burst of energy when speaker and audience connect after weeks or months of preparation. Writing is like courting for a marriage. The work is private, long and deep. Truth is slowly revealed, and transformation occurs over time. The writer and reader engage with the writing again and again, and perception is influenced by both the passing of time and the content of the writing. With my writing, I work through what I need to explore before I speak. When I speak, I often find new questions and insights to explore. I am grateful to be able to enjoy each act of creation on its own as well as when they are inextricably linked, dancing together to express one theme or message.

How would you answer the question? Writing or speaking? Which do you enjoy more? Please share in the comments section below.