Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Your Words Have Power

by Susan

A few years back, I was running Wyoming's piece of the Letters About Literature contest where students write a personal letter to the author of a book that affected their lives. A junior high student from Gillette, Wyoming, wrote to Laurie Halse Anderson, the author of Speak. The book is about a young high school student who is raped and is unable to speak of what happened.

In the letter, the student wrote of how she herself was sexually assaulted. I read it, then laid my head down on my desk and cried. I still tear up writing these words, even years later.

When Anderson wrote Speak, she made at least one young girl who'd endured a trauma feel less alone, perhaps feel less shame over it. There were surely more. When we write, our words have power.

Not all of us write about hard-hitting issues, so it may not be as obvious to us what impacts our words might have. Our words might make someone:

  • Smile, or even laugh,
  • Cry,
  • Learn some tidbit,
  • Try something new,
  • Experience beauty in the world,
  • Connect with someone with a similar experience,
  • Understand someone with a different experience, or
  • Escape from their daily grind.

I get paid to write these days, so I'm living the dream. Most of what I write are blog posts, newsletters, and press releases. It's mundane stuff, but it has value to the reader.

Recently, I had an essay accepted for publication for a Creative Nonfiction anthology on mental illness. This is a "naked moment" for me as a writer. I revealed many personal details. The first time my husband read it, he asked me if I really wanted to put it out under my own name. (As a matter of fact, yes.) After he read a second draft, he said, "Maybe it will help one person." 

Maybe. I can only hope. Humans are storytelling creatures. Whatever you are writing, your words have power. They have value. Never forget that. 

7 comments:

  1. I find this is the "magic juice" that keeps me writing: impact. If someone takes my words and feels/thinks something because of it, I'm thrilled. Had an online class once where a fellow writer said of one of my personal essays, "It made me realize why my wife just likes to sit and chat, even if we don't have anything new to say." Best compliment I ever received.

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  2. Nice piece, Susan. I've admired your hard work and dedication in putting a conference together and supporting others who are doing that. And I've admired your writing. Now I can admire your courage as you "put it out there" perhaps to help one other person. Well done, Susan. Proud to call you my friend.

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    1. Thank you, Art. I am proud to call you my friend as well.

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  3. Amen! I shudder to think of what my life would be like if my favorite writers had decided their words were unimportant. Everything I read changes me a little bit (and sometimes a lot).

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    1. That's what I love about reading. I learn so much about the world, about other people and about myself. Thanks for stopping by, Chere.

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  4. Congratulations, Susan, on having your essay accepted. Bravery is scary sometimes. Thanks to the brave ones who touch our lives with their words.

    I love to read. Books, magazines, blogs, you name it. I've laughed, cried, moaned and groaned, explored new places and different times all from the comfort of my reading chair. My reading chair morphs from the couch, to the driver's seat, to the bench seat at a restaurant, to the saddle of my motorcycle when I'm caught in road construction (what else are you supposed to do while you wait?). Thanks to all the writers who give a part of themselves to inspire, entertain or educate.

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    1. Thanks, Deborah! I love to read, too, and learn so much when I do.

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