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,
- 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.