Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Power Of A Writer

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Have you ever considered how powerful you, as a writer, can be? Your words influence your readers in more ways than you might imagine.

I had an enlightening moment during my first year of teaching fourth grade. The school set aside two days for teachers to have conferences with parents. Over and over during that first, for me, conference period, I heard my own words coming back to me. Words from me to the students to the family at home. Equally surprising was the particular words or phrases that had interested the students. I realized then that my words had power and I knew I'd better think before speaking if I wanted to be a good influence.

As writers, we need to be cognizant of what we write. Readers, from children to teens to adults, are willing to accept what we write as gospel truth. So first and foremost, be truthful. We've all read about writers who plagiarized or told untruths and got caught. It's not a pretty situation. Sure, there are writers who tap out falsehoods on their keyboard and never get caught. It doesn't mean it's alright. It must be awful to wonder and wait to see if anyone questions the validity of what you've written.

I once did it purely by accident with a short story I'd sold to a well-known national newspaper. The story was told by the male protagonist in first person. My name as author appeared next to the title. A few days after publication, an editor wrote to me saying that a reader had written wondering why the story was told by a young adult male when the author's name was decidedly female. I learned that the section I had submitted the story to published only true stories, not fiction. Ooops! That was the day I realized the great importance of reading guidelines carefully and I have done so ever since.

The words we write have the power to help in the healing process. When we experience tragedies in our lives, we can help others going through similar situations. No, we can't miraculously heal or cure but we can certainly provide some insight, perhaps some comfort. It's why I firmly believe in sharing the hard times in life though writing.

Writers have the power to use their writing to help readers make decisions. The writer will never know how or why, but it does happen. Think about your own reading. Haven't you read something that triggered thoughts about your own dilemmas? Maybe seeing what a character did to handle a similar situation helped trigger thoughts of a solution for yourself.

When unjust events happen throughout our world, writers can write pro or con articles, essays, and even poetry that concerns the same. Look at the recent upheaval in our political world recently. How many op-ed articles or Letters to the Editor have you read that takes one side or the other? Some of those writers can sway opinions, while others only rant and turn the other side off in a big way. It's important to voice an opinion but take care in how you do it.

Those who write for children have power over young and easily influenced minds. Let's hope they use that power to help build strong, moral people. Children's writers carry a big weight. They want to entertain children but hope to teach as a second benefit. Once again, give careful thought to what you write for young minds.

As a writer, you do have power. Keep that in mind when you address a new topic. Long ago, Martin Luther, church reformer and leader of the Protestant movement, said, "If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write."

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