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Friday, January 5, 2018

Be Responsible With The Words You Write

As writers, we sometimes wonder if what we've written makes any difference in the life of any of our readers. How nice it would be if every reader offered a written note to the author to let them know how the written words had affected them. Nice, yes, but we know that seldom happens. 

We have to go on the assumption that some of what we write stays with the reader, or comes back to them later. In my first year of teaching, I carefully prepared for parent-teacher conferences, making sure I had something positive to say about each child, hoping to soften some of the negative comments made for a few. I wanted to help the parents learn more about their child. Instead, I learned a great deal about myself. Many parents commented on something I said in class, weeks or months earlier, that came home with the child and was discussed at the dinner table. Nothing earth-shaking, but a comment that resonated with that child, made him/her remember and relate it at home. One thing it made me aware of was to be careful in what I said in the classroom. A flippant remark could be construed in a different light than it was meant. 

It is the same when we write. Even if readers take away only one idea, or statement, we make in a 2500 word story, we've accomplished something. Our words are like seeds. We plant them in a story or poem or essay and wait for them to grow into something a reader will remember. Words have power and we writers are the force behind them. Consider it a responsibility as well as a means to entertain or inform our readers. 

When we write a personal essay, we try to get a point across to the reader--a lesson learned or something they can relate to in their own lives. If we don't do that, there's little point to writing the story part of the personal essay. Your reader wants to know how whatever happened changed you or what you learned. 

Readers might tell you that they read only for the pure enjoyment or as a means of escaping from the everyday routines and personal problems they might have. Truth there for sure. Few will tell you they read a novel or book of personal essays in order to learn something. That is not their initial intent but most readers do take away something, even if they do it subconsciously. 

When you write, use your words responsibly and know that they will have meaning for many readers. 

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