The Power of the Written Word


Written Word

Written Word

From Shakespeare to Kafka, Plato to Sigmund Freud, Thomas Aquinas  to Yeats, the written word has had the power to change the world. And change the world they did with their wonderful work.  All through a few hundred or thousand choice words.

As writers, it’s easy to dismiss ourselves as insignificant. It’s easy to crumple our sheets or relegate another word document as rubbish to the recycle bin.

But don’t. If you’re stuck in a rut and can’t put word after word, then turn to other forms of writing. It will jog your mind.

Write a Letter

I still have pen pals in many parts of the world. I still receive letters from some people. I don’t know how people feel when I write letters, but I love when I get mail with my name handwritten on it. I write long letters, often two pages of the mundane and the special, with lot’s of curious questions and possible answers. I remember the letter my spiritual director sent me the first time after a difficult Advent. At seventy he had a very loopy calligraphic style and it was three pages long, talking of his own difficult journey over the past 77 years of his life. The unspeakable joy I experienced through that letter helped forge a strong mentor ship  over the last decade.


I love leaving post-it’s all over the house, particularly over the fridge. A habit my mother encouraged. Today I leave post-its for my nurses at work on their telephones , at home and even sometimes on my neighbors door, if I know it’s been a hard day. It’s so much fun. And you can literally see the smile in some people’s eyes when they tell you about the letter. It also bonds you in a way that can’t be done nay other way.


Why do you need a season for cards? You can send cards anytime today. You don’t have to have a reason. Back in college, people would exchange cards before an exam or  a big surgery.  It’s such a special thought and a huge boost to someone’s day.


One of the things that I love reading is texts. Today after my dad has passed, I reread some of his texts. My dad had the habit of being very witty with his texts. Often I re-read and look for the man now gone from my life, as I still laugh at the humor. It’s as if he still lives on.

The written word in any form, no matter how simple or how goofy, has power. Your words have the ability to change people’s lives. When Seoul-Mates first came out, I was quite afraid. It was my first book and I didn’t quite believe in the power of my writing. I received an email from a reader telling me how much consolation she experienced from a story about a multicultural/mixed marriage as she herself went though it.

For that one person alone I had made a difference. And I would love to keep writing for that one reader whose life will be better because of my words.

So don’t be so hard on yourself. Write for that one reader. For the one person for whom your written word is powerful enough to change their life.


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