Written words have power. True, it’s possible that being a writer has made me a tad bias on the matter, however I would argue that the written word is the most powerful tool that we as a species have created. Of course, there is the historical significance of it. Writing makes it possible to document the past with a sense of permanence that wasn’t conceivable before its creation. It endures. Think of how unsuccessful the telephone game generally goes and imagine a time when this was the only means to record events. And while I understand the enormity of these implications on human development – and trust me, the written word has been vital – it’s not really what I am referring to when I give weight to the subject at hand.
I’m talking about the intimacy of words. How they connect us closely with our readers. How, through our writings, we are able to invite someone into our most private thoughts. I’m referring to the written word’s ability to share a person’s ideas from decades ago, centuries ago, millenniums ago. Because that’s the magic of written words; they are exactly the same as the moment the author penned them. Through them, the reader can understand the feelings and ideas intended. Written words can transport us to another place without physically moving an inch because they don’t follow the laws of physics. They are a time machine. A space shuttle. An ocean. They can make us fall in love with someone without ever meeting them in person – just one example of why long-distance online dating is so successful. Written words can also harm. For most, they are massively more offensive than their spoken equivalent. Speaking ill of someone is never good, but writing nasty words about them? Well, that can ruin lives. The words can be printed, emailed, passed around for all to see. They can be reread again and again and again. Written words can kill. I read piece about German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who wrote a story so sad in the 1700s that there was a string of suicides following its release. His book, The Sufferings of Young Werther, connected so strongly with young men in situations similar to those of the protagonist that they submitted themselves to the same end fate as the character.
Written words have power and in the end, they are the only form of immortality we know.
Use them wisely.
(Photo credits: Wikimedia.org)