"There exists, for everyone, a sentence––a series of words––that has the power to destroy you. Another sentence exists, another series of words, that could heal you. If you're lucky you will get the second, but you can be certain of getting the first." ––Philip K. Dick
I am reminded this week of how words have such power. As a writer, it shouldn't be such a startling realization to me. But as a human, I find it surprising nonetheless. They are only ink on paper, right? Only sounds vanishing in the air. Only zeros and ones pinging through cyberspace. No, they are more than that. They are the physical substance of a thought spoken or written. And that's where their power comes. The physical manifestation of something intangible. Those words, once morphed into the physical, are almost impossible to erase.
Words grab people––they act as hooks (much like an opening chapter should!). They can mesmerize, console and comfort, tear down. Words can manipulate.
Words become alive. They take on a type of flesh and blood all their own. Think back on how words have survived thousands of years in the forms of spoken, sung, and written mediums. I'm sure the authors never dreamed their words would survive that long. Words can become immortal––living beyond our ephemeral reach.
Words become memories. Ones either pleasant or painful to remember. It is said for every negative stimulus you are exposed to (whether of your own doing or someone else's), you need five positive ones to reach a state of equilibrium. I marvel at how instantly you can recall a flood of memories just from one simple trigger word.
As a writer, I have the opportunity to create something that lives. Something hopefully reaching beyond my mortal span. I want my words to be remembered as compelling, touching, poignant, inciting change. Conversation starting. Meaningful. Never spiteful, rude, gibbering, or trashy.
I'm sure you can remember a time when you've been on the giving and receiving end of all of these. I can. Let the permanency of our words motivate us to watch what we say and how we say it. And, for us writers, that what we record will define our legacy for the better.
"My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel––it is, before all, to make you see." ––Joseph Conrad