Saturday, February 8, 2014

Write Good Words

The assignment in my English Composition course last week was to write a personal essay discussing something you had read that changed the way you viewed life. It could be anything, a book, a poem, a news article and 'the change' could be something life altering or something as simple as 'brushing my teeth every day'. The purpose of the assignment was twofold: to focus on construction of a personal essay and to realize how powerful words are.

Hats off to my students, who wrote about everything from children's books to epic poems, on subjects ranging from child abuse to better financial management of their own lives.  To learn their interests and what is important to them was fascinating. But as a writer, I realized something very important.

Our written words matter.

All of them.

Of course, there are obvious articles and books that are intended to raise awareness of subjects, but it seems that it was the subtle references in unexpected works that my students picked up on and were really struck by. It is the comparisons to their own lives, similarities and differences, that forced them to look at their worlds differently.  And as one student put it, "Although I've read other things on this subject, this particular author seemed to speak my own thoughts on {the subject}, and I knew I wasn't alone."

That's powerful.

To think that a horror story can make someone understand that we all have a potential monster inside of us, that a poem can make you call your mother every week just to say hello, that a fantasy novel can help you understand the value of imagination, that a news article can help you see the importance of questioning and not taking everything, or everyone at their word, or that a biography can teach you to appreciate the small things in your life, is something we should all consider. Every genre and every medium has the ability to affect someone's life in unexpected ways.

So as writers, what do we do?

We write good words, we tell good stories, we take care in our craft.  Because someone will read our work. And it may make a huge difference in how they view the world around them.

So, in teaching my students that the words they read can be very powerful, I also realized that the power comes from those of us that write those words.

Let's do it well.


Susan E. Kennedy said...

Thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Kelly. I think often people like to write off certain kinds of writing, like fantasy novels, as having only entertainment value. You--and your students--remind us that's not true. Thank you for reaffirming that every written word has the potential to impact a reader. (And as a side note: what a great assignment to give your class. No wonder some of your students sign up again for another semester!)

Anonymous said...

Love this, Kelly. This is something we can all relate to, and it's important that we remember words matter. They last longer than a bruised knee, a bowl of chicken soup, a first kiss, or a bouquet of roses. We need more good words in the world.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

It's a good first assignment, letting them right about themselves but in a directed way...

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Good words, share a coke, the world would be a better place.

Dave said...

I like that you mention that "every genre and every medium has the ability to affect someone's life in unexpected ways." When it comes to books, I've switched my genre-interests a few times over the years, but for me, with the good books with good words I don't even see their genres. I just think about the epiphanies and personal reflections and symbolism that each writer gifted to me as a reader. Someone (no idea who) said, "Good writing supercedes genre."

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I agree, Dave. I've found nuggets of gold in a lot of different types of writing.