Words of Influence
Today I thought about a verse from an old pop song made famous by Rod Stewart over 30 years ago, "Every Picture Tells A Story." The words go: "I firmly believed that I didn't need anyone but me/I sincerely thought I was so complete/Look how wrong you can be."
Most of the song is unbearably inane, but those lines, which I first heard at age 13, made a profound impression. As a child, I was happiest when I was alone. But those words hit me like a warning, and may have influenced the course of my life.
Words bombard us all the time, and the vast majority of them go unremembered, but now and again a statement or phrase sticks flypaper-like in our minds. We come back to those words, and sometimes they acquire extra shades of meaning, and they influence us for better or worse.
I'm curious what other people's "words of influence" have been. (I won't say "words of wisdom," because that isn't exactly what I mean, although that category is included here.)
Words and Writing
I've been wondering lately why so few people enjoy
writing. I find writing as natural and pleasant as talking. Yet most
people speak (and think) far more clearly and easily than they write.
I find this to be the case in the realms of business writing, technical
writing, and personal writing. People know what they mean—and
they can say what they mean—but somehow writing it down is a Herculean
This is especially true with creative writing. Some of the most poetic thinkers and speakers I've met will seize up at the thought of committing words and ideas to paper.
Then again, many writers (including me) tend to be socially introverted. We'd often rather write than talk. Writing seems so much more dependable, with much less risk of misunderstanding. With writing, the words are right in front of you; there is no ambiguity or argument about “what got said.” Granted, the written word lacks inflections of meaning that can be conveyed through tone of voice, facial expression, and posture. But a writer can argue that leaving out all those “extra variables” keeps the message simple and direct.
Still, obviously, we cannot live by the written word alone. To feed our souls, we need conversation that is warm, unpredictable, meandering, tangential, humorous, and imbued with multiple meanings. In fact, one of my goals as a writer is to write words that flow like conversation, or like music. (This discussion, for example, does not aim toward a “thesis” or goal. It's an aimless muse, like a Sunday morning conversation over hot chocolate.)
It seems to me that business writing and technical writing in particular are most un-conversational in that their purpose is to get across a very specific and narrow message, as economically as possible. But oddly enough, certain conventions and protocols, which are intended (we must assume) to preserve efficiency in business and technical writing, can sabotage clarity. For example, a technical manual composed in dry, bloodless language may be harder for readers to absorb than a slightly puffier text with a dash of personality. And an impersonal, to-the-point business memo may be perceived as charged with innuendo.
I am interested in other people's thoughts regarding the uses of the written word, and how writing may complement, or at times replace, the spoken word. Does writing help to keep us honest, or does writing subvert honesty more often than it facilitates it?
Here's another example—have you ever written a letter to someone with whom you were trying to “work things out” emotionally? Did it feel safer and saner to put your thoughts into a letter, rather than trying to talk directly? I have done that. And I've been told, “If you have something to say to me, then say it! Don't write it!”