Choosing Words

I don’t remember becoming a writer.

 

By the time I decided, “yes, this writing life is what I need; what I want.” I’d been writing for decades, though it didn’t always involve putting words on the page.

To be a successful writer, you have to be an observer – especially of people. You have to learn to see past the barriers they build, past the masks they maintain.

As human beings, our motivations are rarely what they appear to be; it’s a writer’s job to question everything she sees, to note inconsistencies, to keep a running tally of “if/thens.”

I’ve been doing that as far back as I can remember.

The best storytellers have a wealth of information at their fingertips, but they know when to hold back; they carefully choose the information necessary for a moment, and they file the rest away, perhaps forever.

As a child, I didn’t understand, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

I knew why we were encouraged to say it, but the sentiment always rang hollow to me.

Words are the strongest weapon – especially in the hands of someone who only wants to do harm.

I don’t know that Newton intended his third law to apply to any field other than physics, but each act of communication has an equal and opposite reaction.

As a writer, I’m constantly evaluating the force and impact of the words I put into the universe. Whether thought, spoken, shared, or sent, each sentiment carries with it immediate and long-term effects.

Like the rest of humanity, I am far from perfect. Words better left unsaid have passed my lips and flown through my pen.

Perhaps that’s why my favorite thing about the internet is the “Publish” Button – in all its iterations.

In the moment before I publish, post, or send, I review what I’ve just written.

Yes, I look for errors, but mostly I check myself.

Can this be taken the wrong way?

Is this the first impression I want to make on someone?

Is this how I want the world to see me?

Will this start a conversation I’m not prepared to engage in?

If I’m not happy with those answers, I don’t post. Period.

Maybe it’s an oversimplification of the state of the world, but I think we’d all be better off if we all took a moment to wait before sending.

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