“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.” –T.S. Eliot
* * *
Happy New Year, everyone!
I’m honored to be the first to welcome TKZers to 2023! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, filled with family, food and fun, and ending with a resolution to use your writing superpower to its fullest extent in 2023.
* * *
THE POWER OF WORDS
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” – Proverbs 25:11
In a 2013 article on workhuman.com, Darcy Jacobsen wrote:
“Words matter. Anthropologists tell us that our ability for complex reasoning evolved at the same time as humans developed language. That’s because language provides us with a sort of source code for advanced thought. Before we had it, we simply lacked the ability to THINK the way we do now.”
But spoken language has its limitations. It isn’t as structured as written communication and lacks the permanent nature of the written word. And spoken words tend to morph over time and evolve into something that may have an entirely different meaning than the original.
* * *
THE SUPERPOWER OF WRITTEN WORDS
“If you want to change the world, take up your pen and write.” –Martin Luther
Jacobsen addressed the additional power of the written word by stating;
“…writing ideas makes them more concrete to us, and by mulling written words, we are better able to internalize and understand them, and to allow them to affect our behavior… In other words, every major accomplishment our species has made has been powered by writing, because writing gives our brains the code to organize ideas and create systems for advancement.”
Consider just a few of the things we would lack in a world without the written word:
- The Bible
- The Magna Carta
- The U.S. Constitution
- Written history
Without such documents, we would depend on oral communication to tell us how to interpret our world, what events happened in history, and how to treat our fellow human beings. But the written word is more than historical documents, biographies, or reporting on true events. There is also fiction.
* * *
THE FICTION WRITER’S SUPERPOWER
Joseph Conrad recognized the power of fiction when he said,
“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.”
Here at TKZ, we often focus on the craft, the HOW of writing. We examine plot structure, character arcs, point of view, conflict, and other aspects of the novel. But given what we know about the power of words, I’d like to home in on the WHAT and WHY of fiction writing.
In a 2016 article in litromagazine.com, Vineetha Mokkil looked at the effect fiction has on readers:
“Scientific research has proven that reading fiction makes us more empathetic. Psychologists at the New School for Social Research, New York say that reading literary fiction literally makes us better people. It improves our ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions. This equips us to negotiate complex social relationships in the real world with greater skill. In this context, the writer essentially helps us connect to our own humanity. When fiction writers bare the inner lives of their characters it makes us reflect on our frailties and flaws.”
The writer of novels goes beyond the limits of historical fact to create new worlds where readers can connect with characters through emotion and intellect, discover new perspectives, and even search for the truth. The impression a good work of fiction makes on a reader will last long after he or she has put the book aside.
Of course, we all want to make money with our work. But if we spend months – or even years – crafting a tale to release upon the world, we surely want the result to be meaningful. Whatever our motive for writing a story — whether it’s to give the reader a sense of hope, a lesson in problem-solving, or a different perspective on the world — authors have the potential to make people think and to transform their lives. That’s a powerful skill and a great responsibility.
* * *
So here’s to the new year with all of its days spread out before us like 365 blank sheets of paper. We have the ability to choose how we’ll use our writing superpower to fill those days. Let’s roll up our sleeves and choose wisely.
“But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.” — Lord Byron
* * *
So TKZers: How will you use your writing superpower in 2023? What story will you release into the world? And why do you want to write it?