I will never forget the day. My freshmen year of college, one of my required classes was English Literature. Honestly, I was less than thrilled. English Lit was not on my bucket list.
It was a cold afternoon in Ohio and I hustled from my dorm to beat the train going through the campus. I arrived early enough to find a good seat at the "back" of the room. (Yes, that's right, in those days I was a back seater student. The last thing I wanted was to get stuck in the front :-)
The professor walked in a few minutes late, cooly strolling in wearing a tweed jacket looking a lot like Jack Black would today.
In a passionate voice he introduced himself glancing at his new students in the room. "Welcome everyone! I am your Professor, Dr. Davis. But rather than thinking of me as yet another teacher, think of me as a GUIDE on your journey."
I looked around the room to see if others heard what I had heard. He held a pause as if to let it sync in. Then he continued. "The most important thing you need to know is this..."
He then grabbed a piece of chalk walked up to the black board and wrote down three words in big letters.
"Your first exercise is to write. I want you to take out some paper and write an essay on why "Words Have Power". He then looked at us all to make sure his instructions where clear.
"You have 20 minutes. Write whatever comes to mind. Don't erase. Don't cross-out. Just write on 'why words have power.' This is your first test! And you start now!"
I sat there looking at a blank piece of paper. "Why Words Have Power" - I thought. "Okay" -- and I then gripped the pen letting it hover over the paper. After a few seconds of nothingness, the words just seemed to magically come from my hand to paper. Needless to say, that one exercise would end up changing everything for me. Writing has unlocked secrets I didn't know I had. It's why I write today, and it's why you should write too.
What I Wrote
So what did I write that cold January afternoon in 1985 on the campus of Ohio University? I tried to dig up my old notebook, but I couldn't find it. Yet, what's interesting is I somehow still remember much of what I was feeling and thinking . I remember parts of what I wrote in that class room.
So, I decided to recreate that moment, and rewrite it as best as I could using the same prompt, "Why Words Have Power". Amazingly, it took me back in time, and imagined my self back on campus as that 18 year old kid. Here's what I wrote:
Today I am asked, "Why Words Have Power". All I can think about right now is my walk to class and the impact that words have on us. For example, the conversations that people had walking up the hill - the words they chose mattered. One person mentioned to an other about the upcoming basketball game, and asking if they are going. Another person in another conversation less than a minute later was talking about going to the movies uptown and cooly asking her out for a date. In both conversations, their words influenced those they were talking to. One to a game. The other to a movie.
Now my teacher is asking all of us why words matter, and injecting an assignment for us to "write".
Words seem to influence us. The shape our thoughts and our actions. The reflect our values, they cast vision, and they are used to shape the stories we tell or want to listen too.
It was with words that declared our nation's independence.
It was with words from Martin Luther King, Jr at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that inspired hundreds of thousands to envision a better future.
If we go back far enough, it was the words of God that brought life into existence. And it is the written Word of the Bible that shapes the belief and values of people like me today.
But I guess words can destroy too. It was the words of Adolf Hitler that brought evil into the world. It is words of anger that cause fights and struggles -- even in my own life.
When I think about it. Words have the power to motivate, encourage, lift, tear down, destroy, move, inspire. Words have meaning. Words have life. Think about it. They are part of creation. It was spoken words that created our universe.
We also have the power to create with our words too -- they need to be spoken and written. Words matter because we matter! Words cast vision. Words give clarity. Words give light to a world that's dark, and they give warmth to a world that's cold.
Yet, if we hold our words back, then we hold others back and we hold ourselves back. We need words to give and receive. Words give life. Words have power.
As I look at this recreation of what I wrote. I just want to add one more thought that I know I didn't have the insight to see then but I do now. A thought that puts the stamp on why I write, and why you should write too.
The words we use -- what we tell ourselves, and what we tell others decide whether or not we choose to break average. Our words matter.
I invite you to take this final thought and let it be something that you carry forward. May your words matter in all that you do.
Over the years ,I've written a number of articles, papers, essays, and blogs. I've actually turned some of my writings into books. Why?
Because words indeed DO have power, and I want to encourage others with them -- written and verbal.
I am far from the writer I want to be, but let me know what you think of my writings -- whether it's the blogs or the books . My greatest hope is that they add value. But ultimately I want to encourage you to write too. Journal for yourself. Imagine what new world awaits through the power of your words.
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