Writer’s Eye: Bracing for Impact

To me, one of the best “perks” of being a writer is the potential an author has to impact the life of a reader. Of course, it is usually taken as fact that the impact will be positive, and the reader will be “better” in some way now having had the author’s words imparted unto him.

But until recently, “authors” and their lot were as different from me as I am to a nuclear physicist. I had never had my words stretch beyond the eyes of a select few, and I had never written anything with a personal consideration; simply, I had written academically, and kept my thoughts bottled up in a jar, somewhere off in a forgotten part of my brain.

But when I started writing for The Washington Pastime, the resonance of my words extended. Even if it wasn’t by much, it was something. I’m also fortunate to have the support of my family and close friends, who have been not only encouraging, but facilitating the distribution of my work thus far. It’s incredible. But nothing they have done could have quiet prepared me for the news I received last night.

The story goes like this: My aunt got my first story linked to her via Facebook. She forwarded it to a co-worker of hers. That co-worker read, and enjoyed the article. She then shared the article with one of her friends. Here, the story gets a little fuzzy. I don’t know that friend’s name, nor what he did for a living. What I do know, though, is that the co-worker told my aunt that her friend, after having read my article, was so inspired that he quit his job to pursue writing.

And that’s when I metaphorically froze. Just the thought, that first moment, when I realized that my words had touched someone (in a different country no less!) so deeply that he chose to alter the course of his life- to STOP making money (in THIS economic climate, where having a job is in and of itself something to be commended) to pursue his passion, to pursue expression…

I mean, there are no words. I never imaged myself inspiring anything in anyone. I just wanted to write something that was true, and resonated with me. It wasn’t a novel, or a fancy and well publicized work. It was just a thousand words, and they did something for one person. My first thought after the initial shock of hearing this was panic. What if writing didn’t pan out for this man? What if I would be indirectly responsible for this man’s life being ruined? What would I do, and how would I feel? I wasn’t, after all, trying to prescribe a lifestyle. I was just…writing about mine.

I had to get this weight off of my conscience (and what better way to do so then to remove the words from my head by literally transposing them onto paper?) and so I wrote it down. But in my writing about the potential tribulation this man (who knows, he may be a famous writer sooner than any of us) may face, I also thought of the equally likely potential he had to succeed, and the¬†likelihood¬†that even if he didn’t, he would at least enjoy what he did. And to that end, I guess it would be selfish of me to have anything but happiness and gratitude for what happened.

If nothing else, this experience has taught me a valuable lesson- that everything I say, think, and “put out there” has the potential to change a person’s life. It’s a powerfully inspirational revelation, and one that I will never take lightly. I hope that I learn to embrace the impact, and that it wasn’t the last time someone will be moved by what I say. After all, I want to write for only a few reasons: I want to share [the world as I see it], I want to help [people with words], and I want to explore [what it means to be a writer- our “outer limits” ].

This was a lesson in my sharing, exploration, and help turning back around. I wasn’t expecting that- wasn’t expecting my audience to do to me what I had tried to do them. But I guess it’s one of those wonderful moments where we become the change we seek. And so, once again, I wrote it all down.