A new year, and words have produced results!
December was a month of action around here, of packing and unpacking, of moving, of painting and remodeling. Of transformations, tiring work, tangible physical results and visible transitions. No time for journaling or blogging or any of my usual word play. Too much stuff to get done!
It was refreshing for someone who spends most days in front of a screen typing away, pushing well crafted communications out into an indifferent world, with little to show for each completed project. A sale. A blip in web traffic. An email reply from a reader. Six likes. A share. Tweet. Tweet.
Then January happened.
Our house hit the market on a Friday afternoon. I’d spent time honing the language of the description with my realtor, though I knew the photos were more important. We had put in the labor to clear out the house and hired expert help to refresh and beautify it.
Still, I felt the rich community of the block was its best feature, far more important and enduring than the stager’s trendy hexagon end tables. I wrote a concise essay on the warmth of my neighbors, our memories of block parties and fire pits, and the texture of that special block. My realtor planted it at the open house that Sunday and distributed copies.
By Tuesday we had an offer. We sold our house in less than a week, and to someone we felt was a good fit.
Sadly, that same day I got news of a dear friend’s passing. The founder of my company, the man who hired me 20 years ago and changed the course of my life, left us that day. His contributions to the worlds of responsible business, economic empowerment, fair trade and sustainability will live on for decades. My respect for him is bottomless.
I quickly published the obituary I had written for him in anticipation of this moment. (He was 91, after all.) It was an assignment I’d been honored to take some months earlier, approaching the task with diligence and earnest respect rather than sadness. That brief biography may be one of the most important things I have written.
I also wrote announcements of his death and disseminated them to clients, staff and friends.
As people from around the world shared their memories and condolences, and as we grieved together, I was struck by how many people thanked me for my obituary and my beautiful words about Hal.
My words helped honor the man in the manner he deserved, beyond what his family and newspaper reporters could offer. And my writing provided comfort to readers who loved and grieved him as I did.
For the first time in a long time, I remembered just how powerful good writing can be, how articulate words can change minds, soothe loved ones, connect people and tighten communities. I felt a sense of my own power as a writer and felt grateful for my gift of language, my ability to encourage, persuade or comfort with well chosen words.
I watched the president’s State of the Union address with a new enthusiasm that week, eager to let the speechwriters’ soaring rhetoric elevate me. Wanting to join them, to turn my pen to civic matters. The world needs our crisp prose to inspire action and light the way of progress.
(Watch this space.) Write on!