Your Words Matter

Somewhere in my basement sits a box containing a faded grade-school project asking the age-old question: what do you want to be when you grow up? The girl whose two favorite book series were, not coincidentally, both about girls who were aspiring authors (the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, and the Anne of Green Gables books, by L.M. Montgomery), answered “An author and a mom.”

Years later, this empty nest mom calls to mind that dreamy-headed girl…the girl who would climb the stately maple in her backyard and haul a bucket filled with books, paper, and pencils up above the roofline to her perch in the branches, where she could look out over her neighborhood, and out to the field behind her house, inventing stories and songs and imagining herself into other times and other worlds…and I wonder: what happened to that author-to-be?

After years of journaling, submitting the occasional article or contest entry, writing encouraging letters to family and friends, and starting a blog, I find myself facing the reality that I may never achieve my dream of seeing my name on the spine of a book. Partly because I haven’t yet written a book (insert sheepishly smiling emoji here); partly because my writing may not appeal to many people. But I am learning that while my writing may be for a much smaller audience, it still matters.

For me, writing has always been the language I feel I “speak” best. It is the way I process my thoughts and emotions…the way I show love to others…the way I like to communicate. I feel compelled to write. Much of my writing is intensely personal and I feel vulnerable when I share it, yet I wrestle with the vanity of needing to know that my words, once shared, are appreciated. It means more to me than it should to hear feedback on one of my blog posts. If I send an encouraging text, I like to know that it was meaningful to the recipient. When I write about a struggle fought or an insight gained, it feeds my soul to hear someone—anyone—say it challenged or inspired them.

Conversely, if I don’t hear anything, I spiral into self-doubt and I retreat into myself, feeling insignificant among the multitude of voices. I stop writing.

But just this fall, during a time of discouragement, I was reminded that we won’t always know how our words impact others; however, it doesn’t follow that they are worthless. I attended the funeral of a favorite uncle in August and was stunned when a letter I had written him for his 80th birthday was read during the service. I had no idea that my brief note had made such an impact. It was just me, “speaking” my language to someone I loved.

When I listen to the lie that my writing is pointless, when I stop writing and hide behind excuses and fear, what opportunities to encourage, comfort, challenge, inform, or entertain others do I miss? It’s as if I am stopping my own heart from beating.

I want to hold on to the truth—that a writer writes, not for money, not for fame, not for praise, not for acknowledgment, not for any other reason than a writer expresses herself best when she is writing. It is a calling and a gift, a gift we can share with others, or pursue merely because our souls demand we put our dreams and ideas and feelings into black and white.

With that, I pick back up my paper and pen, and like the girl in the maple tree hoped, I am an author.

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Rebecca Neathery finds writing the bio and finding an appropriate picture much harder than writing the blog entry. She’s a pretty ordinary person with relatively few accomplishments; however, she is the wife of a college football coach and the mom of three college students, and she’s more than pretty proud of all of them. She has lived in many states and traveled to many countries, but her favorite place is anywhere her family is all together. You may find more of her writing at www.coffeesconesandkindredspirits.blogspot.com.

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