The Value of a Word

This week has really just been one of those weeks. There wasn’t anything particularly traumatic, but I’ve worked about sixty-five hours in the last 5 days and I’ve encountered all sorts of ridiculous people. From the group of hollering youth holding an oil pipeline protest in the food court of a mall, to the young men who feel the best use of time is to get drunk and drive their cars into stationary objects, everything has been draining and I am completely out of steam.

But I found it only took a handful of words to fuel me up again.

As storytellers we are constantly on the search for the right words. We look for that perfect combination of syllables to evoke a feeling in our reader, to lift them up and propel the in the direction we think they need to go. I, for one, cannot say that I am always successful.  

But a couple days ago a friend of mine found the right words. Then she sent them to me.

At the midpoint in my work week I was feeling like ten pounds of shit stuffed into a five pound bag. I’d had almost zero time for writing, given the pressures of my work life, and I’ve been plagued by the feeling that my current project is absolute shit and I’ll never write anything worth reading, ever.

When I was at my lowest point, both exhausted and disheartened, my friend Holli ( a fantastic writer in her own right,, who had graciously offered to read my schlock, sent me a small message that had a big effect.  

“Your story doesn’t suck. You can do this.”

To the casual eye, the affirmation that I don’t completely suck might not seem like such a big deal. But, at that particular moment, it was like standing in the eye of the shit-storm that had become my week. That small affirmation took root and started to bloom into an honest belief. Perhaps my story didn’t suck, after all. Maybe I really could do this. The more I thought about what she’d said, the more firmly I began to think she might be right.

That night, after I was done arguing with a young lady about whether or not it was appropriate for her to bang a snare drum while she screamed about the evils of oil pipelines at some poor dude who was just trying to eat a taco, I went home and I found some words. They weren’t many, but they were good, and by the time I was done I was walking around and telling myself, “You really can do this.”

Just as we don’t always know what reaction our stories will elicit, I’m not sure that Holli knew exactly what her message would do for me. But her words were significant, just as the words in a story you’re currently working cranking away at, under the horrid fear that they are complete dreck, might be significant for the person reading them.  

I know it’s asking a lot, but go ahead and write that story, and write it without fear, cause there is someone who is going to think it doesn’t suck. And if you read something that you think doesn’t suck, let the author know, cause it might be exactly what they need to hear at that moment.

As always, thanks for reading.



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5 responses to “The Value of a Word

  1. storyteller5

    Oh, Tyner, this was so unexpected and so touching. You’re right; I had no idea how much that small message of encouragement would affect you, but it was the least I could do. You give so much to others, both on the job and off. Your encouragement has kept me going many times, and I was glad to give even a small part of that back to you. Thanks for trusting me with your work and being such a good friend.

  2. Isn’t it amazing how one word of encouragement can change the tide of the stream? A good reminder to be an encouragement to others. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Rhonda Parrish

    I’m glad you found encouragement just when you needed it to keep going. Writing can be such a disheartening experience at times, it’s so important for us to have really great friends to help keep us moving in the right direction.

  4. susanpieters

    I think “You’re story doesn’t suck” is much more powerful than “ooh it’s so great.” Because it means the person sees the faults but sees the promise, and believes in the promise.

  5. Pingback: S is for Support - J.H. Moncrieff

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