Small Writing – Big Changes

miniature bookWhen you imagine success as a writer, what does it look like? Do you see yourself sitting on the couch across from your favorite late night host, exchanging witty banter about your latest bestseller? Do you think about receiving honorary degrees from prestigious schools just before delivering awe-inspiring commencement speeches that go viral on YouTube? Do you see yourself traveling from your writing cabin in upstate New York to your cottage on the Cape to your creative hideaway in the Pacific Northwest? Do you picture yourself on set, consulting with the director on the film adaptation of your latest runaway hit?

It’s okay. There’s no need to blush.
Maybe you have more modest dreams, but many of us would admit – if pressed – to having Big Dreams for our writing careers. There’s nothing wrong with that. We writers are known for our imaginations, after all. We have Big Ideas and Vision and are pretty damn adept at daydreaming, too. Why not go for that brass ring and envision a life as the next Stephen King or JK Rowling

Anything is possible.
I confess that I’ve wondered what life would be like as an iconic author with a rabid following. If I think about it for more than a moment or two, I will admit that it’s not a life I’d enjoy. I don’t like to leave my cats alone for too long and am easily overwhelmed by crowds of more than two or three.

Still, I would like to make my living writing essays and stories instead of web copy and white papers. More to the point, I’d like for my work to be read by thousands, even tens of thousands. I’d like to be able to reach a Big Audience and make a Big Difference with my Big Ideas. I’d like to be able to change the world with my words.
In her post, What It Takes to Change the World, the lovely and insightful blogger and career coach, Jennifer Gresham, takes a look at the mechanics of change. Hint: It might not be as much about Big Things as you think. Often, change is the result of many small and unassuming actions.

I think it is especially so with writing.

Though our story may be about a Big Idea, that idea is conveyed one word, one scene at a time – in bits and pieces that eventually come together to tell the whole story. There is no single, defining moment; all the small moments add up to create a shift in the reader’s perception or understanding. It is the combined collection of minute observations and subtle events that ultimately affect a change of heart or mind.

A bigger (longer) work does not have more power to change than a smaller (shorter) work. A poem may transform a life as much as a novel; a short story may break open a heart as readily as a screenplay. With writing, it’s not about quantity as much as it is about quality. A single, well-written essay has a better chance at delivering life-changing insights than a thousand-page tome of questionable quality.
Though I hope to someday publish stories and even novels, at the moment my published work consists of short-form blog posts and columns. It is easy for me to marginalize these pieces as insignificant, as simply stepping stones on the way to Something Better … Something Bigger. But, each of these pieces – no matter how small or ordinary – has the potential to create change.

Though I tend to refer to them as “just my little columns,” I have had dozens of people tell me how much they enjoy reading my bi-weekly installments in the local paper. Sure they are short, little essays, and sure the paper is a tiny local publication with a very unimpressive circulation, but that shouldn’t take away from the work. If my words can improve one person’s day by giving them hope, making them laugh, or helping them see something in a different way, I have created change with my writing. I have made a small difference.

And that, as Jen points out, is how you change the world.
So the next time you’re tempted to belittle your current work or your modest writing aspirations, don’t. Remember that each word, each scene, each idea that you share has the potential to inspire change in someone’s heart. The change may be small, but even small change has a habit of rippling out into the world and creating more change. You never know how far your words might reach. You may not wind up on late night TV, but that’s okay. You can change the world right from your own couch.

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: lamont_cranston via Compfight cc

44 thoughts on “Small Writing – Big Changes

    • We are often guilty of forgetting the worth of our work. We take it for granted, but shouldn’t. Write (and blog) on!

  1. I reblogged this post. It suits me to a tee lately – the “down side” to writing is Writer’s Blue. And I have an enormous case of it. As with all things – this too shall pass but thanks so much for a well-timed pep talk 🙂

  2. Thank you. This spoke to me. Although, I know my little essays on my blog are meaningful to me, I do get impatient and frustrated for more ‘recognition’. That’s my idea of success, I guess, just feeling legitimate. Maybe some day…

    • We are always looking for validation and approval from outside sources, but we would be better served to create for ourselves. It’s hard, though. Our culture is built on a long-standing tradition of subjecting ourselves to judgment-by-others. It’s a hard habit to break, that search for legitimacy by someone else’s standard. But it’s definitely worth working on! 🙂

  3. “If my words can improve one person’s day by giving them hope, making them laugh, or helping them see something in a different way, I have created change with my writing. I have made a small difference.”


    • It is complicated, isn’t it?
      Writing is the only profession I can think of where the success we seek is so at odds with the practice we keep. The work of writing is such a solitary endeavor, but if we reach the pinnacle of success, we are thrown into a space that is anything but solitary. Odd.

  4. Thanks for the highlight here. As a writer myself (in addition to being an overachiever) I struggle with wanting recognition for my work and just wanting to write as fast as possible. I have so many ideas I’m eager to share! That’s why I’m so grateful for blogging. It gives me an outlet where I am less of a perfectionist and can have discussions on topics that interest me with smart, awesome people like you! Thanks again, dear Jamie. Let’s both keep writing!

    • Hi, Jen! Thanks for coming by. I love that I get to be a part of the ripple effect from your post. 🙂

      I am also very grateful for blogging. How lucky are we to live in an age where technology makes it easy to publish our thoughts, connect with other people, and share ideas? Hard to believe that only a few, short years ago this kind of real-time interaction was no more than SciFi nonsense.

      Yes. Absolutely. Always keep writing. Thanks for sharing your ideas – always so helpful and inspiring.

  5. Thank you for this post and thank you to Jen for her post. I think it was good timing as I am trying to figure out who the new me is. The old one cannot ever fully return due to many circumstances. I remember the old me who felt like she was changing the world one child at a time and feel torn between wondering if it is possible to make some sort of impact again or perhaps that my 15 minutes is up.

    • It sounds like you have a story in the making, Amy.
      We are always in transition from one self to the next, but there is also a core that remains. Even if the means change, we have a consistent core value and purpose.
      I don’t believe we only get 15 minutes once. Life is full of chances for another 15 minutes, and another, and another …
      Good luck in your quest.

  6. This is such an encouraging post. Sometimes, I do question the point of writing when it seems like no one is reading; but like you’ve said it’s in the little things! This is a great one.

  7. Its kinda funny that we spend so much time thinking creatively and learning ways to become better that we forget that the daydreams are really goals or just what the end result could look like. Inspiring words indeed, easy to forget and hard to remember. Keep writing Jamie.

  8. As always, Jamie, you inspire me. I am totally guilty of the “my little blog,” “my little voice,” “my little piece” self-talk, always minimizing, always making myself feel small. But you are absolutely right – it is often a small snippet that sticks with me from someone else’s writing, that inspires or motivates or brings beauty to my life, and perhaps I give that gift to others as well with my “small writing.” Thanks for the pick-me-up 🙂

    • Hello, Andrea!
      You too, eh? 😉

      It is SO easy to take our work for granted, but you just never know what idea or story or single line will stick with someone or give them that burst of epiphany that changes their whole outlook.

      I think it’s especially challenging in this digital age where we have become accustomed to immediate feedback. Just because there is the ability for people to tell you when you’ve made a difference, doesn’t mean they will tell you. I had a lovely note from a reader who has been visiting this blog for two years, but hadn’t ever commented.

      Our influence is often invisible.

  9. On a recent LinkedIn group discussion for food & travel writers, I was dismayed to read that several well-published journalists poo-pooed blogging and social media; one even called it “a waste of time.” My own writers’ group (made up of some very credentialed journalists) considers blogging and social media not serious endeavors.

    I disagree. As a copywriter-turned-public-relations-professional-turned-freelance writer (got all that??), I believe social media and blogging are key parts of a writers’ tool kit. Sure, we all want to be recognized for our “serious” work (and that definition varies with each writer), but nowadays we have to know how to market ourselves and our skills. And the way most people are doing this, whether we like it or not, is via social media, whether it’s blogging, tweeting, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook. So no matter what you do — especially in social media — it’s contributing to your value as a writer. I truly believe in the long run it’ll pay off!

    • I couldn’t agree more, Debbie.
      Though many people look down on blogging, a writer can still use blog writing to hone her craft. There are many (many!) awful books out there, but we don’t hear otherwise intelligent individuals slamming the novel as a waste of time. Odd.

      Approached with the right mindset, even the lowly tweet can become part of a writer’s practice. After all, brevity is one of the marks of writing mastery and you can’t get much more concise than 140 characters. 😉

      Glad to hear that you are persevering with your own plans despite the lack of support from some in your network. I love your evolution (copywriter-turned-public-relations-professional-turned-freelance writer) and wish you the best with all future endeavors.

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