Guest Writer: Shelly Mozlin
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My father was a technical writer. He worked for a large electronics company where he wrote manuals, grant proposals and other technical documents. He loved reading, writing and learning new vocabulary. My dad was my first editor when I was growing up.
When my parents retired, they moved to a retirement community in West Palm Beach, Florida. It wasn’t too long after their arrival at Golden Lakes Village that my father became editor of the Condo News. He attended all the meetings of the Board of Directors and other committees in order to report and critique all their activities. At one such Board meeting, a contract was awarded to a roofing company to replace and repair the roofs on several buildings in the development. Since the contract was based on square footage, my father took it upon himself to measure the roofs, and he discovered a significant discrepancy. He then wrote an editorial in which he accused the entire Board of Directors of either being incredibly stupid or taking kickbacks (my father thrived on controversy). The Board of Directors was forced to renegotiate the contract but they were not too pleased with my father, even though he saved the condo several thousand dollars.
Soon after these events, the Board President paid him a visit, and told him that from now on, his editorials would need Board approval before being published. Although I do not know the exact words he chose, my father made it very clear that he would not be censored and he quit! That was the end of his tenure as the editor of the Condo News but it is not the end of this story. A few days later, my father sat down at his computer and began to write an alternate version of the Condo News, which he called Whisper. And so began his second career as an investigative reporter for Golden Lakes Village. He continued to attend all the important meetings and write about them. He published Whisper on a monthly basis until he died. I have no doubt that when he was in the room, everyone thought about what they were going to say before they spoke. Just the possibility of his written record was enough to change their behavior.
Words can be powerful but with that power comes responsibility. Written words are forever and this effect is multiplied 10 to the nth degree when you realize that those words can be shared with millions, with just 1 click. How many people go to great lengths to avoid this responsibility by not writing anything down. But these days, many of those seeking to stay free of the traps of a written record are getting caught in the vast web of photos and videos. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the combination of images and words in a video is a tsunami of accountability and transparency. The world is a different place after 1 brave woman recorded the murder of George Floyd on her phone.
I will not even pretend that I seek to change the world with my writing. These days, I write mostly because I enjoy it, especially since I can write about whatever I please. Right now it pleases me to write about my father’s simple lesson of acknowledging and respecting the power of written words. Everyone possesses the ability to harness this power, but just like our muscles, building that power needs practice, repetition, motivation and inspiration. Please, start building your writing power today. (In addition to cowbells) WE NEED MORE WORDS. We need people to write about everything they feel and experience, their hopes and dreams and fears and nightmares; their memories of days past and designs of fantastical worlds of the future. If you can think it, you can write it. Putting those thoughts on paper may bring you peace of mind or a sense of pride when you read your own words. If you aspire to get the tsunami rolling with words and images, then go for it! Go big or go home might be the right strategy for you. If that seems too big or lofty as a goal, then begin with a Whisper, because even a Whisper might be enough to knock over the first domino.
Shelly is a member of Asheville Women Writers Co-operative and has written some awesome words for Ethel. Encouraging people to write is a worthwhile mission.
Quotes on writing are so numerous, it seems like every writer has something to say about writing! Click Quote of the Week in the menu above.