A few posts ago I wrote about Life and Death and Easter. Since then, I’ve attended a funeral.
It was while I was at the funeral, listening to the beautiful eulogies, that I began to think about the role of a writer in effecting change, and becoming a part of peoples’ lives. Why was my attention not fully on the funeral, you might ask? Well, it was. And it was within the eulogies that I heard first hand of the deeply significant role that stories can play in human lives.
Four of the eulogies began with: “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” They ended with: “Mischief managed.” For those of you who don’t know, those words come from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter stories. They’re the words needed to command the Marauders’ Map to become more than a blank piece of paper, and then to return it to one. (And if you really want to know why, you probably need to read the books! Why are they significant? The Marauders were friends – extraordinary friends. And so were the young adults who managed to hold themselves together, through their eulogies, as they farewelled their friend. For that group of young people, the words of a writer were significant enough to quote at a time in their lives when nearly all of us struggle simply to keep it together. Those same words had helped them form their friendships and bound them together as a group.
A few weeks ago I quoted CS Lewis, referenced some of my favourite bible verses, and last week I wrote of George and Enid Blyton, and very clearly looking back, I can see the power of the written word in my own life. I often talk about ‘what I read in an article last week’ or ‘what that passage in that book meant’, in both my professional and private life.
There are of course the trite memes on the internet. I often brush them off, yet somewhere, someone cared enough about those written words to incorporate them into a picture and send them off into cyberspace.
One of the things I find most interesting when I read on my Kindle, is the spots that other readers have highlighted. I’m always amazed at how many readers are struck by the same sentence in books totalling thousands of words. Some sentences seem to be eternal, and some writers have the knack of writing them.
Writers write down the important spoken words. Who could forget some of the great speeches of history, now committed to written form and studied all over the world? Who can forget some of the people who first spoke them? They stir us and motivate us, and allow us to empathise with the people who first heard those same words. Those words provide a little window into that moment of time and they’ve been preserved forever by writing them down. There’s a long tradition of oral histories, yet now many of those same oral histories have been written down, preserving the words and the stories, hopefully forever. People care about written words. They quote them, mark them and treasure them.
As writers, we have the opportunity to say things that reach a wide audience, particularly in these days of the internet. What I’m typing now, might be read by my followers, but as well as those readers they might reach a wider audience. I never know when I’m writing one of these posts, who might read them. When people reply to my posts, I’m humbled by the fact that firstly they read the whole thing, and secondly, that it struck enough of a chord with them for them to take the time to reply.
Every writer has the opportunity to leave something behind them that might be important for someone else. Perhaps our words won’t cause a flurry of best sellers, (or perhaps they will!), but more importantly, is what we’ve said meaningful to anyone? Is what we’ve said, meaningful to ourselves? Have we written our stories and thoughts with integrity and intention?
As I finish this post, my mind has wandered back to the funeral, and I’m standing in the shadow of a tree on a spectacular autumn day, listening to the words of JK Rowling, spoken with love, by friends. I can hear them standing together in words, speaking their memories in small sentences, and treasuring their memories of their time with their extraordinary friend.
Mischief managed. Indeed.