The Power & Potential of the Written Word

Hallway--WikipediaWriters are often speakers and vice versa. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to large groups many times over the years. I used to ask myself, as I’m sure you have, what do I enjoy more—writing or speaking?

It’s hard to beat the immediate positive feedback you receive after delivering a moving speech. Yet, how do you compete with the thrill of getting an acceptance letter from a major publication or, better yet, a check in the mail when your article is published? Both have advantages.

After 25 years of writing and speaking I have an answer. For me, I prefer writing primarily for one reason; the enduring power and potential of the written word.

What do I mean? Perhaps it’s best stated by Bud Gardner, one of the founders of the best-selling book series, Chicken Soup for the Soul. “When you speak, your words echo only across the room or down the hall. But when you write, your words echo down the ages.”  

As I write this blog post in my home office, I’m mindful of the truth of Gardner’s words. The proof resides in the books on my bookcases nestled directly behind and before me. From where I sit, I can see Dickens’ classic, A Tale of Two Cities. On some lists of the best-selling books of all-time (not counting the Bible and other religious books) it ranks #1 with 200 million sold. I’d say his words clearly “echoed down the ages.”

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are #2 and #3 on the list with 150 and 100 million sold respectively. J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is #10 while Tolstoy’s War and Peace is #26 on the Top 100 Best-Selling Books of All-Time.

Yes, as much as I enjoy public speaking, I enjoy writing more due simply to the enduring power and potential of the written word. If you write for inspiration, as I do, the goal is always to touch hearts, lift spirits, foster hope and inspire change. To think, all of that can be achieved with the power of words. But must my words be sold to 200 million people to be successful? No. Just move a heart or two toward a better life or a brighter outlook.

What are you doing with your writing? Are you trying to reach people, teach people, touch them, entertain, inform, or warn them? Are you trying to make them laugh, cry, try or enjoy?

If you’re like me, you hope if you bring all your time, talent and passion to your writing, that in at least one piece you publish in your lifetime, your words will touch others and echo not just down the hall, but down the ages.


The Writer’s Refuge blog is a place for writers, like you, to break away from your daily routine and for just a few minutes find insight, inspiration or simply a word of encouragement.

Blog entries are posted every other Thursday.

You may contact Jim Magruder at:

Published in: on February 17, 2013 at 11:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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