My favorite thing I ever wrote was a ghost story in the 6th grade. It was subtle and spooky and surprising, and I read it to our entire neighborhood at our Halloween block party. And while the response wasn’t universal awe, I knew I’d done something special. I’d fooled them all. Because while they all thought the story was about one thing, I knew it was really about much more underneath. It was the beginning of my fascination with the power of words well crafted.
The response was less than awe, but I knew it was special…because I’d tricked everyone. They thought the story was about one thing, but it was definitely about something altogether different. That’s the trick.
Words should take people on a journey, but not the one they’re expecting. That’s why I love writing. It’s why I love using words to help make sense of things that people think they already understand…like relationships, or marriage, or life.
My favorite authors sneak up on you. Since the 6th grade, I have done my best to do the same. It’s why the first chapters in The Relationship Alphabet are “Argument” and “Betrayal” and “Contempt & Criticism” instead of “Agreement” and “Best Friends” and “Communication & Cooperation”.
Whenever I write (and actually, whenever I do therapy) my hope is that the reader (or client) will say “Hmmm…I never thought about it that way.”
Because words are just raw materials. But used carefully, they have the potential to change hearts and minds.