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December 22, 2016

How Does Our Writing Affect Readers?

Snowy evening with text: Stories Are... Magical Time

I’ll be mostly offline for the next week, but I wanted to thank everyone for your support. This has been an insanely difficult year for me (3 productivity-killing medical issues and 4 surgeries with complex recoveries), and I greatly appreciate all the help and understanding I’ve received.

I’m usually the one trying to help others, so it’s been…odd to be on the receiving end of that flow. *smile* But that oddness only makes me appreciate the caring of others all the more.

I’m still neck-deep in Christmas to-do list activities (cookie-making and wrapping and cards—er, maybe e-cards, given the late date), so I’m going to keep this short. (I hope. *grin*)

“Little Things” Add Up

A couple of years ago, I mentioned that we all have the power to make someone’s day better, simply by being kind. Especially during this time of year—when people are stressed and potentially short on time or frustrated by the failure to find the gifts they wanted to purchase—we have the power to provide a bright spot in the world.

As I wrote about the hectic Christmas prep-season in that post:

“Those who work retail have a difficult job and often face grumpy customers who don’t see them as people. … I was reminded of this superpower we all have when I was out at a store last week. I was waiting to be helped when a customer yelled at a saleswoman for several minutes about something she couldn’t control or change. After he left, she turned away from the counter. Her shoulders shook, and she swiped below her eyes.

I stepped to the corner of the counter, held open my arms, and whispered. “Do you need a hug?”

She choked out a sob and nodded, and then she cried in my arms. I held her and told her that it wasn’t her fault and that she’d handled that situation the best she could.

From my perspective, I didn’t do anything special. I mean, it was just a hug and kind word. That’s something any one of us could have done.

But at the right time, at the right place, that “little thing” can have a big effect on someone else. We might never even know how much we affect others with our actions.

At the wrong time, an unkind word can ruin a day. But at the right time, a kind word can make everything better.”

After this difficult year, I know just how much those “little things” can help. The comments here on my blog and on social media were so supportive and filled with helpful tips that I never felt alone.

Even when every deadline of this year slipped, and then slipped a little more, and yet still more, I felt surrounded by those who understood. Those who reminded me to take it easy and let myself heal. Those who cared.

Thank you. Truly. *smile*

Writing: When a “Little Thing” Can Have a Big Impact

As I also mentioned in that post, we have the same sort of power with our writing. Given world events, election chaos, fear for ourselves or others, many people do want an escape right now.

Our writing—our stories—can give readers a breather, a chance to recover, an opportunity to regroup and build up strength or defenses. The crazier the world, the more the world needs our stories.

As I wrote in that post:

“We have more power to affect others than we think. We know this. If we didn’t think we could affect others, many of us would write just for ourselves and not worry about readers at all. But we do hope our written words affect others.”

So if we’re struggling to find our writing mojo given all the craziness around us, maybe we can stop and remind ourselves of two things:

  1. Any “little thing” we can do to make progress in our writing will add up. Even 50 words on our work-in-progress is 50 words we didn’t have before.
  2. We can affect readers with our work.

With that second one, we might want to dig deeper…

How Do We Want to Affect Readers with Our Work?

We might want to…:

  • inspire readers with stories of how one person can change the world
  • remind readers that people can be good
  • provide examples of how people can change and earn redemption from their mistakes
  • share a story of love or kindness or hope
  • improve readers’ empathy for others, especially for those who are different or less powerful
  • fill their imaginations with the possible and the impossible
  • distract them from their troubles
  • inspire readers to recognize their strengths or abilities
  • offer a feel-good scenario of how evil doesn’t pay and good wins in the end
  • show readers how to overcome their fears or how to deal with difficult situations (or offer a “what not to do” example)
  • remind readers to be grateful for what they have or how things could be worse
  • let readers test their smarts against the twists of a plot
  • etc., etc.

No matter our story or genre, we can probably come up with a positive affect our writing might have on readers. (Even if it’s just a “what not to do” example. *grin*)

And maybe reminding ourselves of that positive energy we can put out into the world will help inspire us and our writing. We are capable of great things. What we do might seem “little,” but that won’t stop us from changing the world. *smile*

Now, if you’re celebrating this week, I hope your plans all unfold smoothly, your travels all go safely, your family members all behave perfectly, and all your dreams for the New Year come true. I’m off to continue my annual cookie-baking extravaganza.

I think I’ll end up with between 500 and 600 cookies this year. Want to take bets on how much I overdo it? *snicker*

Speaking of… *passes around platefuls of virtual cookies* Here, take as many as you want—I made plenty. This year I’m making chocolate fudge, fudge oatmeal bars, caramel-stuffed Snickerdoodles, chocolate bark (Angela James’s Cracker Candy), Russian tea cookies, and chocolate mint Oreo-style cookie sandwiches.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not,
I wish you all the best during this season.
Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah—heck, Happy Everything!
And take some cookies… Please! *smile*

How have others helped you recently? Have you struggled to find your writing groove this year? If you’ve overcome this issue in the past, what tips do you have? Have you ever thought about how you hope your stories will affect readers? What do you hope for?

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12 Comments on "How Does Our Writing Affect Readers?"

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Elle Love
Elle Love

Hi Jami,
Merry Christmas to you and yours! I am making Almond Joy Cookies and coconut oatmeal cookies today. Yum!
God bless you and keep you safe and healthy in the New Year!
Elle

Marcy Kennedy

Merry Christmas! I’m not going to get any Christmas baking done this year, but we got a tree this year. Last year, health issues were so huge that we weren’t able to get a tree up, so this feels like a major achievement that this year we again have a tree even if we weren’t able to do some other things.

Harley Christensen

Hey Jami –

Happy howladays! *That’s “whoo-woo” from the Malamutes!* 😉

I baked for the holidays, too – didn’t get as much done as I would have liked – but managed to get a few batches made and shipped, including Coffee Crunch Bars, English Toffee and Sea Salt Vanilla Bean Caramels (last one was a bit outside my candy-making range and took a few “quality control” tests to get them to come off the wax paper without sticking …lol)!

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2017 – you definitely deserve it!

Sending hugs and healthy thoughts your way…
Harley

Christina Hawthorne

Merry Christmas! I do hope your difficult year gives way to a healthier, more positive year in 2017. It’s time. You deserve it.

I’ve maintained my writing groove better this year than any year in the past, but continue to hone my path, which I imagine I always will.

Renee Regent

Thanks for the uplifting post, Jami. This will be a very quiet holiday season for me, as family can’t get together this year. I was feeling a bit sad about it but you have reminded me those good feelings can be found anywhere. Wishing you all you desire in 2017 and sending holiday hugs your way.

Sieran
Sieran

Hey Jami,

Yeah, I have been super duper helped by a friend recently–his support for me was so immense, that I am utterly bewildered and touched, especially as we’ve only known each other for 1.5 months. Thanks to his encouragement, help, and being an inspiration himself, he has literally changed my life! 😀 And I’m not even exaggerating.

So I definitely agree that we can make a difference in this world. Even improving one person’s life is significant and noteworthy. 🙂

As for my stories, the most obvious positive effects they may have on my readers, is that they can make people happy when they see how sincerely and deeply in love my characters are! The comedy and jokes in many stories would help bring a lighter side to life too. Finally, my most recent stories have some transgender protagonists, where some are nonbinary as well. As a trans person myself, I really want to see more transgender leads in romances (more trans representation!), so these stories are sort of to make other transgender readers happy too, haha.

Jolie vines
Jolie vines

Merry Christmas to you too, Jami. Thanks for all the great posts and writing advice this year. Your emails inspire me and perk me up when I’m flagging in my writing. Hope the cookies are awesome and next year’s health is even better.

Ashley
Ashley

It seems this would be an appropriate time to say how astonished I am at all you’ve managed to accomplished this year in spite of your health issues! If I were dealing with even half (a quarter?) that much I’d be like, “Screw it, guys, I have more important things to do than blog right now and I am legitimately not up to it. See you next year.” So I worry sometimes that you are still overdoing it. Please take care of yourself and I don’t know, don’t worry about disappointing us or whatever, ok? To take your own advice – even very short or very rare blogs are more than you had before… 😉

Elizabeth

Jami,
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas. Also wishing you better health in the new year. I want to thank you for all that you do for writers. You inspire me with your courage and the beauty of your kindness.
Love,
Elizabeth

Tamar Hela

Merry Christmas! Always a bright spot in my week to read your posts. Wishing you health and happiness in 2017. Enjoy your holiday! xx

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Thanks for taking the time to write a good post and offer us all some virtual cookies! Mmmm those are yummy!
Yes, we can hope to be a positive influence on the world. Try to set a good example especially to young people.
Have a better 2017.

Laurie Evans

I want people reading my books to be entertained, feel happy, and enjoy a good love story with a happy ending.

Thanks for all your posts, I learn so much!

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