Do you believe the saying, "the pen is mightier than the sword"? Words, said at the right time, in the right way, by the right person, have changed the world. What if your words could someday heal a nation or bring about world peace?
Think that’s far-fetched? Let’s look at some phrases that changed the way people thought back in the day.
Words that changed the world
Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most powerful speakers of all time, brought the phrase "I have a dream" into the lexicon of American politics. He wasn’t afraid to plumb the depths of his deeply held personal beliefs to motivate and inspire nations. King’s "I have a dream" speech is in the National Archives today, just as powerful now as it was over 55 years ago.
- "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." — Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963.
While Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, Sir Winston Churchill changed the world with his words. During World War II, he gave this rousing speech:
- "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…" — Winston Churchill, 1940.
And just two weeks later, Churchill told the House of Commons:
- "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."
Rousing words such as these can stir a nation to great feats. And just as undoubtedly, words can bring us to the depths of despair while offering a peek into our own humanity:
- "I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart." — Anne Frank
Even today, young women are using words to change their worlds:
- "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world." — Malala Yousafzai, 2013.
If you want your words to resonate, dig deep
What do each of the above quotes say about their creators? They felt deeply and personally about their topics and weren’t afraid to be vulnerable when laying out their ideas. To create the words that can change the world, be prepared to be vulnerable.
What’s most memorable? What resonates most with readers? It’s the fears, dreams, challenges, and deepest desires that make you most human. To connect with readers, you need to pull the bandage off the most painful wounds and lay them bare. You want people to say, "This is exactly what it feels like. No one’s ever expressed it quite like this."
Cultivate a sense of intimacy when you write. What personal truths do you hold that others can relate to? What helped you learn and grow? What shaped you, good and bad? There is a universal truth you’re trying to connect with like facing a fear, overcoming heartbreak, or making a difficult choice with widespread consequences.
Finally, go deep rather than wide. For example, if you’re writing about your experiences with sexism, talk about a deeply personal incident and what it did to you emotionally, physically, and mentally. Don’t be afraid to point out all the ugly consequences because others out there—both men and women—will recognize and respond to your truth.
As with your other writing, show, don’t tell when writing about the deeply personal. Close your eyes and see, feel, hear, taste, and smell the details all over again. Make your reader intimately recognize the scene in his or her mind.
But don’t pontificate. Let your reader come to his or her own conclusion. If you’ve brought them full-circle, they’ll feel connected and understood, motivated and inspired.
- "We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better." — J. K. Rowling, 2008