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April 08, 2008

Do You Realize The Power Of Your Words?

  As The Boat Comes In V 
  Originally uploaded by Joanna Young

Do you realize the power of your words?  Vern Lun, The Idea Dude, reminds us that

we underestimate the power of language whether it is written, sung or spoken. Take a bag of words, dip your hand in and see what you can do.

When we leave our words on-line we don't always appreciate the impact they might have on others.  It's one of the reasons I try to write with positive intention.  Even if I can't see or anticipate the impact of my words at least I know I've written them with a positive purpose in mind, with the intention to create a positive, resourceful state in the person who's reading them.

About six weeks ago, some time round about mid February, I started to realize that a decision I'd been mulling over for several years could be put off no longer.  It was bubbling up to boiling point and the time to chose, to move, to act, was now.  As I look back on the days and weeks around that decision point I can see how things I was reading (and writing) helped to shape my thinking.

It was Robert Hruzek talking about how we can overcome the fear of change. My good friend Emma Bird noticing how a change in environment led to a shift in perspective and a different quality to her writing.  Karen Swim asking if I could write the bones of the place where I live and me answering (silently): no.

It was Amy Palko asking where home was, and the stab of sadness I felt at not feeling at home, not knowing where home was, but also knowing that I needed to set about finding it.

It was David Zinger on Groundhog Day with the simplest of pieces (always the most powerful) asking:

If this was my last day would I die happy?  If the answer is yes, we are on track and doing well.  If the answer is no than we better figure out what we need to do.

I loved the simplicity of that last line.  It wasn't a throw-away remark to change my mental attitude.  It was the honest recognition that there are times when we need to change things.  We'd better figure out what we need to do.  (And of course I knew, really, what it was I needed to do.)

And it wasn't just posts I was reading it was the comments I was leaving in response to them.  The answers I was scribbling to people who know how to ask great questions and the realization that those answers ("screw your courage to the sticking place", I'd written) were written not for others but for me.  They were the answers, the messages, the direction that I needed to hear.

So when it came to the 29th February, the leap day, I wrote a challenge to all of you: if not now, when? and then answered it myself.

I put my Edinburgh house on the market and set about looking for a property on the Isle of Arran, a small island off the west coast of Scotland.  Fast forward 6 weeks and I'm still on track: this house is under offer, I'm actively looking for a house on Arran and the dream of living somewhere wild, beautiful and inspiring is finally within reach.  A place where I know I can write the bones.  A place where my spirit feels at home.

There are lots of downsides I know: it rains (a lot), it's midgy, it's a bit remote, you need to get on a ferry to get there and if the wind is high you're stuck.  But those things just don't stack up against the sense of place and connection I feel when I'm there.

  Arran from Ardrossan 
  Originally uploaded by Joanna Young

As an odd reminder of the power of our words - and the truth we reveal in our writing - I was pointed a few days ago to a piece I'd written last summer. 

Rosa Say had penned a wonderful birthday tribute to me, including a link to the first time I commented on something she'd written. 

It was on What It Means To Look To Your Source.  Look to your source, find your truth, she wrote.  And in my comment I linked back to a piece I'd written on knowing your power source.

I was writing about Arran:

My own 'power point' is the highlands and islands of Scotland.  I found a way to fit in a flying visit to Arran on Sunday.  After a dreich start the sun came out at lunchtime, I had a picnic overlooking the Holy Isle, stretched my legs with a seven mile walk and soaked in hours and hours of bright spring sunshine.  I came back with my batteries in great health: energised, plugged in, recharged.

When I look back at the things I've written and read - a bit like this view back to the island at the end of that trip back in May - I can see everything I needed to know, everything I thought and felt, everything that seems true laid out in black and white in front of me.

I'm not saying this to make you worry about the impact of your words.  All the choices I have made, am making, are mine: fully and completely.  I take full responsibility for them.  But there are times when we like to listen and learn from the words of others, to take those nudges from and to our unconscious minds, to accept the truth that's being told to us.

So thank you to everyone whose words have helped nudge me towards a decision that I know will be a good one for me. 

And thank you to everyone who writes with positive intention, and posts inspiring photos, and asks powerful questions.  You may never learn what impact you've had, what difference you've made.  But your words contain power.  Your writing has the power to change things.  You've written with the intention to make a difference - and that is the difference you make.

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count


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I'm so glad my words added to the collective nudge. And I'm so proud of you, Joanna, for screwing your courage to the sticking place. You know I think this is such a positive move for you, and you have my full support should you need it, during and after your move. Best of luck, my friend.

The place you're moving to sounds a lot like a fairytale country :) I hope you'll find all the inspiration, power and joy you seek for in your new soon to be home!

You are right about how others' words impact us at times. I believe we seek what we need to hear and are lucky enough to come across what we need.

Thank you so much for a highly inspirational post :)

Thank you Amy, so much, for your words, your photos, your inspiration and your friendship. You've really helped me to get where I want to be.

Now I just need to find an affordable house with a spare room so I can put you (and entourage!) up when you come and visit :-)


Alina, I am hoping it will give me that inspiration, power and joy you talk about. The environment is very important to me and I hope that being in a love that is inspirational will help me to write well and to help others to realize their own fire-power

I very much agree with what you've written here. I guess it's also why so many of us are addicted to blogging.

"I believe we seek what we need to hear and are lucky enough to come across what we need."


Arran looks beautiful, Joanna, the perfect place for you to be, obviously. Best of luck selling your house and settling in to your new home.

Wow, Joanna - what a great and exciting time for you! So honored to have helped, even unwittingly; to be a factor in such an interesting direction for you!

Now, THERE'S a powerful moment - the decision to move your home, your life, your "center". We've done it so many times it's almost old hat, but you've reminded me of that first, big move to another part of the U.S. from our birth home.

There's nothing more empowering and exciting that having made the decision, and then to move forward with executing it!

In fact, thanks for the return inspiration! I do believe you've inspired my post for you this month!

Joanna, I am celebrating with you! My heart rejoiced as I read your words and understanding the power of that decision. I am so glad that you have found your home and will soon be in a place that brings you such great inspiration. Congratulations dear Joanna and thank you for giving this gift to us as well.


Hi Joanna,

This is a true YEE-HAW! moment for you and I am thrilled to watch it, even if it is from all these miles away. I LOVE YOUR COURAGE! Courage is such a freeing emotion...frightening at times...but ultimately freeing. My Mom once told me the following: "I can learn to live with failure, but never with regret." Congratulations on creating a regret-free life!


Hi Joanna,

Your timing is perfect for me on this. Recently I have ran into many negative comments on various issues. Thankfully, not on my blog, but in a social site I belong to and from others blogs. I don't understand why some feel because they are at a computer they can say whatever rude or cruel thing that comes to mind. Would these people truly say these things to the person's face? Sadly, the answer is sometimes yes. Words DO make an impact. They can hurt deeply. Even if you later regret what you say and apologize, your words are still out there. If you wrote them, then it is even harder to erase them. You don't always have to agree with someone else, but if you disagree, do it in a respectful manner. I try to always be positive. I know I fail, everyone does sometimes. But we always need to remember the importance of how our words affect others. Just as cruel or negative words can tear another person down, a positive or supportive comment can brighten a person's day.

Sorry I got a little carried away here. Congratulations on the impending move. It looks like quite the adventure.

wow, joanna, i am impressed and inspired by this move! i have done the same thing to smaller extents... moving to san francisco because i felt i belonged there, and leaving when that was no longer a tenable situation. now i'm back in the position of feeling i'm in the wrong place and looking for the right one. thank you for sharing your story -- it's encouraging to all of us who need to take that next step.

Brad, thank you. It feels good to have made the decision, now I'm keeping fingers crossed it all works out. Having the support of such a great community of people here is definitely helping!


Robert, that's it about finding the centre, my centre, definitely.

You know I felt you were talking directly into my head over those weeks, or that you could see directly in my head and were nudging me with increasing insistence. It was quite a funny experience! But I guess that's the Zone for you...

Glad to have inspired another post...


Valerie, thanks for following me here from Twitter and VoiceThread - it's great to make connections like this.

You're right, courage is freeing.

When I came to the final crunch I re-read the first few chapters of 'feel the fear and do it anyway' and that was it, I just knew I could do it and had the resources to deal with whatever happened after that.

Since then I feel free, because even if things don't work I've stopped castigating myself for not making a decision, and that's the bit that feels like a failure, not having the courage to make a decision.

Thanks for your encouragement and support, really it makes such a difference :-)


Karen, I'm so sorry I skipped over you! Thanks for your encouragement and support, all over the place. You are the best cheer-leader a girl could hope for.

And your words have moved me a lot, including that piece on writing the bones. I just realised I couldn't love the earth here or write its bones, and I needed to be in a place where I felt that deep-rooted connection, including the one that connects up and through and down through my words.


PS And won't it be cool when you come and visit me on a wild, beautiful island?

Hi Debbie, please do get carried away! What you are saying is very important.

I've been following some of your posts on the cruel and hurtful things that people say, post or add to video sites about children with Downs Syndrome and I can hardly imagine how hurtful and infuriating that must be - and how difficult it must be to remain positive in your own replies and reactions.

I don't really understand why people behave like that either. All we can do is make our own choices though and I like you try to be positive and constructive whenever I can. At least I get the benefit of the lovely constructive comments you guys share with me here in return :-)


Hello Captain Stardust

Thanks for stopping by!

I've moved a lot and often felt at home and then not again, or circumstances have changed which leaves me feeling restless... This move feels different though as it's the first time in a long time I've done something so deliberate and purposeful.

I hope you navigate your path to a place where you feel at home too - and please do share your story with us along the way :-)


Joanna, it's amazing how we can nudge one another without realizing it at first. But it definitely is our own spirit being in tune with the message we receive "inside the words" that seems meant just for us. A synchronocity of sorts.

I know you have encouraged me more than once and it really makes a difference.

Arran looks like a wild, woolly place and I get the sense you'll truly enjoy it. Moving brings a whole new perspective to life. It'll be fun to notice the dragon fire this adds to your writing. :-)

Robyn, that's right.

It's almost as if there's a whole great orchestra of music playing around the blogosphere... around the universe... and when we're ready to listen we stick out our receivers and tune in to what we need to hear.

Arran will stretch and grow my naturalistic intelligence and there's a very strong relationship between that and my writing so yes, I hope you'll notice some extra dragon fire...


Joanna, I love the naturalistic so I understand in part why you would make this choice. The Arran Islands will bring out the poetry in your soul as the Pacific Ocean did for Naruda in Chile, SA.

When I was in Ireland I took the bus out to the West Coast where I hoped to catch the boat to visit the Arran Islands, but I was 20 minutes late. Because I could not catch another bus back to my hotel, I was not able to go. Just think, I was that close!

The whole area of the coast was absolutely rugged, amazing and full of life.

Hi Joanna - this is a wonderful example of how writing things down can make us take action. Well done you for having the courage to follow your dreams. Good luck with the house sale and your move.

This is a wonderfully inspiring post Joanna. What really jumped out at me was more than looking at the power of your words, to me the post should be titled "Do you realize the power of you?"

Connecting with the real you in the west country will reveal a source of power that will extend beyond just your words.

Even though I have never been there in person the highlands and islands of Scotland have a power for me that I know if very deep. My huband's family come from Dunoon and the Maclean clan are originally from the Isle of Mull. It evens scares me a little to contemplate visiting because I have a feeling in my bones that I would want to stay (and it's a long way from Sydney to Mull).

Oh, nicely done Joanna. You remind us that the writer owes a debt to her reader; how that would change the blogosphere if we all remembered it.
Best wishes for your move. I think we primarily live in those rooms along a hallway connecting heart to head, but we appoint those rooms mostly with furniture we pick up in our daily walk. So have good walks.

Robyn, thank you for that wonderful line about the poetry of the soul.

The island I'm hoping to move to is actually different to the ones you're describing. There are some Aran Islands (home of the knitwear) off Ireland.

The Island of Arran is off the Ayrshire coast of Scotland in the Firth of Clyde. It is quite rugged in the north but softer in the south - often described as 'Scotland in Miniature' because it has highland scenery in the north and west, softer lowland scenery below the highland line (which cuts through it).

Okay, that's enough on the island, I guarantee you'll all be sick of me talking about it eventually!


Cath, indeed. I also did a bit of writing down of what I wanted to happen which turned out to be spookily powerful... but I'm not going to say any more as things are still unfolding. I'll share more later.


Leah, what a powerful question! 'Do you realize the power of you?'

Like all best coaching questions it gets right to the heart of things and reveals new truths. Thank you.

You're right, this part of the world makes me feel I'm connecting with the 'real' me.

I hope you get to Mull some day. It's lovely. And I know you'd feel a powerful connection returning to your roots.


Dale, thank you for such a thought-provoking comment.

You have really got me thinking about the furniture I pick up in my walk - and what kind of furniture I want to be picking up.

This is an idea I need to hold onto.

Thank you.


Hi Joanna

You're post about commenting and seeing my name in the commenters list, made me feel extremely guilty that I've been absent from here for some time.

It's lovely to see you writing about your impending move at last. And, yes, 'do you realise the power of you' is a perfect title. If we all took those words to heart, we'd probably see a very different world out there.

Speak soon

Emma, no guilt please! People have lives, we get caught up in things, it doesn't mean you're not reading, or writing your own stuff, or making the world better in your own amazing way, including lots of inspiration to me.

Some of your words played a big part in firming up my decision, and for that I will be forever grateful


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