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I am a writer, so I write. Everything. I make lists, jot notes, keep a journal; I pen letters, copy directions, record major events. And yes, I write down New Year’s Resolutions, every year. And then, at the end of every year, I go back and review and see how I did. This year I did pretty well; I actually accomplished almost all of them.

There is something about writing things down, speaking them out loud, putting thoughts into words that makes them real and ingrains them into the subconscious. I have noticed, in more years than one, how prescient I’ve been in anticipating the challenges of the year to come and in formulating goals to meet them. And I have, in fact, often met those goals. Self-help gurus tell us to visualize success; a writer would suggest putting success into words.

In all the years I taught public speaking and English, I always used the example of the “we have to talk” preface with my students to help them understand the power of verbal expression. You know how it is: when you feel a relationship is going south (whatever that relationship is) and the anxieties and resentments nag at you, it is only when you finally vocalize the the problem, “talk about it,” that the situation becomes real and the issues can be examined and resolved — for better or worse. Young people especially relate to this, but so do those in troubled marriages or difficult work situations. People don’t read each other’s minds; you have to say something.

So, if expression concretizes  feelings and ambitions, then writing resolutions is a good thing, as is writing angry letters you don’t send, or writing memories of the past to pass on, or writing though problems to try to solve them, or writing down moments to cherish and remember.  Writing. It is a lost art in our 140 character twitter world. Too bad. People don’t seem to have the time or the attention span that contemplation demands, much less  the language skills that written expression requires to be effective. Sound bites and slogans may sell a product, or even a person, but they don’t create meaningful discourse.

According to some, one way to ensure successful New Year’s Resolutions is to “resolve small.”  In other words, scale back: don’t resolve to lose 50 lbs., but try for 10 or 20; don’t aim to pay off all credit cards, but endeavor to reduce debt by half and incur less going forward. You get the idea. As we get older (as I am afraid I am), we gain a broader perspective about New Years and resolutions in general. We realize that it is the awareness of our intentions that matter, not so much the tally of success or or failure.

In spite of the ways people have tried to rationalize all the angry, hateful words of the recent presidential campaign, and regardless of the apparent lack of collective concern about our  being in a “post truth” world, words DO matter. Once a thought or feeling has been expressed, you can’t really take the words back; they are there, forever, even if you apologize. They might be forgiven, but they probably won’t be forgotten.

In the end, you are only as good as your word, and the words are all we have — or all we have left. They continue to speak long after we are gone, to impart wisdom and insight, fact and folly, through the books, articles, letters, transcripts, plays and recordings in which they reside.

If only we resolve to listen …

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