Thursday, August 22, 2013

Powerful writing: an example

"Learning to love is a task for a lifetime. We get to spend our whole lives learning to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and learning to love our neighbors as ourselves."

That quote is from an article in the Huffington Post by Linda Robertson titled  While Your Child Is Still Alive: A Letter to Parents Who Aren't Ready to March in the Pride Parade.

I'm linking to it here not to persuade you of her position but because it's an excellent example of powerful persuasive writing.

The very first sentence sets up the contrasts she'll use throughout the piece: I was once one of these parents, now I am not.

Then she gets to the heart of her piece, right there in the second paragraph: it's a luxury to have something to complain about.  The very simplicity of that statement makes it powerful.  And it applies to many more situations than her piece covers.  That's what makes this essay work so well: it's about more than what she's writing about.  

In  the next paragraphs, she unfolds her story, making the point that she was once this, and now is not.

And then the glorious call and response rhythm of  the eleven paragraphs that start "while your child is still alive."  No one reading that could fail to imagine the unspoken, implicit message: your child could not be alive.

This essay is powerful because it makes the reader do the work.  She lets us imagine ourselves in her shoes, and think about how we would feel. 

I found myself cutting and pasting sentence after sentence into the list I keep of things I want to remember.   The first two were the sentences I started this blog post with.

Did this piece resonate with you too?


french sojourn said...

Nice article, as you say powerfully written.

Back in the 80's.....the 1980's I worked for an interior design / decorating firm for 8 years. My nickname was breeder, (meant in jest)as I'm straight.

A few of the men I worked with are no longer beautifying the planet, their loss taught me to appreciate each day I'm on the green side of the dirt.

We are fortunate each day in so many ways....we have so much more than the rest of the planet.

One of the many lessons I have passed onto my daughter is:
My worst day could most likely the best day for 70% of the people on this planet.

Gotta get of the soapbox...getting a bloody nose. cheers Hank

Stephen Parrish said...

It's a great article, thanks for sharing. I like what Hank (above) said: "My worst day could most likely be the best day for 70% of the people on this planet." That's something to keep in mind every day.

Anonymous said...

What a powerful piece of writing.

Not only did it resonate, it makes me want to pick up the phone and start calling all my family members and tell them I love them. I have two kids, both straight, but I swear, if one of them chose an alternative lifestyle, after having read this, I'd be sure they understood that I accepted that choice, with open arms, and a welcoming attitude.

But to me, her points transcend the core intent of the article. She shares with all of us the importance of not allowing trivial things stand in the way of important relationships.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Very powerfully written, a truly sad and beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it.

Katie New said...

Tears because real love is uncomfortable. This mom helped me think about how influential we are in our children's lives. I got angry in parts as well, thinking how hypocritical we can all be. This piece inspires me to go deeper and for that I'm thankful.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I am an essayist and I find Robertson’s pacing near perfect. The rhythm of her writing is something I use often. Though you use this piece as an example of excellent essay writing, the value of the content cannot be denied. One sentence resonated with me.

“I have come to the conclusion that it is a luxury to have things to complain about.”

Allow me to share.

At work we all like to complain, its bonding and we get to blow off steam. But when it gets particularly viscous all I say is the name of my cousin. Half the complainers get it, the other half get to hear his story.

About a year ago my cousin died. He had been one of those spit and polish Marines, a color-guard guy who stood at attention for hours during ceremonies, holding flags and flipping rifles to a silent beat of counting with precision. He was precision. For thirty years he lived with the disease of Gehrig and Hawking, ALS. For many years he communicated by computer with electrodes attached to his eyelids. No human being on the face of this earth loved life more than my cousin, no human being fought as hard to live it, no human being appreciated the breath of it as much.
So when my feet hurt, my back aches, when all I want to do is hunker under the covers because policy pisses me off, I think of my cousin, the man who wanted to feel something, anything, the man who dreamed of escaping his bed, to stand straight again and march.

Janet thanks for Roberson’s example of writing and heart. I not complaining today I am grateful.

Janet Reid said...

Dear 2N Carolynn, Thank you. Well said.

Michael Seese said...

"When I talk with parents who have recently buried their infant daughter, I never hear them complain about sleepless nights up with their crying toddler."

You don't realize what you have, until you lose it.