A great writer allows the readers the view to themselves.”
While I have no idea what it was I wrote that courageously pushed me to seek out my father’s advice that evening, nearly twenty five years ago – I do know it was the advice he gave that literally changed my life countless times over the years, and even still, in these moments.
As a child I hid away, isolated, inside of words that became my only friends. On the outside I pretended well to almost belong. I was the oldest sibling of four, a number merely defining a role that I was convinced I could never accomplish. I was a cheerleader, but only because I wore the uniform. I played basketball, volleyball, and was in track – things I assigned myself too so I had something to be a part of. On the outside, I played the part of what I assumed everyone around me wanted me to be. On the inside, I was screaming to get out.
Writing, even as a young child, became the only way I felt I had any sense at all of anything, the hours I cradled pencil to paper were my moments of stardom, and all alone in my bedroom the fans would go wild. One evening however, I must have written something I felt so spectacular I finally gathered the guts to allow it to be read. I remember walking upstairs to my father with a smile on my face, thinking, “He’s going to think this is amazing!”
He read it quickly, then looked up at me, then read it again slowly. Every bit of pride I thought I had slowly diminished. He hated it, I just knew it. Now, I was going to be good at absolutely nothing.
Then, he finally looked to me while handing the papers back and his words were heavy, given kind thought and careful prose – I sucked my breath in as he whispered only to me, “A good writer leads his readers to the mountain top. A great writer allows the readers the view to themselves.”
At the time I understood my father’s advice to mean that my descriptive writing lacked the gift of perception – I was undermining my reader by forcing him to my own conclusion. I had to figure out how to allow my stories to have a life of their own – so that the reader could own whatever truth he needed to find. I was twelve years old the year I learned about the mountain top.
It was only recently I realized … I am the reader.
Some of the best advice we ever receive is given from a place of painful truth, the moment someone sees our struggles and takes the opportunity to lend an experience. Advice, in many ways, is never a right or wrong answer to a problem – but more often the great revealer of soul.
We give it to our best friends, our sisters, our co-workers – we find ourselves patting a friend on the back, “It’ll be okay – you’re stronger than you think.” The greatest advice ever given however, is in those moments we have the courage to share our own view from the top of our mountain’s, so that the person hurting before us can see their own.
What is the best advice you have ever received, and how did it change your life?