“There is nothing to writing,” Ernest Hemingway once said.  “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Ernest was right.  Sometimes when you pull up a chair and your fingers stroke the keys, you spring a leak, and the things hidden inside of you seep out.  They bleed onto the page or into the air, and the blood is words, and sometimes when a soul starts bleeding it is hard to plug the hole.  Sometimes the words are a confession and sometimes they are laughter and sometimes they are heartache and sometimes they are love.


Like blood, words give life to the thoughts and emotions swirling within us.  And the blood that leaks out when we write or we speak, those words, they have incredible power.

My words.  Your words.  ALL words.

Just think.  A writer can sit down with a blank sheet of paper that costs no more than a penny.


And that writer can add some ink, also nearly worthless on its own.  And then that little bit of ink sprouts into lines that stretch into letters that bloom into words.  And those words, when nurtured, flourish and grow and burst across the page.

Now those words – recorded in that ink on that worthless piece of paper – hold the potential to change a person’s day.  Or a person’s goals.  Or a person’s life.  Those words, although it may seem crazy, have the potential to change the entire freaking world.

This week my students will read “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” arguably one of the best examples of effective argumentation, written from a jail cell after Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for peacefully protesting for civil rights in 1963.  His passion, in the form of words, bled onto napkins and toilet paper and anything else he could find in that jail, and those words continue to move us half a century later.  Just think about that.  A little bit of ink that seeped onto cheap toilet paper in a cold jail cell resonated with people around the world and awakened the social conscience of a nation.

Wow.  Our words have power.

Words can be persuasive, transformative, inspiring.  They can heal broken places or break what was whole.  They can become contagious and quickly race around the globe.  They can penetrate social and cultural divides with ease.  They can provoke reflection and conversations that change the way we think about ourselves and our purpose and our world.  They can excavate feelings that were deeply buried, brushing the dust off our frustrations and dreams, exposing hidden sadness and unseen joys to the brilliant light of day.

Words, when precise and controlled, can evoke feelings with an intensity that makes the page feel like reality and reality feel like the dream.  Ink can be tamed just as a wild horse can be broken.  A person can say things that change people and write things that make a difference.

You might think that only professional writers can harness the power of words.

But you are wrong.

Think of the power of these very simple words at your command:

I love you.  I like you.  I enjoy you.  I trust you.  I miss you.

I messed up.   I hurt you.   I’m sorry.  I regret my decision.  I am sad when you are sad.  I want to fix this.

I did not know. 

I believe in grace.  I believe in you.  I believe in us.  I forgive you.

I am alone.  I can’t do this. I  am empty.  I need help.  I need you.

I am on my way.  I am here.  I am with you.  I am for you.  I have your back.


I will fight for you. 

I will help you.  I will stay with you.  I am always on your team.  I will protect you.

I pray for you.  I hurt with you.  I have felt this, too.  I understand. 

I don’t understand, but I care about you.

I admire you.  I respect you.  I am proud of you.  I appreciate you.  I am thankful for you.

I see you.  I hear you.  I know your heart.  I am listening. 

I promise.

I can and I will.  I will tell you the truth.  I will give you my share.  I am thinking about you.  I see your beauty.

I am better because of you.  I want to be like you.  I treasure your advice.  I value your ideas. 

I don’t agree with you, but I still love you.

I am not perfect.  I am no better.  I am glad you are my friend.  I can do hard things with you.  I see your courage.

I am happy when you are happy.  I love to see you smile.  I cherish my time with you.  I do not deserve what I have been given. 

I can’t imagine a better friend.

I choose you.

When you feel powerless, remember that you have words.

When you want your relationships to grow, remember that you have words.

When you want to make a difference in your life, your home, your family, your neighborhood, your world, remember that you have words.

So find blank pages and some ink.  Breathe life into them.  Harness the emotions and ideas that are swirling within.  Let the words that are hidden inside you begin to leak out.

Your words are your power.  Never forget this.

Ready.  Set.



Hey, fireflies!  Thanks for reading this post about the power of words.  I hope you enjoyed it, but my greater hope is that it inspires you to take fifteen minutes out of your week and write meaningful notes to a few of the people in your life.  Maybe there is someone who deserves your thanks or someone who needs you to make something right.  Maybe there is someone who does not know how much impact he or she has had on your decisions.  Maybe there is an adult who needs your encouragement or a child who needs your love.  There are so many possibilities!  You may be surprised by the doors that open when you let what is on the inside leak out!  I challenge you to write three notes this week, and then come back and let us know what you did and how you felt!  Thanks for reading, friends!   ~Mary Ann



8 thoughts on “Bleed

  1. Well done on your paragraph about writing – “And that writer can add some ink, also nearly worthless on its own. And then that little bit of ink sprouts into lines that stretch into letters that bloom into words. And those words, when nurtured, flourish and grow and burst across the page.” Love that! PS- I commented on your last post and for some reason it didn’t save. Either way, wanted to make sure that you knew that I thought your last post was really, really good. I liked the voice and the structure.


  2. I appreciate your comments so much, Kate! And the part that you chose from this one – it’s my favorite, too! Love my writer pals!


  3. Thank you, Barb! You are already so good at thinking about people and sending them cards. Sometimes we forget how much those little things mean! I appreciate that you read the blog!


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