A Thousand Words, and then some
Everyone has a story to tell. Why not tell yours?
I'm an eclectic writer.
When I stumble across a subject that enamors me, I'll disappear down the rabbit hole for days. Only to return with reams of notes that I frantically attempt to assemble into an article in a thoughtful way.
If you subscribe to my Substack, you'll know exactly which articles those are. They read a bit like romantic term papers if there's such a thing.
Then there's stuff like this—which is me at 5:00 am in a dark and silent house, with a hot cup of coffee, my head swimming with ideas and apparently a lot to say.
And then there's Instagram.
Those posts are usually written just after covering an event. When I'm worn out but touched by the experience. Just a few words. But ones that describe how the experience moved me.
One's from the mind, one's from the heart, and the other from the soul.
I have no formal training in writing. I spent a semester in college studying music before getting the boot. And I was a solid B-minus student in high school.
But I do love to read. And I am grateful to my mother for that. Not only because it's how I learned to love language and appreciate how great writers could paint pictures with words, but because of the universe of thoughts, stories, and ideas it opened to me as a child.
My writing journey began post-reversion—when I came back to the Faith. I started developing websites for Catholic projects. Often, I would need to add a paragraph or two here or there. My photography journey followed a similar trajectory. But that's another story.
Later on, certain news outlets or periodicals would ask if I could pen a little 'reflection' to accompany the photos I'd submit to them. But no one dared ask me to write anything, even vaguely resembling an article. It's probably because they read my 'reflections'…lol.
See. I used 'lol' in an article. I've been told that 'text-speech' is a disqualifying characteristic in any form of writing, save texts. And even then, it's not something serious people do.
But I digress.
It happened in 2016.
I was in Krakow, Poland, covering World Youth Day with Pope Francis. I had just returned from a grueling day of events, relieved to return to the tiny room I had rented, dreaming of resting on the small mattress in the corner of the room when the unthinkable happened.
As I reached to close the lid on my laptop, an email came in. And not just from anyone, but from my boss, Elizabeth Scalia, the then Editor in Chief of the Aleteia English edition.
It read (paraphrasing), "Jeff, the pictures are great. We didn't have anyone there to cover it, so I need you to write me an article…" It probably had words that followed, but I was gasping for air upon reading the second sentence.
Thinking she must have me confused with someone semi-competent, I replied (again, from memory), "Elizabeth, I don't write. To which she replied, "That's fine. Can you tell a story? Well, write it down. Send it to me, and I'll fix it." And from that simple exchange, a door opened into a world I never dreamed of.
It was a turning point. It made me realize that everyone has a story to tell…
And specifically those of you who've never written or feel they can't write.
You should try.
And I don't mean try, like spend an hour staring at a blank screen or typing two sentences that you hate and quitting. If I handed a cello to you, and you spent an hour with it (This example isn't for cello players, mind you.) The sounds you'd be producing wouldn't exactly sound like YoYo Ma's. Or even YoYo Ma merely tuning it.
It's the same thing.
It takes time and practice. But if it's something that you wish you could do, or, if you like to read, that's reason enough to give it a shot.
Writing gives wings to ideas and brings stories to life.
I especially suggest this to my photographer friends. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, add your words, and it can be worth a million. The combination of the two mediums will 100x the impact of your work.
I'll leave it at this. I never thought I'd ever write. I had no reason to believe I could. I have no formal training. And truthfully, I wouldn't have known where to begin.
But you may not realize the depths of the gifts God has placed within you. And you'll only know once you try.
Sometimes, it takes someone to give you a little push to launch you in the right direction.
This is me giving you that push.
So remember the words of the great, Elizabeth Scalia, AKA Elizabeth The Great,
"Can you tell a story? Well, write it down!"
You never know. It could be the start of an adventure of a lifetime.
It certainly was for me.
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