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Did writing cause the General Petraeus scandal?

Just like General David Petraeus’ scandal where email disclosed  an affair leading to the resignation of a successful leader in the U.S. Army, our writing can sometimes cause heartbreak or distress.

Did the General intend for his writing to be publicized?  One can assume – NOT!  Yet once a word is captured on paper, digitally, or in audio it exists for the writer, and possibly others, to see or hear.

Writing can cause distress

From an emotional level what is the distress that can be caused by a piece of writing?  “The pen is mightier than the sword,” is a saying an aunt of mine uses before she fires off letters of righteous anger to justify her point of view of a family member’s behavior.  The result is escalation of a small event to the point of cut-off communication and long-held grudges.  While there might be a moment’s satisfaction at capturing the angry heat of battle on the page as the letter slithers its way into the postal service, the long-term loss of familial harmony is costly.

Consider what regrets the General might be feeling? Have you written a letter that you regret later?  How justified were you at the event only to look back from a more mature standpoint and see it differently?  Can there be space for differing points of view?

Now – apply this to your writing for your characters.  Conflict can bring spice to the interactions, but how boring a story becomes when there is such polarization that no interaction takes place.  How can you infuse tolerance for differing points of view to maintain relationships with a semblance of respect? As a writer, do you consider carefully each word choice? Do you evaluate the flow from paragraph to paragraph? Does your story have a central theme, idea, or concept introduced, expanded upon, and then summarized?

Set a timer for 15 minutes to write – Go!