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How to Change the World by Writing

Updated on December 30, 2010

An average of 12,000 people google the words "how to change the world" every month, and over 1.2 million people google the mere phrase "change the world". Obviously, many people think the world is in need of change. Even President Obama used the slogan “Change We Can Believe In” in his presidential campaign. So how do we change the world exactly? Most educated Americans have the ability to change this world. All you need is a pen and paper, a word processor, a typewriter, or even a napkin. That’s right, any American can change the world by writing.

I once met a man who told me what to do with my life. He told me to write. / CC BY-SA 2.0 / CC BY-SA 2.0

You Can Change the World

He was an Irish Catholic tour guide, a little shy and apologetic with good morals and a strong family upbringing. He was always sorry about something or other. His storehouse of knowledge spilled out into all the rooms we walked through in the Wayside, one of the temporary homes of Nathaniel Hawthorne. We weren’t supposed to take photographs of the dark rooms filled with Hawthorne’s books and furniture and dust, but he let us anyway – it was his last year as a tour guide, after all. He had a dry sense of humor, our Irish Catholic tour guide, but he was a judge of actions not of ideas. He was alive with history, a preserver of truth, a man who understood that the words of the man whose house he was touring continued to influence the world, even years after he was dead. My brother and I were the only two young people on the tour, and when we were about to leave, the man (whose face nor voice I cannot remember) looked us in the eyes and shook our hands. “Write books,” he told us. “Write, even if it’s a side job.”

I will never forget that far-seeing tour guide, or at least, I hope I will never forget him. One never knows who one will forget or who one will remember when the days grow old and our minds grow dim. But I will never forget his words. How he knew to speak those words to me, an aspiring writer, I do not know. But I haven’t stopped writing since.

He was right: the words we write down can change the world. The question is, will it be changed for the better or the worst? That is up to us. We the writers are responsible for whether our words are truth or falsehood. We are given this unbelievable gift to pen the thoughts and ideals, not only of ourselves, but of others. What will we say? Let it be always truth that we write.

Write the Truth

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

The most important thing for a writer to remember is to write the truth. “The truth will set you free” after all. When I say truth, I don’t mean facts or non-fiction. I believe a novel can be just as filled with truth as your high school history book (and whether or not your history book was truthful is a matter of much debate). The worst kind of book is one written by a liar.


In a society where words are thrown back and forth with the utmost carelessness, the perpetuation of truth is even more important. With the internet and sites such as Twitter and Facebook, words are belittled and trampled on. We spend very little time composing our 140-character tweets or statuses that we disseminate to the world. We need to be more careful to be truthful in what we write, because words last longer than lives.

The Power of Words

Words are perhaps the most powerful things on this earth. The very words of God brought this universe, this creation, into existence. “God spoke all these words” and wrote the Ten Commandments with His own finger. He recorded his words in the Bible that the way and truth of His salvation might be made known. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, is even called the Word in the gospel of John.

The power of words can also be used for evil. How many have been turned astray by the lies that man has penned? How many millions were murdered because of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto? How few there are that refuse to believe the evolution that Charles Darwin wrote of in his Origin of Species! How influential has the propaganda of environmentalism been in our own generation!

When the power of words is used for good, the results can be amazing. Shakespeare lived and died centuries ago, and yet his beautiful words continue to bless and uplift those who would read them. Martin Luther wrote the Ninety-Five Theses in 1517, setting the world a-tilt and aflame with reformation in the church and rebirth of the common people. The Founders of the United States penned what can be considered the world’s greatest Declaration of Independence, which formed the basis of the American spirit today. These are all examples of how good words can literally change the world for good.

Words have the greatest potential for causing great and good change in this world. We, by God’s grace, can change the world. We can use words. Words are printed on birth certificates, etched on gravestones, immortalized in song, and burned on our hearts. We have the ultimate gift, the gift of the pen. Let us use it to change this world for the better. / CC BY-ND 2.0 / CC BY-ND 2.0


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    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 7 years ago from Michigan

      Tusitala Tom, I confess I don't exactly understand your point. But I will say that Jesus Christ did not speak merely from experience, he spoke as God. Siddartha Gautama spoke from his personal experience and human reason. There is a big difference between the two.

    • Tusitala Tom profile image

      Tom Ware 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Belief is belief, Rose, knowing is something else again. The founder of the Christian faith spoke from knowing, experiencing, as did Siddartha Gautama and many sages both ancient and modern. You are not your beliefs, you are that which experiences those beliefs. Words that are spoken from knowing echo down the centuries. Beliefs are just interpretations of knowings and often miss the mark.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      gulnazahmad, the pen is extremely powerful. I'm glad you enjoyed reading, and thank you for your comment.

    • gulnazahmad profile image

      gulnazahmad 8 years ago from Pakistan

      Pen can be the best anti-war technology today, it can help the world in restoring peace, its powers are beyond our imagination.We should read this hub and learn from it.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you, Propery-Invest!

    • Property-Invest profile image

      Property-Invest 8 years ago from London

      Great little hub and really well written!

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      Eileen, freedom of speech is such a great blessing! I can't imagine what life would be like if that freedom were ever taken away from us.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      I like that. that is what freedom of speech is all about. We write how we feel and think and how words affect us may not have the same effect on others. great hub thanks for sharing

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you for taking the time to read, Joshua!

    • Joshua Kell profile image

      Levi Joshua Kell 8 years ago from Arizona

      An idea whose time has come, again. Great article, thanks again.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      ericvonjed, I appreciate your feedback, and I wouldn't want to delete it. I don't censor comments because I disagree with them. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • profile image

      ericvonjed 8 years ago

      Rose, I just wanted to offer constructive crtisism. I'd understand and would not be offended if you remove the comment, it already did its job and can go now. Peace and love.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      ercivonjed, that paragraph is literally five sentences long, but apparently it's the one that is most controversial. You have me mistaken if you think I would shrink from speaking what I believe to be the truth out of fear I might offend someone. I do not write to please merely. I do not intend to be divisive, but sometimes the truth divides people. Please feel free to give me some better examples, if you have any. Oh, and I'm not a Jehovah's Witness... God's chosen a lot more than 144,000.

    • profile image

      ericvonjed 8 years ago

      Pretty good stuff, but the second paragraph of "The Power of Words" section is too divisive and can turn a reader away from your argument. The three examples of "evil" are too easily challenged and they are too deeply felt by too many people, the very same people I'd want most to convince. Unless it is the plan, to sit a the Right Hand with the other 143,999 chosen ones and look down on the Meek who inherited an Earth run by communism, evolving as they clean up the pollution. I'm sure there are better examples.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      kimh039, so glad you came by! Yes, I do stumble into controversies once in a while, but I appreciate different kinds of feedback from my readers :) Hope to hear more from you!

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 8 years ago

      Wow. I hope you got that accolade for writing hubs that elicit interesting discussions, Rose. The article was thought provoking, and so are the comments! Unfortunately, I am way too tired to contribute to this intelligent discussion tonight! Would like to follow you though, Rose, and read more of your hubs later. Thanks for this one.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      Hi Tony, thank you for reading and making such thoughtful comments. I love that quote from Stephen King. His book has a lot of great advice for writers.

      Marx and Darwin did understand the power of the written word. I think that they were sincere in what they wrote and were not out to deceive people. And yet, what they wrote is in direct opposition to the truth of the Bible. You and I hold different views of the Bible, I believe. The Bible is the Word of God, whereas the works of Marx and Darwin or you and I are merely the thoughts of men. Yes, people have sadly misinterpreted the Bible and caused horrible violence, but that has nothing to do with the Bible; it is the wickedness of men. Some may have misinterpreted the Communist Manifesto as well, but I believe that the principles in it are utterly wrong. The abolition of private property is very far from being just. The Origin of Species may be "classic" but it has deceived many people into believing evolution, a theory which has no hard evidence. I do believe in microevolution, in which a species can change its characteristics, but I dispute macroevolution, in which one species changes into another. It all comes down to faith in the end. Just because someone writes with passion, with sincerity, with good intentions, does not make them right.

      Again, thanks for your comments. I am not out to offend people, merely to "say it like it is."

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 8 years ago from South Africa

      “You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair; the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.” - Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, 2000.

      Words have power, there is no doubt, and that is why I so appreciate this quote from King.

      Very often we use words as slogans, as whips to beat people over the head, to disrespect them, to sow discord and disharmony among people. And this I find is the case very often in religious and political writing.

      And that is why I disagree with how you wrote about Marx and Darwin - those two writers did not come lightly to the page, they were very earnest in wanting to change the world for the better - by increasing justice and broadening knowledge. That some of their followers might have misused the words to do bad things cannot be attributed to the words - if that were the case we could say the same thing about the Bible, because many, many people have been killed in wars about the Christian religion, burned at the stake for heresy and so on. It's not the words written by the writer, but the way the words are used or misused that cause the problem. I have read Marx's words, I have read Darwin's words, and they both wrote powerfully and movingly about their visions and their passions. They did not spread lies. They did not come lightly to the page. So their words, even if you disagree with them, have power, have the ring of truth.

      And this world is a fragile world, a place of beauty and huge potential, but we humans seem to disrespect it as much as we disrespect each other, and that is what causes problems for us. We need to use words with care, to make sure that we understand what we are writing and how it might be taken up. We need to fully engage with what we are writing. And if we criticise other writers, to do so with a full understanding of their words and the realities behind their words.

      I refuse not to believe in the Origin of Species because it is a classic work of science, a brilliant piece of writing, which has helped us understand ourselves and our place in the world better. And that, surely, is one of the purposes of writing, increased unstanding.

      Thanks for highlighting the importance of words and their power.

      Love and peace


    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      Pamela, that is so wonderful that you have kept journals! I know future generations will appreciate them. I, too, have thought that I am too inexperienced to write. But, life is short, and everyone has something to say. Why not seize the moment and write your heart out? (I tell myself this :) But whenever I write, I always have this thought... is this the truth? What I write must be true, even if I'm describing something in a fictional story. If it's not real in my eyes, it won't be real to anyone else. But I ramble...

      I really don't know anything about The Stone Diaries except that it won a Pulitzer, not that that means anything.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you so much for reading, James! I feel like I've only touched on this subject... there is so much to say, if only I knew how to say it.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      Jane, thanks for pointing all that out! I don't think I could have said it better :) Yes, I love that tour guide... Funny, how you meet random people and never forget them, you know? Never stop writing, Jane! I always love to read your work.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      Kendall, you're right, little steps do matter. I wish I could delve more into exactly how words have changed the world... there's so much to think about!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 8 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      Very nice article. I agree with your wisdom. It reminds me, in fact, of when I was about 29 years old and busy with little children of my own. I kept a family journal plus a journal for each child. But I thought I'd better grow old and wise before I ever try to write a book or a story. I felt I didn't have enough life experiences or wisdom to write anything worthwhile. Then came a time when some lady wrote something in Canada where I lived -- I think it was called The Stone Diaries. I can't remember her name, but I read that she was 55 years old when she started to write. I had a look at her book in the bookstore. It was disgusting. I was embarrassed to even be holding the book. I couldn't believe all the fuss being made over her as though she was a genius. I realized then that I as an individual have much to offer if I am writing truth and not delving into the unrighteous subject matters. I have come to realize also that our family journals are the most precious gift we can leave our posterity. Bravo for bringing your insights forward.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      You have hit on an important truth here. Words have enormous power. Thank you for this iluminating article. Well done!

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 8 years ago from Oregon

      In contrast with some of the comments above (and in agreement with you), I would like to point out that words from the Bible have changed the world and are self-testifying to their own truth. To say that the Bible is deceitful is saying that the Word of God is a lie-- and that must mean that either Jesus, who authored and inspired the Bible, was a lunatic and had no idea what He meant, or that He was a liar Himself, or that he was telling the truth. Something has to be true, and our own deceitful, inconsistent minds are much farther from the truth than the inspired word of God.

      I love your story about the tour guide! You told it so vividly, and that encourages me to write now too. Shakespeare was the first one to say that the pen is mightier than the sword, and it continues to prove true today!

    • Kendall H. profile image

      Kendall H. 8 years ago from Northern CA

      This was wonderfully inspiring Rose! Thank you for sharing your experience with the tour guide and the examples of how the written word has changed the world. Little steps at a time make all the difference.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      ericsomething, I like that about the real estate - it made me smile out loud :) Changing the world does happen in small ways. Thanks for coming by.

    • profile image

      ericsomething 8 years ago

      Rose, good points. I think about why I write (besides the obvious; this is what I do), and it does boil down to that. Even if the part of the world I'm striving to change is a really small piece of real estate, i.e. the six inches between my ears.

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      lalesu, thanks so much for reading! Yes, funny, isn't it... this is a hub of words about words. Hopefully, it does provoke thoughts :)

    • lalesu profile image

      lalesu 8 years ago from south of the Mason-Dixon

      Oh! How I believe in the power of words! Your hub is wonderful and while I agree with our friend, M.T Dremer, above, this only proves the relevance of your hub - the written word is a powerful, thought provoking thing!

    • Rose West profile image

      Rose West 8 years ago from Michigan

      M. T. Dremer, I agree with you that religious texts can be deceitful. I would, however, exclude the Bible from that list. What you said about fictional characters reaffirms my own thoughts about fiction. Stories really do stick in our hearts and minds like nothing else. And that's why it's important to be truthful even in fiction.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 8 years ago from United States

      Well, I don't quite agree with you on which words you deem good and which ones you deem evil. (Religious texts can be extremely deceitful and prompt people to do evil things (even the bible)). But the message about the power of words is all true. We tend to remember fictional characters just as well, if not more so, than we remember real figures from the past. And even people from our past tend to be fictionalized with the re-tellings of their deeds. Humans just seem to respond better to words and stories.

      Part of the reason I got into writing was because I knew that what I wrote would live on long after I'm dead. It's really the only true path to immortality, though it isn't true immortality because the story is the immortal part, you, as the author, are merely riding its coat-tails through eternity. But I would be happy to ride shotgun with any of my stories.


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