The other day, a friend of mine shared some of his old digital photographs with me. While this normally wouldn't be earth shattering news, his photos were stunning.
No, really. They took my breath away and spoke to me in a way that only beautiful art can.
So I told him that.
His response? He was glad I "liked them" but said he needed to make a few tweaks and wanted to work on their resolution.
I had to repeat myself before he actually heard me.
Another friend recently shared with me her screenplay, but not before she apologized for its "typos and weird formatting issues."
Though it's taken me longer than I hoped to read it, once I did, I made sure to tell her how awesome I thought it was.
I must admit, I can understand my friends' hesitancy in acknowledging the compliments and their use of qualifiers to set expectations. After all, when you put yourself out there, creatively speaking, the world can be a harsh place. Haters, trolls, and critics come out of the woodwork. It's much safer to hide away your brilliance rather than subject it to opinion.
But here's the thing: keeping that brilliance to yourself robs you of your chance to shine. Worse, you'll miss out on the opportunity to provide the world with creative beauty that is uniquely yours.
I say this because I want to remind you (and myself) that words have power.
Power to uplift and support.
Power to ignite an inner spark.
Power to change the world for good.
And their power increases the more frequently you speak them.
Of course, words can also have an adverse effect. I bet each of us can recount a time when a well-meaning friend or family member used their words to "help" explain why something didn't go our way ("If you had done ____, then maybe you would have been more successful.")
Sorry, not helpful. And now I feel worse.
Even when we don't use hurtful words, a dismissive comment such as "that's nice" can be equally demoralizing to someone on the brink of a creative breakthrough.
Be honest: What messages do you tell yourself? What do you say to others?
Here are a few things to consider as you aspire to be a positive force:
If someone shares with you a sample of his or her creative work, be honored and give that person your undivided attention.
This person has trusted you with something deeply personal and meaningful, which means your opinion matters. A lot. Please be respectful and supportive by listening attentively and offering your full attention.
Love something? Tell someone. (Preferably more than once.)
I doubt there is a person alive that wouldn't want to hear words of praise and adoration repeatedly.
Realize that your encouraging nudge may be the catalyst someone needs to keep going.
Starting right now, I want you to be aware of the enormous gift you can give someone (and yourself) simply by offering—and repeating—encouraging words. Hearing those words just might be the difference between giving up and persevering.
Remember: you have the power to inspire greatness.
All it takes is a little nudge.