September 15, 2015

On Opting for the “Do No Harm” Approach to Writing.


We all have a voice.

We speak to our friends, our families, our perceived enemies and our lovers hundreds of words on average every day.

We use these voices to communicate, and this communication originates from what we’re thinking. It is one of the methods in which our thoughts, our inner world, can make their debut into the outer world (in addition to our actions).

Speaking can mean many things. We can use our voices in so many ways, from singing lullabies to our children, shouting to be heard at riots or writing.

With this ability comes power.

After all, our words can either nourish or cut like a sword with the sharpest of blades. They carry with them the potential to either heal or steal—to cut down or take away.

Everything we do, every thought, word and action, has an effect on our world to one degree or another.

Do no harm,” they say.

This philosophy goes far back in time, and is currently used as a primary guideline from the medical field to yoga, which teaches “Ahimsa”: “nonviolence.”

Myself, and many others, perceive violence as anything that causes harm. All that we do sends out a ripple, and this ripple can and likely will have a subtle or not-so-subtle effect on everything in our world.

So as a writer, I take this very seriously.

I had a discussion with a close friend who is also a writer a few months back about the effect that our words have on people. She expressed concern about how something that she was writing was going to be perceived by her large audience of readers.

I told her that as writers we cannot get wrapped up in this—as we are only responsible for what we send out into the world. We cannot read the minds, nor have the knowledge to know how some and their past experiences may filter their perceptions of our messages. We can only be responsible for the energy behind what we send out into the world, and cannot become entangled in the assumptions of how it will be received.

So, the best that we can do—the very best, as with anything, is to have pure intentions.

When we are discerning then deciding what and how we are communicating something, we can ask ourselves, “What is my intention?”

“Is my intention in using my words that which will spread something positive, or is the intention something different?”

We all have egos, and sometimes these need to be kept in check. We can ask ourselves why we are writing what we are writing, and utilize to the best of our ability judgment as well as humility.

We can ask ourselves if we are writing what we feel moved to say, or whether we are writing what others want to hear or read.

We can choose to stay under the umbrella that intends to either educate, connect or resonate with our audience in a manner that will send a positive ripple. We can choose to bring to light that which might be considered dark.

We can never assume the effect that our words and voice will have on others. If we are writing out of a state of anger, this will likely induce anger or fire in the audience. This may sometimes be of help if our intention is to shed some light the darkness in our world; that fire may be needed. But discernment in this area is of utmost importance if we are trying to align with the “Do no harm” philosophy.

Someone once told me to not speak at all if what I was about to say was not an improvement on silence.

Maybe you have heard this type of wisdom as well. To me, this pertains to writing even more so due to the potential audience it could reach.

I have written many times before, “Writing is just one of the many art forms that carries with it the potential to shatter the illusion of separateness.”

The philosophy to do no harm and to maintain a state of non-violence is of utmost importance in a world that already has enough violence.

If we are to use our energy and our voice, and if people will respond energetically or emotionally to our words, using both discernment and intentionality can make all the difference.



Mindful Communication: 3 Tips for Writing Someone a Letter about How You Feel.



Author: Katie Vessel 

Editor: Caroline Beaton 

Image: Ramiro Ramirez/Flickr

Read 1 Comment and Reply

Read 1 comment and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Kate Vessel  |  Contribution: 7,040