“Show. Don’t tell” is the most common advice given to writers practicing their craft. It is essential advice but often difficult to practice. Words are easy. Telling is a shortcut to getting the idea across. But writing is about more than just getting the idea across. We need our reader to feel something, to have an experience that makes for them a lasting change.
“Show. Don’t tell” happens also to be excellent advice for life. It is becoming my directive for authentic, meaningful relationships.
I share my life with an incredible woman who doesn’t realize how incredible she is. We have known each other 25 years. That’s more than half our lives. In that time, you come to understand essential things about each other. You also develop shortcuts and habits in the way you see and tell each other things.
In 25 years, you say “I love you” a hundred thousand times, sometimes without thinking, sometimes as reflex. Sometimes “I love you” makes complicated things easier. Other times, instead of saying the thing you need to say, saying “I love you” lets you off the hook.
I love this person more today than I ever have, but I am trying to say “I love you” a little less. I am trying to put myself back on the hook. I am trying to find ways inside our life to show rather than tell. And when I do say those words, “I love you”, I want to know she understands exactly what I mean. I want her to have an experience that she can feel, some small thing that makes a lasting change.