Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Writing for Social Change: A 3-Step Starting Guide

Kayla Greenwell
So you’ve decided to write for social change.  You’ve sat down, straightened your workspace, and pulled out your writing materials.  Now what?  The social justice world is huge! It can be daunting for a new writer to dive in, so how do you get started?
Step 1: Pick a Topic You’re Passionate About
There are a lot of social justice issues out there, so you want to make sure that you have chosen one that that you are passionate about.  It could be from your own experiences and familiarity with the subject, or maybe someone you know has experienced this form of social injustice. Or you might choose it because you feel like it is something that you can understand and relate to because you identify with the group of people suffering from that particular type of social injustice. When I write, I focus on gender violence, especially when it comes to sexual abuse. As a survivor, this is easiest for me, because I have experienced it and I believe that sharing my experiences can change the world for other women.  You don’t have to be a victim of social injustice to write about it, but you should become knowledgeable on the subject. Which leads me to…
Step 2: Get Acclimated
Learn everything there is to know on your subject! This is true for any writing, but research is especially important when writing for social justice. The reason for this being that social justice issues are complicated.  They often discuss abstract ideas, they often have multiple sides, and they even sometimes have conflicting belief systems. You don’t have to know everything before you start writing, but you should be familiar with the landscape of the issue and the general arguments from all sides. Be careful of any bias that a source may have.  I like to use Al Jazeera because they are a non-profit news source, so there is less chance of bias, and their writers are credible, informed, and involved.
Another helpful source is the Socialist Worker. They create a helpful platform when it comes to analyzing and following current discussions and debates on a variety of topics. This site is helpful for getting situated into the most current part of the conversation but is probably not best until you have a background on your subject.
Step 3: Write!
Now that you have an understanding of your topic, you can start to write! The amount of writing out there can be overwhelming, but the key to getting started is not losing your own voice in all the information that is out there.  What you have to say matters! Only you can share your personal experience, and that is an invaluable tool.
Forbes Magazine interviewed award winning author Beverly Schwartz in an article titled, "This is Our Time for Storytelling: 3 1/2 Tips for Writing About Social Change ..." Schwartz says, “If you feel a story in you, and you want to let your inner writer out, start a blog … If your inner creative is still not satiated, tell your story through social media, video, photos, murals, or animated comic books. Whatever. It’s your story, your message. You need to find the format that works best for you and your audience.” (Emphasis added.)
So get writing and remember, "A word after a word after a word is power."
* From the poem “Spelling” by Margaret Atwood.

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