Writing about of-the-minute events, politics, and movements can be highly intimidating but deeply necessary. Do the work and make your voice heard.
These are strange and volcanic times. Chances are, you have opinions about the multiple seismic shifts going on in the world right now. And, if you’re reading this article, chances are you want to write about them.
Issues of global health, equality, and political philosophy can seem huge — and they are. But writing about them in a way that shares your thoughts and arguments in a simple and powerful way does not have to be an unswallowable challenge. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Get clear on what you want to say
If you enter the writing process already 100 percent sure of the specific issue you wish to discuss and the argument you want to advance, wonderful.
If you need to brainstorm, draft, refine, and brainstorm again to funnel a cloud of intense thoughts into a stream of focused ideas, do it.
Regardless of your process, the point is to end up with a clear vision of the current ripple of history-in-progress you wish to speak about and what you want to say about it. Also key is understanding what effect you want your writing to have, whether it’s getting your audience to consider a new viewpoint, stop engaging in an activity, start engaging, or something else.
The more you can clarify your viewpoint — and the more you can define what you want your writing to accomplish — the more effective your piece will be at catalyzing the change you want to see.
Decide where you want to say it
Are you submitting an op-ed to a major newspaper or posting a thought piece on Medium? Do you want to publish a short book of social commentary through BookBaby or write articulate social media posts that will hopefully open eyes and turn heads?
Keep your outlet in mind as you stack your words. Different websites, networks, and outlets work in different ways and speak to unique audiences; arguments that feel convincing for one may tumble dramatically in another. Craft your work to be as effective as possible, wherever you choose to share it.
Read what other people are writing
Gaining perspective on your topic can begin with seeing what other thinkers, writers, activists, experts, and commentators are saying. Take all of it in with an open mind, but regard none of it as automatic gospel; it’s all there to provide you with helpful background and to inform your own thoughts, opinions, and writing.
Make your words your own
Avoid recycling someone else’s rhetoric in your own work. After all, your goal is to say what you want to say — not to inadvertently become a mouthpiece for someone else’s point of view.
By consciously rejecting language and formulations that others have used widely, you will avoid parroting talking points that may have been synthesized in a think tank or board room. You will also help ensure that what you are saying truly represents your core values.
Do your research and evaluate your sources
Especially in the age of digital and social media, misinformation and conspiracy theories are widespread. And, to be fair, sometimes conventional wisdom can be dead wrong.
If you’re advancing an argument on an explosive issue, make sure that your viewpoints are rooted in fact and that those facts come from trustworthy sources. A random graphic your cousin reposted on Facebook that’s attributed to an organization you’ve never heard of and can’t find anywhere online? Unlikely to be dependable. A peer-reviewed paper from an entity renowned for its scientific rigor? A much more well-baked foundation on which to base your argument.
Speak your truth
Be open, honest, and clear as you write. Look for the solid core at the center of the issue, the thing that makes you feel the strongest in whatever direction you feel. Then focus on communicating that truth in whatever language best embodies it. Don’t try to impress anyone and don’t say something you don’t believe just because it may be popular. It’s your writing, your tone, your truth.
Overblown language can get in the way of clear and powerful communication. Have faith in a well-constructed and well-researched argument and let it speak for itself with the clearest, most direct language you can muster. Don’t give readers the impression that you have something to hide or something to prove by vilifying those who disagree with you, describing your allies as godlike, or engaging in other distracting hyperbole.
Stay on point
Some of the most effective writings on major current events are those that focus on a single point and explore it with rigor, intelligence, and poetry. Far-ranging rants that cover multiple topics with minimal depth? Much more likely to lose readers within the first few words and accomplish nothing.
As you write what you need to write, stay as sharp and surgical as possible. Say only what’s essential, hone your work with intelligence and clarity, and note your manifold tangential thoughts elsewhere, all to be used in your next piece, and the next after that.
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