What to Write when the World is on Fire
Updated: Apr 12, 2022
[If you'd prefer to watch a 6-minute video about this content, you can view it on LinkedIn here.]
I’ve gotten a few questions from a number of my clients recently along the lines of “How do I talk about…?" (fill in the blank).
How do I talk about war?
How do I talk about anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legislation?
How do I talk about my fervent belief that Black Lives Matter?
And much more…
And when I say talk, I mean write because we don’t actually talk much anymore… we post, we tweet, we email, we text, we blog, and we comment.
Even audio + visual stuff like podcasts and IG lives seem to require writing. Most of the time, these things start with the written word, even if it’s just a few ideas scrawled on the back of a crumpled CVS receipt.
So, I argue, “how do we write about….” actually applies to all of us. How do I talk about it - or write about it - with my team, my network, my community?
Here’s six thoughts on the subject for consideration.
1. The Permission Slip
First thing’s first.
Here’s your permission slip just in case you felt you needed one.
You don’t have to talk about everything.
There’s a lot. I get it. And it can feel like you need to be an expert in everything and comment on every issue. If you open up that can of worms, don’t you have to open up that other can of worms, too?
I have two reactions to this.
First, no. No, you don’t.
But, secondly, there are some things you really should be informed about and writing/talking about, especially (but not only if) they impact the lives of the people around you and you have a platform (and I don't mean 1 million followers) to do share.
That said, there is a lot going on.
Bottom line: Don't be so overwhelmed by the prospect of everything that you talk about nothing.
2. Don’t Lie to Yourself
To be clear, posting on social media, emailing your team (and, yes, even writing this blog post)...none of these actions are social justice, activism, volunteerism or actually helping the cause you care about.
Caveat: Yes, things do need to be amplified but, don’t mistake what we’re doing here for action. Sometimes it is about amplifying the voices of others - we don’t always have to put our own spin on everything.
3. Take Action First
Sometimes we can get so caught up in what we’re going to say about the event, the tragedy, or the injustice that we lose sight of what is actually important.
It’s not about us.
One way to mitigate against this is to do something… then write about it. Can you educate yourself, talk to family + friends, donate goods or money, volunteer your time? What does the cause you care passionately about need most?
Writing about it after this action will allow you to write more authentically and from the heart.
But, how do you figure out what action to take? Check out #4...
4. Listen to the voices of those most directly impacted
The best way to find out what to do is to listen to those at the center of the issue you are trying to address. They will always be the most well-equipped and best positioned for this. They are the experts in their lived experience.
What are they saying about the needs of this cause or issue? Can you amplify their voice instead of putting in your own opinion?
This one can be very challenging for a lot of us. It requires some time alone with our own thoughts, which can be a bit daunting - at best - for some of us these days.
What do you feel? What’s on your heart?
Here’s a biggie to ask yourself: Who am I posting this for? Why am I posting this?
Is it for me? Is it to prove something? Is it to show I am caring/informed/progressive/and so on?
And let me tell you. Ooph. That one will sting - I feel it, too - but we have to go there.
6. Be a Real (and Kind) Human
If you do choose to write something, be authentic. Be vulnerable. You don't need to put on a stage act. Acknowledge your limitations. Name the issue for what it is. Be real.
If someone calls you out on something, apologize for any harm you’ve caused, reflect, learn and keep going.
In summary, how do you write about the problems of today?
Focus first on what you can do versus what you need to say. The latter will come.
Listen to those most impacted by the issue and follow their lead / guidance
And remember, my rule: You don’t have to be an expert or have all of the answers...
But, you do have to be a (kind) human.
What did I miss? Let me know!