How to be a writer with a cause

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Last week, I wrote about finding your voice as a writer. Marthe made a good point in the comments section to that piece:

I feel like I have a strong voice, what I lack is a message, a cause. Sometimes it feels like I’m writing just for the sake of putting pretty words and phrases out into the world.

I know what that’s like, Marthe! Before I started to write professionally, I felt like everything I wrote was a series of confessions, diary entries and false starts. I wanted my writing to have a meaning, to be charged and inspired. I wrote tons of assignments for university. I studied English so I was interested in most of the subjects I was writing about, but I still hadn’t found my pet topics – those issues and subjects which I can write about for ages and ages.

I only really started to discover what I wanted to write about when I began contributing to Platinum Love. There I began to discover what I was really passionate about: body image, gay rights, feminist issues as well as things like fashion, technology and food. The more I wrote, the more I learnt and the more I wanted to write.

The best advice I can give you is to just write, but I know that’s easier said than done, so let me try and break down the process a little.

A wandering mind
Where does your mind go when it starts to wander? If you find yourself thinking about football or dance or makeup, then that’s what you need to pursue. When you’re online, what blogs are you drawn to? Are they politically charged, filled with product reviews or focused on travel? Start to make a list of things you read on the news which you find interesting. The next time you have a passionate discussion or a heated argument with a friend over a political or philosophical concept, make a note of it.

Read, read, read
When you’ve picked three or four topics you feel you’re fairly interested in, start reading. Browse bookshops for essays and books on your chosen subjects. Look through magazines and crawl the web for articles on your topic. Make notes as you read of things that strike you. Educate yourself beyond Wikipedia. If you’re passionate about going Green, read anything and everything you can find about it. Look at statistics, watch interviews with experts in the area and find people who are interested in that subject whom you can chat with and bounce ideas off.

Just write
Here’s where that comes in. The best thing you can do for yourself as a writer is start a blog. That way you begin to establish an audience, network with like-minded individuals and set yourself deadlines. Write as much as you can – overviews and opinions. The more you research, the more topics you’ll discover which you want to write about. Don’t worry about writing a perfect article; just write. Nobody writes a masterpiece the first time they put pen to paper. As with everything else, practice is key.

Have you figured out what you wanted to write about? Was your process similar to mine or completely different?

  • Elle // Acquired Tastes
    October 19, 2011

    Very helpful! The tip about what you talk to your friends about (and enjoy talking about) being a good subject to explore writing about is a really good one.

    I have found that I really enjoy talking about personal development and “big picture” stuff with a few of my friends – they are the conversations that stir me up the most and make me feel really excited. So I know that is one of the topics I enjoy. I find it to be overly *serious* sometimes though, so I like to write about frivolous things as well :) {I also take note of any advice, recommendations, etc, that I give my friends, cause usually those are good blog topics as well!}

  • Mau
    October 20, 2011

    I’ve found myself writing a lot about my daughter when she was born six years ago. Then I started a blog which slowly became my ramblings about parenthood, especially now my second daughter has joined the family. I love your suggestions, though. Good to bear in mind when writer’s block strikes (assuming such a thing exists).

    • admin
      October 25, 2011

      Glad you found it helpful. I do think we tend to write about what we know and love – and so we should!

  • Annching
    October 21, 2011

    Hi Davinia, I just stumbled on your website and I am glad I did! Love what you have going on here, and this post is really great. You managed to articulate so simply the 3 most important things to be a writer with a cause (in my humble opinion). My process has been the same, and now I write about fashion, entrepreneurship, business, and life – all from a very personal angle. Looking forward to reading more!

    • admin
      October 25, 2011

      Hi Annching! So glad you found the post informative and thanks for your comment :)

  • Amy --- Just A Titch
    November 6, 2011

    Great post. Love all of these things.

  • Michele (Michael) Garzola
    June 28, 2014

    I like writing about the mystique of transcendence, learning amuses me, I love knowing the bigger picture and technicalities. I love graphic novels as well. I have an affinity for becoming a Renaissance man, I want to optimise myself through apotheosis and be successful as a philosopher muse. I like the idea of Summerland, to continued amusing myself and researching, inventing and innovating.

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