While I was writing my memoir Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope, I realized that I had a secret agenda. I wanted to use my journey to environmental activism to inspire others to take action on climate change. However, I also wanted the book to be accessible to a broad audience, knowing that many people would relate to my midlife struggle to redefine my life. If my political agenda was stronger than my story or my style, I might alienate readers, or worse yet, not have any. Even though Renewable was my third book, it took several rewrites to find the right tone. Here’s what I learned along the way about writing to change the world:
The title alone intimdated me. Perhaps that’s why it stayed on my shelf for a year after my mom gave it to me. It still intimidates me. At a time when my writing is lucky to reflect a coherent sense of what is muddling through my brain, the idea of intentionally writing to make a difference outside of myself is daunting. It is true that for now I write mainly to navigate emotions, ideas, thoughts, experiences, and interactions that affect me or that come through my own life, but I was definitely inspired by Mary Pipher’s Writing to Change the World to consider the notion that my writing at some point could be focused as a change agent.
Writing to Change the World
In these tumultuous times, don't we all want to be heard? Who doesn't want to transform the world? And who doesn't harbor a secret ambition to write? Writing to Change the World is intended to help people who have a message they're passionate about to convey it clearly through writing. Inspired by a course of the same name that Mary Pipher taught at the University of Nebraska's National Summer Writers' Conference, this book encapsulates her years of experience as a writer and therapist, as well as her extensive knowledge of the craft of writing.
The underlying premise to this self-help book is that the pen (computer?) is mightier than the sword (weapons of mass destruction?). Mary Pipher assumes most people want to write what is on their mind but want to do so with clarity and passion. WRITING TO CHANGE THE WORLD explains what to do and not do with the latter perhaps being most critical as simple avoidable pitfalls can devastate a product. Ms. Pipher also explains when to use which format from letters to essays to blogs with the key being some homage to Mcluhan in that the medium is key to the message. Finally the book provides a step by step primer into the writing process supplemented by exercises and instruction. Well written and easy to follow, this reviewer picked up some tips on presenting reviews (similar to Ms. Pipher¿s Op-ed comments) especially her affirmation of the writer as ¿a moral agent¿ while staying focused on your objective. As Robert Brent Toplin points out in his book MICHAEL MOORE'S 'FAHRENHEIT 9/11': HOW ONE FILM DIVIDED A NATION: 'the most important message of Fahrenheit 9/11 is that the war with Iraq was unnecessary.¿ was somewhat distracted by controversial anecdotal sidebars that took viewers away from the director¿s main theme. Ms. Pipher provides advice on how to avoid that easy to fall into trap with this fine self help primer. --- Harriet Klausner