Being Heard Above the Crowd

By: Michelle Gunnin

 

How Loud Does The Writer’s Voice Have to Be? 

“Whatever question arose, a swarm of these drones, without having finished their buzzing on a previous theme, flew over to the new one and by their hum drowned and obscured the voices of those who were disputing honestly.” ― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

With all the clamor and all the opinions in our world today, it is getting more and more difficult to be heard. As a writer, it seems unless you have something controversial to say, no one will pay attention to your words. The onslaught of voices is rising to a feverish pitch. Words dripping with sarcasm and insults seem to be the new order of the day. This only pours gasoline on the fire of rage currently causing such division in our country. Somehow the fact people are behind screens and not face to face has contributed to such behavior.

Respect for differing opinions has faded into wanting our own ideas to be first and foremost. Humility is something from the old dusty books of the past. People have lost the ability to see themselves as they are in the mirror; instead, they see only their positions and ideologies. Anyone who disagrees with them is a threat and is treated as such. This kind of thinking is on both sides of the aisle, in community governments, in churches of different religions, and in homes.

When something is this pervasive, it makes me wonder just how we have tumbled this far. How did we get here, and more importantly how do we get out?

Are You Contributing to the Noise?

Writers can add fuel, or we can douse the flames. It is our choice. Will we choose to be heard by yelling louder than the rest, by selecting a topic we KNOW will be inflammatory enough to draw attention our way? Or will we decide to be the opposite? Can we be heard above the crowd by being levelheaded and thoughtful in our responses? Will anyone listen if we promote unity instead of division?

I still believe the pen is mightier than the sword, but more and more writers are using their pens as swords. Click To Tweet

Here are some thoughts on how to have our voices heard in the midst of one of the most divisive times in history.

Know your topic.

Nothing discounts a writer more than speaking about a subject he/she doesn’t know. Flying off in a knee-jerk reaction to current events without doing research discounts any wisdom you might be trying to include in your piece. Usually most issues of the day are complex; otherwise they would have been solved by now. Knowing and gaining insight into the issue is paramount to being heard.

Know your views.

If you don’t know where you stand on a topic, don’t write about it. You don’t know enough insight to share your thoughts without reflection on what you believe. If you are going on what someone else told you, it is best not to write until you have your own viewpoint.

Know your opponents’ views.

If you are writing about a topic with many sides, it is best to know all of them. This involves listening to those who are different than you are and see things from other perspectives. It means you have to set your own agendas aside and try to understand another’s point of view and why they hold differing views from your own. This requires grace on your part and laying down your sword for a moment to consider someone else.

Know your audience.

If you are writing for others who have like beliefs as you do, then you will write differently than if you are writing for the general public. When you submit a piece to a newspaper in your town, it will be different than if you are submitting to a trade magazine. However, if you write for your own ears, it is likely you are the only one listening to yourself. Use your brain. Think of others. You are more likely to be heard if you take your readers into consideration BEFORE you write.

Show respect.

Whatever your topic, please show respect for others. Insults are beneath you. Shouting just to be heard over others makes you no different than them. Respect is defined as due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others. It is possible to show admiration and regard for someone who thinks the opposite of you on a topic.

Show humility.

This is likely the most forgotten trait of writers in current days. It seems we all feel as if we are the experts.

We long to hear our own voices and expect if we speak loud enough others will decide our view is correct and drop their own life experiences, thoughts, opinions, and viewpoints to join our superior stance.

The definition of humility is the opposite of that…a modest view of one’s own importance.

Know your motives.

What are the incentives for your piece? This goes back to the basics. PIE. Are you writing to:

  1. Persuade
  2. Inform
  3. Entertain

Once you decide which you are aiming for, then choose your words accordingly. If you merely want to make a point or push your own agenda, it is probably not worth the word count.

Ask yourself questions.

  1. Why do I feel so strongly about this?
  2. Did someone or something I read stir up anger in me?
  3. Do I really need to express this anger to the public?
  4. What in me makes this such a hot topic?
  5. Do I have a wounded heart in some way?
  6. Is it fair to my reader for me to take it out on them?

Answer the questions honestly.

Sometimes it is best to journal your emotions before blogging them. It gives a few days to think through what you want to say and how to say it. Then if you still feel strongly, you can be more objective. I can’t tell you how many letters I wrote in anger in my younger years.

Put that angry, hurtful, sarcastic journal entry away for a day or two. (In the world of instant feedback putting a piece away for a few days could prove to be the hardest step!) Take it out and reread it, you will see your hurt clearly, and your inflammatory language will stand out like a sore thumb.

Either re-write and tone things down with thoughtful text or do what I did…toss it in the trash. Immaturity and tantrums are not the way to be taken seriously as a writer.

Look in the mirror.

Know yourself. I know my hot button is anything in education. I am more careful and take more time to write about educational topics, because I KNOW my weaknesses and my blind spots. They are born of passion for learning and kids…so I do write about them?  If I do, I just take my time and carefully review them over and over before submitting.

I also KNOW not to get involved in political debates. I don’t write about them. Period. It is my own rule. It isn’t good for my health or my relationships. I don’t write about topics that are not of interest to me either. They would be tedious to read. When I write, it’s about topics I love and I might have some expertise to share. There are also times that I pick things which challenge me and make me want to dig deeper. I pick inspiring things and creative things.

Quiet wins the day.

In a world of noise, the best way to be heard is to be quiet. Then when you have something to say, say it with honesty and unity in mind. Say it with feeling and passion, but be careful. To be taken seriously you must take the time to be thoughtful. As a former teacher in a classroom, I had a trick. When students are loud and boisterous because of some activity, instead of trying to be heard over them by yelling, I would whisper. In about 4 seconds the class was quiet because they wanted to listen to what I was whispering about. The same example will work in the current climate in writing. 

Sometimes, to be heard means a quiet, thoughtful, respectful, humble, well researched, well-written piece. They are the most profound. Click To Tweet

Sound like a lot of work? It is, and that is my point. To be heard over the crowd, you have to slow down and take your time and think before you hit the publish button.

 

Bio: Michelle Gunnin

Michelle in front of yonah (1)Michelle Gunnin is an everyday woman who is a writer, a wife, a mom of four adult children, a former teacher, a colleague, a missionary, a sister, and a daughter. She is also a cancer survivor, a caregiver, and a recovering Pharisee.

With more questions than answers, Michelle writes to explore both. She is determined to be in the moment and live fully…both things life has taught her.

You can follow her blog at michellesmosaic.wordpress.com


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2 comments

  1. Michelle, interesting what you say about those wanting their ideas to be considered first and foremost. It is a sad turn is society. Worse the accusation that when I disagree I am looked upon as either being uneducated, disrespectful, or even treasonous, dependant on the level to which I disagree.

  2. Such a helpful well thought out piece, Michelle! Thank you! I am sure I wikk refer back to it often. It’s one of those posts, that the more you read it, the more you will get out of it,
    I particularly like your advice on knowing your motive and knowing yourself. I too, like to write creative and inspiring things. I also don’t like to write about politics, because I find it is so often devisive, and I love to bring people together.

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