I often stand atop my soapbox to declare that writers need to be entrepreneurs because we need to learn how to market ourselves and build our personal brands. But once you are an entrepreneur can you also be an activist?
Most of the scribes in my tribe don’t simply want to use their words to make money; they also want to make a difference. But once you use your platform to speak up about the issues you care about, you, of course, run the risk of losing customers. That’s why many marketing gurus say entrepreneurs should never talk politics or broach any controversial topics. But in today’s political climate, it may feel impossible to stay silent.
Maybe you do want to speak up, but you’re not quite sure what to say. This has been my struggle. Sure, I could post angry rants on Twitter and Facebook every day, but that’s not my style. This doesn’t mean I’m not angry about what’s going on in our country. I’m a feminist and my feminism is intersectional, which means issues of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, class, and ability all concern me. So I’m mad as hell! But I learned long ago that the key to avoiding feminist burnout is to focus on the people you’re fighting for, not what you’re fighting against.
So while I believe the angry think pieces and social media posts have their place because they can help raise awareness, I choose to stay in my lane and instead share information and inspiration to uplift women and girls.
This year, however, I want to do more. But I also want to grow my business. After all, I do need to make money. I can’t help the poor if I’m poor myself. (Plus, I’ve been there, done that, and not trying to go back.)
I recently had a talk with Birmingham-based civil rights activist T. Marie King about this issue. I asked her, “How can I be an entrepreneur and an activist?” Her advice was so simple, yet profound, it made me laugh. “Do you!” she said.
She explained that I just need to do the things I feel compelled to do to stay true to who I am and what I believe. And that is my advice to you, too.
I often say that building a personal brand is really about knowing your values and then successfully conveying them in all you do. My brand is all about inspiration. So I shouldn’t stray from that, especially at such a time as this when we need all the inspiration we can get!
Decide what statements you can make and what service you can do that both align with your brand (a.k.a. your values) and help make a difference. Does this mean that none of your blog readers, followers, or fans will get upset with you? Absolutely not. You need to accept now that some people are going to unfollow, unfriend, and unsubscribe. And that’s OK. You’re fine wine, babe, not everybody’s cup of tea.
Though I still don’t consider myself a bonafide activist like T. Marie, who spends nearly every waking moment helping low-income families and working to improve race relations around the country, I am determined to do my part, lift my voice, and use my influence to bring about change.
Here are 5 things we writers can do:
Stay informed. As exhausting as it may be, it’s our duty as citizens to stay abreast of what’s happening in our country and our world. Designate time each day for reading your favorite news sources.
Share information and inspiration. Help your followers stay informed, too, by sharing links to articles from trusted news sources and insightful columnists. But I’m determined to not become the Debbie Downer News Feed. I plan to share good news, too, and to share information on practical ways my followers can support the causes they care about.
Practice what you preach. Whether you’re protesting in the streets or in your tweets, recognize that this alone is not enough. After participating in the Women’s March of Alabama I decided to do one thing every day to make my community better. I hope you will join me in this challenge. Donate to your local NPR station, your favorite local charity, your favorite national charity, and to the American Civil Liberties Union. If you can’t afford to give money, give time and volunteer. Call elected officials and other representatives to voice your opinion on important issues. Mentor a child. Practice random acts of kindness.
Help someone share their story. I believe art can be activism because all art tells a story and stories have the power to change minds and change lives. Use your talent and your influence to help others, especially those who are being marginalized and disenfranchised, to share their stories. Help their voices be heard.
Take care of yourself. You know how the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Take time to relax. Watch a movie. Read a magazine. Get a message. Paint your nails. Go for a walk. Remember the words of Audre Lorde: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Are you looking for a community of like-minded women to help you in your efforts to use your words to make money and make a difference? See Jane Write could be just what you need. Learn more at seejanewritebham.com/membership.