I discovered at a very young age that I loved writing, but that, of course, came after I discovered that I loved reading. Throughout the years, there have been many writers who have influenced my thought life and stretched me to think deeper on certain issues, whether it be racism, religion and spirituality, the environment, global warming, or world economics. And that’s what I love about writing; it is a powerful form of knowledge sharing and, in some cases, a call to action. Let’s look at three of the many steps to becoming an influential writer.
Be a Reader
Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” This is a truth that is undeniable. Yes, if you’re simply making journal entries for an audience of one then there is no need to do any kind of research or indulge in the leisurely reading of educational literature. But if you dare to write more than your private musings and hope to have an audience of more than your closest family members, then taking time to read is essential. What you read is up to you, but I suggest reading a variety of genres and styles, or at the very least exploring, in depth, your topic of interest by reading up on the subject. The more knowledgeable you are as a writer, the higher the probability that you will produce worthy content and be regarded as a voice of influence by others.
Ever been the one in the room locked out of the inside joke? I’ve had that happen to me before, and it didn’t feel good. I was seventeen years old, had just moved to a new country, and hadn’t yet become acquainted with certain cultural references. I remember sitting in a colourful restaurant one night over a plate of decadent dessert with a cheerful group of newly made friends, struggling to no avail to stay abreast of their cultural lingo and region-specific (inside) jokes. While I was happy to be in the presence of a great bunch of people, my inability to keep up with their conversations made my chuckles forced and me uncomfortable. The night couldn’t have ended quickly enough. Now think of writing as a conversation with your audience. Staying current with contemporary social issues gives you access to the important conversations of our time. The more intelligent input you can offer to these dialogues, the more influential your writing becomes. Being relevant comes with understanding your audience and your context. When you know for whom you’re writing and the nature of their concerns, you position yourself to write with not only knowledge, but with relevance.
The thing about social issues is that they usually facilitate diverse opinions, disagreements, and opposing sides. If you are to add weight to your writing, then you must take a stance. What’s your perspective on the issue at hand? Why is it worthy of consideration? When you can answer these questions you arm yourself with content. However, to publish your opinion takes courage, especially if your position is unpopular. Popularity may lead to influence, but so does being willing to go against the grain and speak your truth.
Consider writers like George Orwell, author of the books 1984 and Animal Farm, brilliant commentaries on authority and the human condition; or C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, whose works have influenced the realm of theology, the fantasy genre, and philosophy; or Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, whose book tackles racism in America so artistically that it has won multiple awards and has shaped the thinking of many on the topics of race and justice.
It is important to remember that as a writer you have an inherent ability to be a voice for the voiceless, to shape society’s opinions, and to speak to cultural understandings through your art. Influence comes with the ability to fulfill your mandate well and share it with the world through the appropriate channels. Write well. I hope to read your work some day.
By Kerri-Ann Haye-Donawa
Kerri-Ann Haye-Donawa is an award-winning writer and editor who is passionate about the art of clear communication. Kerri-Ann is the co-founder of Conclusio House, a hybrid publishing company based in Ontario, Canada. She has worked with an extensive list of authors, ministers, non-profit organizations, business owners, and various publications in Canada, the United States, China, Africa, and the Caribbean. Her aim is to help fellow writers and those who consider themselves ‘non-writers’ produce excellent written and published work.