Three Lessons for Writing on Organizing
© 2019 Gregory F. Augustine Pierce
This blog is an attempt to convince community leaders and organizers that writing can be another tool in their power toolbox. It offers examples and suggestions on how to write both artfully and effectively. I have been a publisher for over thirty years and a community leader and organizer for almost fifty years, so the combination of these two topics is a natural for me, as in this piece.
Writing is to organizing as preaching is to religion: We have to do it well if we hope to build the organization/congregation.
That was the theme of the second “Writing for IAF Organizers and Leaders” workshop I ran over Indigenous People’s Day weekend in Chicago from October 13-15, 2019. The workshop participants included 7 organizers and 5 leaders from Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois.
LESSON NUMBER ONE
Write a good opening sentence.
In an introductory exercise, participants were asked to pick a great opening sentence listed in The Best American Non-Required Reading 2013. Half the group chose this sentence from Kiese Laymon’s “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance.”
“I’ve had guns pulled on me by four people under Central Mississippi skies—once by a white undercover cop, once by a young brother trying to rob me for the leftovers of a weak work-study check, once by my mother and twice by myself.”
This led, by popular demand, to a reading of the entire essay, done with great passion and eloquence by organizer Terrell Williams of BUILD in Baltimore.
LESSON NUMBER TWO
Learn how to tell a good story.
In an informal setting on Monday night each participant told one or more stories to the rest of the group, stories that all agreed needed to be written and shared with a larger audience.
LESSON NUMBER THREE
Are you convinced that writing well would increase your personal and organizational power?
This was the primary question I asked at the end of the intensive 48 hours. Other questions followed:
- How would they find the time and develop the discipline to write?
- How would they learn to edit multiple drafts, develop a personal or organizational style sheet, and write with multiple authors in an organization?
- How would they get their work published (even if self-publishing is the only option)?
- How would they get people to read their work, and how could build it build their organizations?
To be continued.
Gregory F. Augustine Pierce is the publisher of ACTA Publications in Chicago and the author of many books, including The World as It Should Be and Spirituality at Work. He runs “intensive
immersion” workshops on writing for specific kinds of writers, such as the
“Writing for Community Leaders and Organizers.” For more information, contact
him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out our latest titles in ACTA's Community Organizing Series:
How to Raise Money for Community Organizing by Robert Connolly
Raising Money for Your Congregation by Robert Connolly