Why Write?: Reflections on “Write to Change the World”

When I think of changing the world, I think of volunteering at a crowded soup kitchen, teaching at an inner-city school, being a nurse at an underfunded, over-run hospital. I think of Abraham Lincoln, Gloria Steinem and Mahatma Gandhi.  Writing isn’t the first thing to come to mind. But, after attending the “OpEd Project’s Chicago Write to Change the World Seminar,” I left with a different idea of what it meant to change the world.

Seminar Leaders Deborah Siegel and Michele Weldon

Throughout the day, seminar leaders Deborah Siegel and Michele Weldon challenged the group of 20 participants to understand their knowledge and expertise as having deep value to others. One of the questions was why would you contribute the public conversation in any form? Specifically, “Why write?”

By the end of the day many reached an answer. You enter the public conversation through opinion  pieces, speeches, advocacy, testimony, community leadership– any or all of it– because you are responsible for what you know and for the knowledge you’ve earned. You do this for the slightest possibility that what you know can parlay some bit to changing the status quo and that your ideas offer a solution or a new way to think, something undiscovered to believe in. You speak up and write because there is too much at stake to stay silent.

OpEd Project’s Write to Change the World Seminar in Chicago

I was always told,  “one voice can make a difference,” But this Saturday I was reminded that that voice could be mine. I left the seminar knowing that the onus is on me, as it is on all of us. I left knowing that that I could be “sitting on the cure for something.”

Before joining the seminar, I was well aware of the gap in thought leadership between men and women and that the voices of women of color are far fewer. As a Pakistani born and American bred woman, I strongly believe that one of the strategies that can help de-stigmatize my color, culture and heritage is by pluralizing the number of Pakistani/South Asian voices contributing to public conversations. In today’s socio-political climate, I think this is something we are in dire need of. For this reason, I was glad to become a part of The OpEd Project as the Chicago Regional Management Intern.  I hope to keep my OpEd experience going by cultivating my voice and adding to conversations. The “Write to Change the World” seminar will be only the start of my OpEd Project journey.

4 comments

  1. Well, this worked out already for the two of us. I recently published my first article and the reactions were overwhelming. In the text I published, I wanted to give a voice to a group of ppl that is not heard very much. Like you, just with a different group of ppl.

    And then I felt kind of exhausted because it was difficult to deal with all the positive and negative reactions.
    Having read your article, I feel like writing and causing a discussion makes absolute sense. And that it might be worth the effort.

    I live in Europe. That’s a whole different continent, I speak a different language and I grew up in a different culture. We never would have met or heard from each other if you would not have written and published this text.

    And because you wrote this and because someone posted it on facebook I was able to read your words and feel inspired and motivated by them.

    I guess that’s how it works! Inspiring by writing. Thank you!

  2. Verena – thank you for that note. I know how you feel re being exhausted by all the reactions. At the OEP we always say – “If you say things of consequence, there may be consequences. But the alternative is to be inconsequential.” -katie

    1. Thank you, Katie!
      I noted down that quote and put it on my refrigerator. Only the most important quotes make it there.🙂 I want to take part in a workshop like the ones you guys organize. There must be a way to find something like your project over here as well.

      It’s so good to see an example of how networking among women can constructively create or support activism.

      Unbelievably inspiring.

      Thank you so much!!!

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