Undoing the SilenceJoin an environmental group, and it won’t be long before you’re urged to write for your cause — whether a letter to the editor, an op-ed, or a blog post. But if the mere thought of  putting pen to paper (or fingers to laptop) about issues so vast as ocean pollution or global warming — or even smaller, neighborhood issues like a plastic bag ban in your city — makes you want to hide in the nearest recycling bin, here’s a book that can help.

Undoing the Silence: Six Tools for Social Change Writing by Louise Dunlap is like The Artist’s Way for social change activists. This book kicks off by examining why we often find it so difficult to put our thoughts, ideas, and motivations into words — much less share them with the public — even when we’re passionately dedicated and feel strongly about the issues we’re involved with. On top of our own personal fears of inadequacy that lead to self-silencing, we’ve got institutional silencing to deal with — the social structures that discourage anyone from rocking the boat.

“No matter how well meant, politeness is a kind of organized silence,” writes Louise Dunlap — then dedicates the rest of her book to illustrating six steps you can take to overcome this silence:

1. Freewriting — Getting the ideas out from under your inner critic by writing quickly, much like the morning pages in The Artist’s Way.

2. Process — Starting to organize those ideas into a first draft.

3. Thinking — Improving, expanding, and refining your ideas and your argument.

4. Audience — Refining and revising your writing by taking on a reader’s perspective

5. Feedback — Receiving and incorporating constructive feedback on your work from others.

6. Word-power — Polishing  your writing to make it tighter and prettier.

While these tools may be generally familiar to many writers, Louise’s emphasis on breaking down the psychological barriers to get your personal opinions and beliefs out will seem especially novel to those who’ve often been taught to write "politely," their own ideas subservient to the prevailing cultural status quo. She provides lots of writing exercises to familiarize you with these tools — and provides encouraging anecdotes along the way to show how your writing could lead to positive changes.

Published in 2007 by New Village Press, Undoing the Silence is available in a 100 percent post-consumer recycled, chlorine-free paperback copy for $20.01.


Green Books CampaignThis review’s part of the Green Books campaign, an initiative organized by Eco-Libris to get 100 bloggers reviewing 100 green books on Nov. 10 at 10 a.m. (PST). All the reviewed books are printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper, with the goal to encourage publishers and readers to take the environment into consideration when printing or purchasing books.

100 books logo by Susan Newman

How you can write for social change
Louise Dunlap's 'Undoing the Silence' helps activists get over their writers block to start writing for social change.