How often do we catch ourselves saying to a friend, “I read this article the other day and …”? Articles, poems, blogs, books and more help us heal, learn, broaden our perspective and co-create cultural shifts. But words alone don’t hold that power, it is how we choose to use them. Understanding what message you want to spread and how to get it across to the people you are trying to reach is essential for creating impact. It could be anything from a personal story in an Instagram caption to a formal research paper.
A panel of our Ambassadors, known for their talent as wordsmiths, came together to talk about how they each use the written word to create change. Read on for their tips!
Meet the Panel
Soraya Abdel-Hadi, Freelance Writer & eXXpedition Operations Manager
North Pacific Leg 2
A personal blog in University was where Soraya’s passion for writing began. After school, she landed her dream job writing for an equestrian magazine and even went on to cover the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. As her interest and knowledge in sustainability grew, her topic of writing naturally shifted. Named Lonely Planet’s Sustainable Storyteller of the Year in 2021, you can read about mindful travel, sustainability, nature and diversity in the UK on Soraya’s website soraya.earth.
Geraldine Le Roux, Anthropologist, Art Historina, Curator & Author of Sea Sisters
Round the World Leg 8
Lockdown turned out to be the catalyst Geraldine needed to start writing her own story. Having just sailed on Leg 8 (Easter Island to Tahiti) she was so inspired by her experience that writing it down became a need. As a researcher and anthropologist, it was Geraldine’s natural instinct to bring a journal with her on board. In it, she took down her observations and the answers to questions she would ask her crewmates which would become the bones for her award-winning book, Sea Sisters. This is her second book to date with the first one featuring artists working with reclaimed ghost nets.
Erica Cirino, Freelance Writer & Author of Thicker Than Water
Round the World Leg 2
Erica loves to find and tell stories from the intersection of the human and non-human world. Her first experience with plastic pollution was while working as a wildlife rehabilitator, treating animals that had been entangled or had ingested plastic. While in this sector she realized her skills as a communicator and photojournalist could help spur the value changes needed to choose planetary welfare over convenience and cost. She set sail, documenting her interactions with plastic pollution at sea. Ten thousand nautical miles later, her book Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to Plastic Pollution was born.
Ky Delaney, Writer & Author of AFLOAT
Round the World Leg 8
When Ky had her son, life slowed down. Motherhood unlocked an introspective time for her and changed the way she interacted with nature and adventure. She began to turn her new perspective into stories for outdoor magazines. It struck her how the male dominated space was hyper focused on how far, how fast and how hard an outdoor experience was vs how much awe was inspired or connection was felt. She resolved to stay true to her new, maternal voice and write in a way that was true to her. She’s now working on her first book, AFLOAT, about her time sailing through the Caribbean with her son (then 4 years old) sampling for microplastics.
Catherine Rogers, Mental Health Therapist & Author of Gut Well Soon
Virtual Voyage: Brazil
Catherine started writing about the impacts of plastic pollution on human health when her daughters started asking questions about their family lifestyle and consumer choices. Since they were born, she’d done what they could to protect them from the harmful endocrine disrupting chemicals commonly found in plastic. So she started a family blog to help her daughters understand the science behind it. While at work one day she was telling her co-worker about the blog when they said, “That sounds like a book!” She researched meticulously and went on to write a chapter a week and has since released, Gut Well Soon.
Writing Advice from the Panel:
On Establishing a Writing Routine
Soraya – After writing for other publications and following their brand guides for so long Soraya felt like she’d lost her voice. She knew she needed to start writing for herself again but couldn’t get into the habit. Her solution? Start an accountability group with other writers. Soon she was writing twice daily.
Ky – With distractions at home, Ky looks for writing residency opportunities so she can hunker down and focus. Going away for a week or two gives her the time to build a story arc and break down what she’ll work on when she gets home. She also finds residencies helpful because you’re immersed in a community of writers.
Erica – A run or hike with her dog in the morning with scheduled time after for writing helps Erica stick to a routine. She finds it challenging to sit still for too long so she reminds us “it’s okay to take breaks!” It’s more productive in the long run than sitting at the screen frustrated.
Catherine – Research and gather evidence first, then write, is Catherine’s formula. She also needs physical exercise throughout the day to help her stay focused.
Geraldine – Creating a space where she won’t be disturbed, turning off her phone and setting boundaries with herself (like not checking emails) helps Geraldine make the physical and mental space for writing. She also takes daily walks to help ideas flow and always packs her trusty notebook.
On Engaging the Reader
Catherine – When writing online, Catherine says the first step to engaging readers is making sure they can find you! To help your article or blog rank on search engines research what keywords you should be using, how to write your headline and other SEO best practices.
Soraya – Agreeing with Catherine, Soraya says it’s also good to have a variety of types of blog posts, ones that are aimed at search terms plus longer form narratives – informational, plus personal. She likes to write from personal experience so people don’t feel like they’re reading a textbook. She believes we need to see more stories from a diverse range of perspectives because that is what helps trigger new, fresh solutions.
Geraldine – Straddling the worlds of art and science, Geraldine finds it helpful to have different writing “identities” like as a scientist or a creator. This is what allowed her to get more personal in her book Sea Sisters. She believes in using the power of the arts to help science feel more accessible.
Ky – The more personal a story, the more engaging the science is what Ky finds. She says that when you get really specific, more people can enter the story through a “character”. She’s also found that “we become numb to what we fear,” so using a personal narrative helps stop people from shutting out an issue.
On Overcoming Writer’s Block
Erica – First things first, Erica says if you have writer’s block – don’t panic! Accept that it is a part of writing. Whenever it pops up for her she reflects on her recent selfcare, addressing things like lack of sleep or stress first because that could be what’s blocking her creative energy.
Soraya – “Write anyways,” is Soraya’s advice. Even if it’s terrible, awkward or only an outline it will help you get past the intimidation of the “blank page.” She also says it’s good to check-in and see if you’re being too self conscious or critical, if that’s the case, write something for your eyes only to take the pressure off.
Geraldine – Time for herself is something Geraldine swears by, saying it can take weeks or months to find ideas and she needs the time and space to let them come.
Ky – Having a conversation with a friend is what Ky likes to do when she encounters writer’s block. She says it’s helpful to see what does or doesn’t stick with them. She also likes to read related stories because they make her thinks about how she would’ve written it, helping her anchor into her voice again.
On Staying Inspired as a Writer
Erica – Time on the water is essential for Erica, she says “I realized that I get lost in the vastness of the ocean and it is a lot like getting lost in the vastness of a very deep thought, I love and need that.”
Geraldine – Figure out what draws you to a topic from the perspective of your knowledge/skillset, she says, “Part of microplastic is about invisibility…This is something as an anthropologist that really interests me.”
Soraya – Thinking about “How we should be telling stories, who’s story we should be telling and how to get them out the world,” is where Soraya starts looking for fresh ideas.
Catherine – In her case, inspiration comes from the things she cares about like her family and people’s wellbeing. She says to think about common questions in your field of knowledge and if there might be a book waiting in the answers.