Writing for a Cause

Emerging and experienced writers alike, we’re all wanting our work to gain exposure and recognition (and yes, a good living from our craft would be appreciated!) I have been a freelance writer since my school days, penning articles, essays, short stories and poetry for publication.

I received my first payment for words when I was in nursing school; I wrote an article on spec for a newsletter geared to nurses’ aides for which I received a check for $15.00. “Chump change”, as we used to say. Still, that small reimbursement was the beginning of a composite career for me. I wrote nursing and healthcare related articles, I wrote travel essays, I wrote skydiving and sailing articles and stories. Whatever I did I wrote about it. If I could sell what I had written, or if I could wrangle an assignment, then so much the better. My long term goal was to publish a novel. This finally happened when Alfred A. Knopf published my historical YA novel Star-Crossed in 2006. More novels would follow.

Becoming a writer can be a lifelong process. As journeymen, we’re looking for exposure, even as we dream of becoming the next J.K. Rowling.

The question is, what do I have to say that has value? Who needs my thoughts, my philosophies, my stories, my experiences, my words?

One answer is community associations and nonprofit organizations. Whether you’re an emerging writer or a seasoned freelancer you’ll benefit from volunteering your word-smithing skills for a cause you care about. You won’t earn a paycheck but you will make a difference and you will develop relationships that matter. You’ll sharpen your research know-how and your editing skills as you write for a specific market. You may go on to write a best-seller but I’ll wager your most important words will be the ones you gave to your cause.

For me, the cause was 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome — the most common genetic deletion no one’s ever heard of — until recently. Because of the large array of disorders that can arise from this random deletion of a gene on the q arm of the twenty-second chromosome, a child born with it encounters acute health problems as well as lifelong challenges. Cardiac, vascular, and palate malformations are common. So are are immune deficiencies, endocrine, renal, musculoskeletal abnormalities, autism-like symptoms, anxiety, and other emotional disorders. People with the 22q deletion are much more likely to develop schizophrenia.

My lovely granddaughter was born with 22q Deletion Syndrome. Her mother — my daughter, Melinda Taylor — helped to start a specialty clinic at Children’s Hospital Colorado, to coordinate the many disciplines involved in the care of children born with 22q. The 22q Specialty Clinic also works to raise awareness among the medical profession and the general public, and helps educate and support families dealing with it. Melinda Taylor also serves on the board of The International 22q Foundation Inc.

Since my granddaughter’s diagnosis and my daughter’s involvement with the clinic and the international foundation, I have helped out editing brochures, administering a 22q Colorado Facebook group, writing letters to the state legislature and developing website content for which I receive no monetary reimbursement or by-line. Far more valuable rewards have come my way knowing my efforts for this cause matter.

Writers, if you’re seeking an audience for your words, if you’re looking to expand your knowledge and develop friendships as well as meaningful professional connections, my advice is to write for a Cause. Those words will likely be the most important ones you’ll ever write.