This article is written for Business Review Weekly (for assignment purposes only). It examines issues faced by organisational writer, Tess Lyon, in her role as media director and writer for an Australian organisation. The article is well suited for the publication, as it is of a similar length to the stories commonly published in the magazine. The content of the article has been tailored to suit the publication’s style, which focuses on emerging Australian organisations and businesses.
IF YOU THINK YOUR JOB IS HARD, THINK AGAIN
Most people who write professionally as a part of their job encounter difficulties with their writing.
‘A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people’- Thomas Mann.
Some of the obstacles faced by professional writers include a lack of inspiration, time constraints, ethical quandaries, trouble finding the right word, or sufferance from the infamous ‘writer’s block’.
BRW spoke to Tess Lyon about the difficulties she faces in her role as the media director and writer for an Australian based organisation, A Billion Little Stones. Tess is responsible for writing the organisation’s blog, press releases, and public statements, as well as contributing to its research report. Her audience includes government officials, public figures, media outlets, and members of the public.
A Billion Little Stones is a not-for-profit organisation, ‘dedicated to preventing genocide and mass atrocities, through building a permanent constituency within the Australian political and social sphere’ (A Billion Little Stones website). The organisation’s name was inspired by a soliloquy written by Josh Singer- former West Wing writer- for a theatre program directed by Voices of Uganda.
‘There is an immovable mountain made of a billion little stones. I cannot move that mountain, but I can lift a stone. If you join me, we can move twice as many stones. And if we get more people to help, one by one, we will move those billion little stones. Together we can move that immovable mountain’.
Tess volunteered with A Billion Little Stones after attending a seminar presented by the organisation’s president at the University of Sydney, where she is an advanced arts student. Her education in subjects such as genocide in historical perspective, international and diplomatic history, Arab/ Israeli history, practical ethics, and moral psychology, combined with her passion for the cause, were the ideal qualifications for the position of media director and writer.
In the twelve months that Tess has worked for A Billion Little Stones, she has faced a number of hurdles in regards to her writing. A crucial component of Tess’s job involves accurately sorting through information, so that her writing can be fluid, succinct, professional, and as informative as possible whilst maintaining the ability to engage its target audience. Whether it be constructing the organisation’s public message through traditional media, or social media, Tess said her job requires her to be, ‘concise but engaging and convincing and that takes a lot of time, effort and perfectionism to achieve’.
Tess spends approximately three-quarters of her time at A Billion Little Stones writing. Of that writing, the most difficult she does is for the report, which takes an ‘in-depth look into the Australian government’s past, present, and potential policy and response to instances of mass atrocities and genocide’. She explained that, ‘it becomes difficult when certain statistics, information and dates have not yet been released to the public, or are not available for research’.
A Billion Little Stones is compiling several case studies to include in the report and Tess is responsible for the composition of four, coming to an approximate total of 10, 000 words. On top of her day-to-day responsibilities, such as writing the press releases and liaisons concerning the report, as well as her academic studies, she said it is sometimes a challenge to find the time to get the work done.
The biggest issue she faces, however, is somewhat of an ethical dilemma. Tess is extremely passionate about the topic and is emotionally invested in the cause, and as such, she finds it hard to write apathetically and to avoid injecting the literature with her own personal opinions. ‘It is testing to write objectively and optimistically about a topic that means so much to me. It is very difficult to remain neutral when writing about something like mass atrocities and genocide’.
To overcome this issue, Tess said that she concentrates on the fact that if she does her job correctly, she is playing an integral role in helping A Billion Little Stones provide a set of realistic recommendations to the Australian government regarding what it can achieve as a powerful actor on the international stage, in standing against mass atrocities and genocide. ‘It is vitally important to our project that we always remain rational and optimistic in our writing’, she said.
To reinforce this mantra Tess laughingly said, ‘I also have the difficult task of convincing the government I am right’. When asked if she thought A Billion Little Stones was capable of achieving this, she replied, ‘I am right, we are right, and the government will eventually see that’. According to the organisation’s website, the current political climate means that it is the ideal time to conduct effective lobbying; ‘Because there is so much importance in every vote, every MP has a voice and can be truly effective in producing legislation’.
Four members of the A Billion Little Stones executive travelled to Canberra in September to support a Sydney MP, as she took a motion to parliament supporting a more active Australian role in opposing the Sudanese mass atrocities currently occurring. The organisation and its impassioned supporters broke the record for the number of members of the public sitting in the chamber for a parliamentary motion.
Tess said that victories like this are not only an indication that the work A Billion Little Stones is doing is a success, but they are also a compensation for all the hard work she has put into the organisation. ‘It was a promising and exciting evening, and demonstrated that our political leaders will engage in the tough issues if their citizens hold them accountable and demand a higher standard of political action’.
The work that Tess and her colleagues at A Billion Little Stones does also serves as a reality check, ‘I may have just rattled off a list of things I find “difficult” about my job, but in the bigger picture, they are trivial’. In comparison to mass atrocities in Sudan, for example, Tess said that the difficulties she encounters in her writing are nonexistent. ‘Perspective is the most important tool available to a writer. When you think your job, or your life is difficult… think again’.