These days, when Jennifer Hofmann turns to her computer, it’s often to step out from behind her anonymity as a professional ghostwriter. In fact, her new pursuit of writing weekly “Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience” on InspiredJen.com pushes her well beyond her comfort zone as a self-described introvert.
The whole initiative started about three weeks after the election when she got together with a group of like-minded women who were disappointed with the results of the election, and who wanted to become more engaged in the community. Although Jen teaches social media at a local college in Oregon, most of the others shared a mutual dislike of social media. When Jen decided to develop a website to help people take action, her goal was to make it user-friendly for those who were not tech-savvy. So she began writing posts on her website, sending an email each Sunday, to help people understand how to effectively take action in today’s political environment.
Because the election was so polarizing, many neophytes to the role of activist have expressed a desire to become more involved in politics and in their community in general. They want to communicate their concerns and values in a way that will be heard, but they don’t necessarily know how to do so.
“One of the things I noticed on social media is that there has been an escalation of anger and a resistance to dialogue, on both sides of the aisle. It’s hard to constantly be in conflict.”
She began her newsletter on November 20, sending it to 40 people. That first newsletter was shared 1600 times. The weekend of the Women’s Peace Rally right after the inauguration, her website got 30,000 hits a day and almost crashed. She now has 60,000 newsletter subscribers.
Jen was inspired by Michelle Obama’s quote, “When they go low we go high,” which helped influence the creation of the newsletter. When she talks about the process of writing it, she says, “I’m very conscious to omit inflammatory words and phrases. I try to make it easy to take action without getting upset, and I fact check everything.”
The information she presents falls into three categories. The first is the current news cycle.
“I research what’s currently happening through a variety of legitimate, mainstream media, including those that are middle of the road, as well as sources on the left and the right. I avoid “trigger words,” try to be as objective as possible, and try to provide a balanced perspective.
She notes that this strategy has helped her see and share news, without getting as agitated as she used to, because it is filtered through the lens of constructive information.
“Finally, I research the things that happened four to six weeks ago that fallen out of the current news cycle, but are still important and need attention. I am fortunate that a group of librarians reached out to me, volunteering to do research in this area.”
“One of the most important things I advise everyone is the need for self-care. It’s important to nourish yourself in whatever ways you find most relaxing…taking a walk, enjoying your family, dancing, music, sports, playing with the cat, reading a book.…”
She acknowledges that activism can be overwhelming and exhausting, and advises caution so as not to burn out.
When asked how she has develops her advice on the best ways to communicate to make sure one’s message is heard, she responds, “when I started this, I was a novice at the political process. I often wondered if copying and pasting messages on facebook was the best way to get a message across. So I began calling my Senators and Congressmen, who are great collaborative resources, and who are grateful for the support. I made some mistakes in the beginning, and that’s not such a big deal when 40 people are receiving your newsletter. But when it goes out to 60,000, it better be accurate!” She laughs.
As she astutely points out, “The things we’re afraid of are those we don’t know how to handle.”
Like Jen, many of today’s activists are new to politics, new to the role of social advocate, and don’t know the best way to communicate effectively in the political arena. Jennifer’s website provides a weekly dose of reassurance and guidance on the most effective steps to take to make positive change.
by Carol White Llewellyn