“Oh, I don’t have anything interesting to share with other doulas.”
“I couldn’t do that. I’m not a great writer.”
“I don’t have any earthly idea of what I would write about.”
Have you said any of these things in the last week, month or year? Thought them? Would something along these lines be your first thought if Susan Troy, Managing Editor of the International Doula or I asked you about writing an article to share with DONA International’s membership? Well, dear doula, you are not alone! Writing, for many people, is scary. And I assure you, Susan and I have heard all of these many times before. But I would bet you do have something to say, that it will be interesting to other doulas and, with some editing help, will be a very well written piece. Whether it’s a post for DONA International’s blog, an article for the International Doula magazine or a piece for your own blog, here are some tips to get past the fear of having nothing to say. And yes, Susan or I would be happy to talk with you about an article for either publication. Check out the information at end of this post about submitting an article or idea.
Don’t think you have to have a beautifully polished and grammatically perfect article to submit for The DONA Doula Chronicles or International Doula. That’s what editors are for! In fact, reaching out with an article idea outlining what you’d cover is often the best way to get started. Then you can get feedback on how to approach, expand or condense your idea before you spend a great deal of time on it.
But really, I don’t have anything to say
Settling on a topic is no easy task, so before you abandon the idea altogether, know that everyone, even professional writers, struggle with this! Here are some questions to ask to help prompt some ideas. And remember, not every idea will lead to an amazing article that everyone will want to read. Some will be good and some will be just OK. That’s fine. The idea is to generate ideas first, then evaluate them and choose one (more on that process in a moment).
And, if even after going through the process outlined below you are still stuck for a topic, don’t fret. Susan and I keep a running list of ideas we’d like to cover in our respective publications. Feel free to reach out about the areas you feel most passionate and well-versed in and we can share relevant topics we’d like to cover.
Start with digging into you – what makes you unique in how you practice as a doula, the services you offer or your approach to doula support? Starting here makes sure you are being true to yourself. This question might lead to articles about:
- Answering the “What did you do before you become a doula?” question from prospective clients. Doulas who were raising families before they entered the birth or postpartum support profession often struggle with this, worrying that they won’t appear “professional.” Those who left an unrelated job or career to become a doula want to link their experience in a way that makes sense. An article could offer tips on how to share your story as a doula without oversharing and how to illustrate strengths and skills from non-doula work or roles.
- Communicating what makes you unique in your marketing and prospective client communications. An article about how to infuse one’s philosophy of doula support or other unique factor into their practice. Share a little about what makes you unique and provide examples of how you are sharing these traits in all aspects of your practice. How does what you believe about doula support impact how you handle inquiries, create service packages, describe your services, promote your practice or connect with others in the birth or postpartum community? You could also interview a peer that you respect and dig deeper into these questions with them.
- There are so many more specific topics that could come from this exploration including choosing a logo, deciding who to reach out to for networking, choosing doula partners or independent contractors to work with, how to handle inquiries that are not a fit for you, etc.
What piece of doula support are you most passionate about and why?
- If the interview or consult is what you love most, an article about why you feel so strongly about it and how this makes you better able to serve your clients would be very interesting to other doulas. The same would be true about teaching families about babywearing or postpartum visits after providing birth support.
- Do you feel an area of doula support is overlooked often by other doulas? Why is that? What are they not seeing? How would greater emphasis on this help their clients and their practice?
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself as you walked into your very first doula training? The answer to this question would provide very valuable insight and advice to new doulas and be a fun read for experienced doulas too! Related questions would be: What advice would you give yourself as you worked toward certification? First thought about expanding your practice into other areas?
What unique experiences have you had as a doula? You’ve had some, believe me! It’s easy to immediately think, “I haven’t had any unique experiences!” but I’m willing to bet you’ve learned many lessons that could help another doula navigate the same experience.
- Have you moved and had to restart your practice in an entirely new place? What was that like? What advice do you have for someone in a similar situation? This article would be very popular given how often families move for a spouse’s job, military reassignment or to be near family.
- Have you provided support to a family in a unique situation that you can share? What did you learn from that experience? How did it impact how you supported other families later? What would do differently if you were in that situation again?
- Have you travelled a long distance or even temporarily relocated to support a client? Would you do it again? How could you have been better prepared?
- Have you formed a unique partnership or relationship with a person or organization that has had a significant impact on you as a doula? How did that relationship come to be? Were you looking for it? What impact has it had on you and your practice?
- Have you taken a break from doula support? Why? How did that break change how your approached or provided support when you returned to the profession?
How do you doula yourself and your practice?
- How do you make sure you are ready and able to support your clients when and how they need you? Is that self-care? Organization? Scheduling? How did you come to know you needed to do that? We can learn a lot from each other here, and I bet you do more than you give yourself credit for, let others learn from that!
- Who do you go to for help? Where do you get support when making decisions about your practice, whether it’s adding a new service or person to your team or whether to participate in a local event? How do these resources help you be a better and more successful doula? Was asking for help hard for you? How did you move past that? Have you found help or support in unlikely places?
From Idea to Article
Brainstorming is a process. Once you’ve gone through these questions, share both the questions and your answers with someone who knows you as a doula. What do they see that’s not on your list? What ideas do they get excited about? If they mention that they read something similar to one of your ideas, don’t be discouraged. Ask for the link so you can read the article yourself. Do you agree with it? If not or not completely, consider writing a response to it sharing your view. It doesn’t have to a contentious article, just another experience or viewpoint.
You don’t have an advanced degree in English to write an article for one of our publications (my education is in psychology and business!), but there are a few things you do need:
- Willingness to take feedback and direction. We know our audience, the content mix we are trying to achieve, how past articles did and what other pieces are in the works. Our feedback is not personal, we all want the article to be the best it can be and resonate with as many readers as possible.
- Commitment to seeing the article through. If we’re holding space for your article, we need to know we’re going to get it. Nothing is harder than to hear about a great article idea and plan space for it then not actually get it! We will follow-up with you to a degree, but the article is your responsibility to finish in time for publication.
While it may not rank up there at the same level of fear as public speaking, writing can be very intimidating. Venturing into new territory is always uncomfortable. Even when we’ve done something before, if we don’t feel confident in ourselves, it’s easy to feel intimidated. Our clients come to us to help them navigate giving birth, breastfeeding and bonding with a new baby because it’s filled with unknowns. If you can help families through those experiences, surely you can write an article sharing your knowledge and experience!
Ready? Great! You can reach Susan with your ideas or draft articles at firstname.lastname@example.org or me at email@example.com. And don’t worry, if you reach out to one of us but your idea is a better fit for their other publication, we’ll connect you.
— Adrianne Gordon, CD(DONA), MBA with gratitude to Susan Troy!