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We’ve started a new system that I’ve been talking about for a while—and that is we are going to email out “writing prompts” to people who either want to write for us or already write for us. Twice per week, we send out an email listing several different writing prompts that highlight different aspects of The Good Men Project conversation we’ve been having. These are story ideas that would be a good fit for our brand and our audience.
We’re really excited about this for a number of reasons. One is that we offer a lot of different “pieces” of the conversation we’re having— we have the articles on the site, we have Social Interest Groups on Facebook and their ConvoCasts—weekly calls where the group members participate in the conversation live, with a facilitator and the other members—we host Twitter chats, share the Best of the Day emails, editor calls . . . And these writing prompts are one way to tie all of those pieces together with a group of people who are most interested in writing and most interested in being heard.
For example—often, on our calls, someone will say something and I’ll think ‘Wow, that would make a great article idea.” And sometimes the person writes about it and sometimes they don’t. But I’d love for people to hear some of these great insights and add their own insights or their own stories to other people’s ideas. That is what Good Men Project is really all about. These writing prompts are a way to do that.
Let me give you some examples of the way we are thinking about writing prompts.
First—from a 60,000 feet up few—our conversation is really about “the changing roles of men in the 21st century.” So prompts that directly talk about men, about the way the world is changing, about the way men’s roles are changing—that is the lens through which we are looking at the world.
Second—within that big picture, there are certain topics that engage our audience. Some of those are:
- Stories of dads, and how the role of dads has changed dramatically over the past few decades
- Stories of the change in dating norms.
- Stories of the rise of LGBT issues, the erasure of homophobia.
- Stories about racism—all kinds of racism, actually— from the violence and marginalization of POC to the characterization and erasure of Native Americans, to the different kind of racism that Asian Americans face.
- Stories of marriage – we’re the only media company that talks about marriage from a male POV.
- Stories of men who have been victims—of sexual abuse or violence.
- Stories of the way Sports reflects the greater culture of masculinity.
Third—for actual story ideas, we are taking that big picture thinking, and the topics that engage people most, and coming up with very specific prompts that we think will make a good STORY. So what we are really looking for on The Good Men Project is not people who will write “about” a topic, per se, but a will tell a story that reflects both what is happening to them as an individual along with some of the bigger changes we see in society.
Here are some examples of some specific prompts in action. Some are serious, some are silly—but all can lead to a story or article that discusses the changing roles of men in the 21st century in an interesting way?
- How we brought our marriage back from the brink
- I’m the dad, and I’m the more emotional parent.
- This is why I don’t like to wear a swimsuit
- 7 things I wish I could tell my guy friends
- 7 things I wish someone had told me about being a man
- 7 ways I’m “girlie” despite being a pretty typical guy
- What is the new definition of strength?
- Tribute to my single mom / single dad
- To be a good dad, do you have to play catch with your son?
- My wife is the breadwinner and I’m happy about that.
- My wife is the breadwinner and I’m trying to figure out my role
- My kids have left the nest, what’s my role as a dad?
- Why I’m glad I’m not a 1950’s nuclear family Dad
- I can’t do [insert sports or tool things dudes are supposed to do] and I’m OK / Not Ok with that
- If money and manliness didn’t matter, here’s the job I’d do
- What it’s like to be the stereotypical man and not agree that there is anything wrong with the man box
- How I rebuilt my life after prison
- The hardest thing to forgive myself for
- Movies I can quote line by line — and what they say about me as a man.
- How raising boys made me a better mom
- What is going on with boys in school today
- I was bullied as a kid, here’s how I healed
- I’m a straight man with a total man-crush on a famous guy
Let’s open it up now and get *your* ideas on what you would like to see us write about more. (And commenters, please add your own ideas!)
Jed Diamond: As most of you know, I have been writing with GMP from the beginning, and it remains one of the greatest places I know to put out information, get information and share information. One of the topics I’d like to see written about more often is mid-life relationships. When we talk about the changing roles of men, I know that part of what that means is traveling through time in my own life—dealing with my own issues, and the seeing how my children have been dealing with their issues and finally seeing how my grandchildren are now dealing with a different set of issues. I’d like to see a post on getting a marriage back from the brink—at age 20, 30, 40, 50, 60.
Rick Gabrielly: This will be great for someone like me to get writing prompts about the issues—I want to write more but I often don’t have the time or don’t think about it.
Kahllil: This is my first time on a call. I am a Criminal Justice Reform Advocate. I’d like to have a larger conversation that takes into account the amount of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in this country. How can men be a father while in jail? How can they maintain a marriage while incarcerated. How can they develop relationships or maintain a marriage after incarceration? I’d also like to recognize that there are systemic issues around what is right and what is wrong.
Cynthia: My topics of interest are at the intersection of spirituality and health. I saw a cute little piece on the Today Show. Dads were invited to hair salons to learn how to braid their daughter’s hair. I’d like to hear more about the specific ways dads are connecting with their daughters. Also, I’d like to hear more about the mutual respect men and women can have for each other. For example, even in the language that we use. Guys say they were “dragged to a ChickFlix” when they go to a movie marketed by women. I bet an equal number of women feel “dragged to an action movie”. Why is even the kind of entertainment we watch different? And finally—book clubs. I think most people would agree, but correct me if I’m wrong, guys—that it’s mostly women who join book clubs. And they read mostly novels. Why is it men read more non-fiction?
Jon Beaty: I would appreciate more stories on the challenges men are facing mid-life. I just turned 50 and I have seen peers struggling with things they hadn’t in the past. There seems to be a need for more conversation about ways men can related to daughters in a healthy way in a culture that seems to be increasingly sexualized. To help them appreciate that it is more than how they look even when society tells them otherwise. What role can dads play in helping their daughters?
Brent Green: I’d like to see more issues of men in the context of breaking news. I was watching CNN, and there was a segment with George Bush and Bill Clinton, who it appeared had become friends even though they had been political enemies. They were having a reflection on their granddaughters. Another news item I found more trouble was the story of the young men in the Oklahoma City Fraternity—filming themselves singing racist songs while holding a confederate flag. I want to know—what are the young men thinking?
Mark Sherman: I hear all this talk about raising daughters and granddaughters, but I have sons and grandsons and I think they need help too. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think we’ve had a President in the White House in more than 20 years who had a son or grandson. I’d really like to know how young men feel these days. You hear a lot of stories about sexual assaults on college campuses, and how does this make men feel? Also, the stereotype that men don’t want to share their feelings may have some basis in a statistical truth. Maybe we don’t know how they are feeling.
Rob Watson: The content we run is not to lecture dads but to emphasize the stories of the dad who are doing such a great job today. When we get to men and their feelings—well, men are 3x more likely to commit suicide and are less likely to ask for help about things that relate to the way they are feeling. So it’s not just a problem—it’s a life-threatening problem.
Karen Leeds: I’m wondering if we can experiment with format—for example, my daughter sent me a letter and I sent her one back. Would that type of different format be valuable? [Editors note: Yes]
Cynthia Barnett: I’d like to see more on men as caregivers. Or—men being cared for. How does your view of being a man change when you go to being cared for? Also, we joke about how women ask for directions, men don’t. But doesn’t that go back to the point about men not asking for help, and this can effect everything from dynamics in the workplace to suicide? Could it be because men are socialized to be strong and women are socialized to need help?
Mark Sherman: Paternity leave is a good idea—a lot of men are very involved with childcare. Sweden has a paid parental leave–can be any parent–which makes sense. What I’ve seen in terms of the biggest changes in our cutlure have been in the area of fathers. I’ve watched myself be a more involved father than my father, and my children become more involved fathers than me.
Tom Beaty: I’m interested in stories on workplace and careers. Especially in today’s economy, I find men taking jobs for which they are not trained and not qualified—but they have to, especially in mid-life, because they have been let go. But often, so much of their identity was tied up in what they were doing at work.
Lisa Hickey: What about men in the media? How does the media either reinforce or break down stereotypes?
Dave Kanegis: Media doesn’t break down stereotypes—it reflects what is going on in our culture today. As opposed to The Good Men Project, which is actively trying to change those stereotypes. Part of the problem is, say in television–it’s such a homogenous group who is doing the programming. The one show that does it differently is Jon Stewart–he actively tries to dispel myths.
Mark Sherman: Humor has to be at the edge of people’s consciousness. A lot of great comedians try to get people to say “Oh, I know!” in their minds.
Dave Kanegis: Mark, I’d like to add to what you just said—humor must resonate with the audience. When something resonates, a light bulb goes off. “Yeah that’s me!” And then they laugh.
Lisa Hickey: It’s interesting—we were talking about laughter last week. How it almost seems involuntary. And yet there is that process that Dave just described, but it goes really fast.
Mark Sherman: I remember hearing about a guy who ran a Stand-Up Comedy club. And a comedian was auditioning for the show, in front of a group of people. And this guy, instead of being in the audience with the others, he was in the kitchen. And someone said, “Don’t you want to see the guy auditioning?” And the guy said, “I don’t have to see him. If the people in the audience aren’t laughing, he’s not good.”
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Photo: Tsahi Levent-Levi / flickr