How to be (effectively) outspoken on paper.
Other than an occasional snarky jab (in a moment of weakness or high dudgeon) at a nameless politician we all recognize, I have avoided politics in this blog.
That is to say, the Write Stuff is not a “political” column. However, perhaps now is the time for at least an apolitical one.
I presume that many of you who read the Independent are aspiring writers yourselves but have yet to take pen to paper or finger to keyboard.
So, here’s your chance.
Instead of fulminating about the current political and/or cultural situation, write a short essay about one aspect of it and send it off to media outlets and/or your elected representatives. You can also post it on social media, of course.
Now, here’s the rub: Whatever you write should not be a screed.
Instead, choose an issue — immigration, North Korea, tariffs, global warming, healthcare, crime, gay pride, racism, military spending, gun control, elites, unions, Evolution, veterans, the national anthem, etc. — that’s been riling folks up recently, and write a reasoned argument from one side or the other. Avoid condemnations. Use facts that cannot be easily dismissed as “fake news.” Avoid naming names, past and present.
The essays do not have to be long, and by sticking to one subject at a time, they shouldn’t be. Write as many essays as you want and try not to lump topics together. You are not trying to change anyone’s mind. By sticking to verifiable facts, you are hopefully educating readers (yourself not least of all).
If I were to write an essay on, say, Social Security, I’d want to investigate recent claims that the fund will soon run out. I’d want to know what the government’s alternatives are. If I thought I had a cogent case, I’d want to make it to someone, such as a congressman, who might vote on the problem sometime.
I realize that hot-button issues stir emotional reactions. But keep emotion out of your essays. Just the facts, ma’am! And if you are conflicted about an issue? All the better! Make a case for each side without demonizing the other.
This is not just an exercise in citizenship. If you are going to be an author, it’s good practice. When you develop your plots, you may want to reference some of the issues of the day without sounding like a polemic yahoo.
The same goes for your characters, some of whom you may actually intend to be yahoos. But that’s a lot easier to do when you know what you’re talking about.
Although Lawrence De Maria was a Pulitzer-nominated New York Times reporter, many people would argue that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. He often uses the “Martini Defense” to deflect criticism. He has just published a box set of his early Jake Scarne thrillers on Amazon. It is available at ST. AUSTIN’S PRESS (BOOKS BY DE MARIA).