It’s no secret that I have an interest in politics. I also have a passion for writing. These two realms of my personality are not mutually exclusive; indeed, writing and politics often come together – from speeches written to address the public to the slew of emails politicians send out come election time. One doesn’t need to have a career in political writing to combine these two interests, though.
As a writer, you can put those skills to use to support your own causes and interests in writing for change – or writing letters to elected officials to express your point of view on a specific issues. This can be a letter supporting some current course of action, against a course of action, in response to a law that has already passed or to an upcoming bill that is coming up for vote on the floor before your local, state, or federal representative.
Omar Ahmad, former mayor of San Carlos, gave a riveting TED Talk on the effectiveness of letter writing as a form of political action and feedback directly from the people to the politician.
“What actually works, and the answer is actually strange: it’s a letter. We live in a digital world but we’re fairly analog creatures.”
Ahmad, in his talk, offers some great tips when it comes to writing for change, and I wanted to highlight and give a summary those points here:
1) Hand-write – handwritten letters are a rarity and are sure to catch the attention of the person reading. Just make sure you write neatly.
2) Write at least once a month – the more often politicians here from you, the more likely they are to recognize your name and pay attention to what you are saying.
3) Format for an effective letter:
A) Appreciate them: maybe not them, but their effort? Or some aspect of their job?
B) State your purpose: But what’s really on my mind is…(don’t attack people, attack tactics)
C) Offer a solution or way out of the problem: I’d like to see…
D) Offer help: If you have no one providing this information, let me help.
E) Don’t just sign it! Let them know who you are, why they should care, and what kind of influence you have.
4) When it comes to mailing your letter, send an original to district office and a copy for main office. This will help your letter get into the fold of letters that the elected officially actually has to read.
To find your local, state, or federal level official, check out USA.Gov and then it’s up to you to write a letter showing that you are politically engaged and care about the politics that are going on around you.
And, who knows, perhaps writing monthly to your local, state, and/or federal politicians will spark some inspiration for your next writing piece or launch your political career. If you do happen to become the next President of the United States, don’t forget the power of handwritten letters and how they can change minds.