Politics is a social endeavor. Knocking on doors and talking to strangers can be done solo, but it is energizing and fun to go as a small group. Meeting up afterwards to compare notes and stories is a treat. The main path to electoral success lies in overcoming our shyness, meeting up with other like-minded folk, talking with strangers, and motivating voters to vote.
That said, I have a confession to make. Before this election cycle the most political act in which I engaged was sending an occasional letter to the editor of the Spokesman Review. I would labor for days crafting the perfect letter and worry over how others might perceive the clarity and truth of the points I wished to make. If the letter was not published, I felt a pang of personal rejection. If it was published, I felt my words were somehow sufficient, that I could return to my books having discharged my civic duty.
In the last nearly two years things have come into sharper focus: 1) One letter, no matter how well crafted, is but one drop in the bucket, one toothpick-sized arrow of an idea. 2) The more clever, erudite, ironic and wordy the less likely anyone will read it and even less likely all who need to understand it actually will. 3) The choice of letters to publish is roughly in proportion to the numbers of the letters of a particular slant received by the editor, with some favoritism for letters that concern local issues.
So what is my letter writing advice? Keep if fairly short and pointed. The maximum for the Spokesman is 200 words. You don’t have to use them all. Write often. Don’t fret if a favorite letter is not published. Getting a phone call from the Spokesman staff for permission to publish does not guarantee publication. (Comfort yourself that you are contributing to the effort.) When you do get a letter published mark the date of publication in your calendar. (Letters are ephemera. Once published it is often hard to figure out when it appeared. The Spokesman says it limits publication to one letter per month.) Judging by the letter of some frequent writers, the standards of logic and literacy are not high.
So write! Compose freely. Send frequently. What you write may ring a bell with someone. No one is keeping score or lying in wait with a red pen to grade your work. A week later hardly anyone will remember your name, but a few might remember your idea–and that’s the point.
For reference I’ve copied the Letters Policy for the Spokesman below, but remember there are many other newspapers in CD5 in your local communities. Many of them publish letters and their rules are usually available on line these days.
Spokane Spokesman Review Letters policy
The Spokesman-Review invites original letters of no more than 200 words on topics of public interest. Unfortunately, we don’t have space to publish all letters received, nor are we able to acknowledge their receipt. We accept no more than one letter a month from the same writer.
Please include your daytime phone number and street address. TheSpokesman-Review retains the nonexclusive right to archive and republish any material submitted for publication.
Send letters to:
Letters to the Editor The Spokesman-Review 999 W. Riverside Ave.
Spokane, WA 99201
Questions: (509) 459-5026
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. If you send you letter in by email (the easiest way) and they publish it, it is likely to go in “as is,” that is, copied and pasted. Proofreading is recommended!