You and We the People: Writing for Change

One lazy man is called a disgrace, two lazy men are called a law firm, and three or more a congress.

John Adams in the musical 1776

Although America’s follies and problems approach in size and gravity its potential and stature, the United States is the best and greatest country the world has ever had. The signing of the Declaration of Independence is worthy of celebration, if only to remind us of how unlikely an enterprise America was at its birth, how remarkable its vision of America, and our role in keeping its ideals alive.

On the morning of America’s birthday, I want to recommend a speech and a musical comedy for you to watch. One may change your mind, the other your life. The first is a talk by John Perkins, author of Hit Man: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–an What We Need to Do to Remake Them. You can watch it at Perkins says that despite corporate bribes and paralyzing partisanship, we, as citizens, can determine America’s future.

America is a centrist country, but politicians and the public usually hear more from zealots at the ends of the political spectrum, rather than the middle. Parkins asked his audience to do one thing every day to make the world better, an idea as powerful as it is simple. More than ever before, writers have the opportunity, not just to make a living, but to make a difference. It’s easier than ever for the right idea and the right book to change the world, and the Internet enables you reach the world with your fingertips.

Perkins said that when Rachel Carson sat down at her small desk in her Pennsylvania home to write about how DDT was harming the planet, she had no idea that she would write The Silent Spring, a bestseller that became a classic that liberated the world from DDT and started the international environmental movement.

Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, your passion and your gift for portraying the challenges we face, and proposing solutions, can make a difference. Knowing how big a difference you can make is impossible, but it’s much greater than you think.

How about writing and signing you own declaration of independence from whatever is keeping you from becoming the best, most creative and productive person you were born to be and that only you can be? Free yourself from beliefs, people, and activities that waste your resources, but don’t help you achieve your goals. That will be something for you to celebrate every day.

A revolution won is a revolution lost. When people believe there’s nothing more to fight for and just enjoy the fruits of victory, they begin to lose what was so costly to win. The only way to win a revolution is to keep striving to keep its ideals alive, especially at a time of political impasse, accelerating change, and the growing urgency of the problems we face. Our hyper-connected planet has only one economy and only one family: the human family. As Benjamin Franklin warned, we have to hang together, or we will hang separately.

For America to work, we have to do what we must to keep the vision of the Declaration of Independence alive and perpetually strive to fulfill its dream of a free, independent, thriving country, united by the compromises needed to balance contrary beliefs.

Every 4th of July, Elizabeth and I watch 1776, a Tony-winning  musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence that has important lessons we ignore at our peril. The show brings to life the remarkable but all-too-human men who made it possible.  The show captures how divided and ineffective Congress was at its birth, how one vote made the difference, and the disastrous compromise on slavery required to make America possible despite overwhelming odds.

No matter where you are in your life or your writing career, remember Anne Frank’s words: “It’s never too late to start doing the right thing.” America’s only hope is to remain a revolution in progress that we keep alive with our efforts. Have a happy 5th


The 4th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference: Changing the World One Book at a Time will take place September 15th at the Unitarian Universalist Center, Geary & Franklin Streets,

The goal of the blog is to help you and me understand writing and publishing. Rants, comments, questions, and answers needed to make the blog more helpful.

The 4th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference:

Changing the World One Book at a Time

September 15, 2012 / Unitarian Universalist Center / Franklin & O’Farrell, San Francisco

The 10th San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / February 14-17, 2013 / / / /@SFWC/

San Francisco Writers University / Where Writers Meet and You Learn / Laurie McLean, Dean/free classes/

415-673-0939 / 1029 Jones Street / San Francisco, 94109