With election season in full swing, I look around the political environment and quietly compare it to the days of our Founding Fathers. Back then, the politicians stood out because of their capacity to think, to communicate thoughts effectively, and quite often to write down their beliefs in very eloquent essays and briefs. Such a person would be referred to as a Man of Letters - though nowadays it's more politically correct to call such a person an intellectual. Sadly, that same term is also used to shame someone by suggesting they're smarter than everyone. Watch the political ads - being an intellectual is not a big selling point.
Where are the people of letters, the intellectuals these days? Sadly, they are a dying breed. There are still journalists who produce excellent books discussing the state of world affairs, developments in the realms of politics, society, and so on, but they are a niche market. Most people stick to reading novels, and most authors inhabit the world of writing those novels. Maybe the occasional autobiography comes out, but they are often more storytelling than a persuasive essay. Indeed, the persuasive essay, as simple as it is, is becoming a lost art for the mainstream.
For this reason, I am recommending an exercise simply called, "Write about a belief." Start with a simple statement about, say, an incident that happened where your belief was challenged. Then just start writing about your belief, how you would defend that belief, and what points support how you feel. You can address opposing opinions if you feel like it, but it's hardly a requirement. The only obligation you have as a writer (or person of letters) is to be honest to yourself with what you say, and communicate things as precisely as you can.
Is this going to help you write The Great American Novel? Well, you'd be surprised. The more essays you write and the more you develop being persuasive in making your points, the stronger and more convincing your stories, characters, and plots become. Your creative mind starts to focus on the importance of different features, the significance of detail, and the ever-important believability. In short, your creative mind benefits from the intellectual side, and the result is inevitably better writing.
Hopefully this gives a little food for thought. So, hopefully, after you vote, take advantage of that high you might get from civic responsibility and write something about why you did what you did, and why it's the right thing for you to do. Or, at the very least, go vote.
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