How to get started with writing

Rachel Eborall and Louis Bayman argue that socialists need to get writing – and offer some thoughts and advice on how to encourage this.

We know that for some people writing can be a daunting experience. To socialists this should come as no surprise. Capitalism is a system that stymies creativity, undermines confidence and fosters anxiety. Many believe that writing should be left to academics or theoreticians. But we need people from all backgrounds to write articles on a range of topics in order to have the most fruitful discussions.

This website is yours. We want your contributions. We are especially keen to gather articles from a wide range of writers and to include and develop comrades who may not have written anything before. An article can be anything from a short report, an opinion, a news item to a lengthy extended discussion or essay. It is open for you to decide what kind of piece you would like to start with. Here are some tips and thoughts about how to go about this.

● Start out with an idea. What question, event, problem, gap, misunderstanding, has been on your mind lately? If you tell us why it is important, you now have an argument to probe and develop.

● Persuade your reader. Imagine that the person reading is probably supportive, but a bit sceptical. Tell us the reasons why you think the way you do, and what you might say to people who could legitimately disagree. Elaborate on the more arguable parts, but don’t be afraid to state boldly what you ultimately believe.

● Keep the main point in mind. This is the first of hopefully many opportunities to have your say. You do not have to say everything, just what is necessary to build on your particular argument. Rather than turning on a mental tap, you are doing something with a real purpose: reasoned communication with a public of active and engaged socialists. Don’t be afraid to cut parts that no longer fit too well into the general flow of your piece; they can form the basis for another article.

● If you need to criticise others, this is to be welcomed. Make sure you adequately and fairly convey their views, or you will look like you have an axe to grind. You can choose whether to use their own words or paraphrase them, but you will be really persuasive – and show that your views mark an improvement on theirs – if you present your opponent’s arguments in their strongest form.

● The article is a contribution to discussion. Don’t worry if it isn’t a masterpiece of English literature nor Trotsky’s statement on the storming of the Winter Palace. It is yours, and it is valuable. It will be provisional, it will be imperfect, and it will be one part of a flourishing of socialist debate. So most of all, get started, write some thoughts down – and send them to us, warts and all. You will do us and yourself a service.

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