Sunday, July 30, 2006

Writing Letters As A Hobby

One way to get involved is to write letters. This type of hobby is one that many people take very seriously. Do not be put off by the idea that you will not be making a difference. Letter-writing is an incredibly powerful way to make your voice heard. You will need to get educated on the issues and then you can begin your own personal letter-writing campaign. The first place most people write is to an elected official. If the Senate is considering an important bill, make your voice heard. If your local council representative made a poor decision, let her know.

After you have written a few letters to your representatives, you may be willing to let other people know how you feel. For example, you may want to write a letter to the editor in your community paper. These letters typically are for the public to view so that you may share your opinion with other people. If you are going to write a letter to the editor, then you should begin by reading the guidelines that your paper has set forth. In some cases, papers will not allow anonymous letters, and they almost always have word limits. Adhering to these guidelines will help you to get your letter published in the paper.

A third place to send your letters is to government leaders. These leaders may not represent you specifically. In fact, they may not be in your country at all. Amnesty International, the largest human rights organization in the world, has made itself known for getting political prisoners released through letter writing campaigns to international leaders. If you are interested in this type of writing, you simply have to join Amnesty International. You will receive a packet in the mail every month that will let you know of dire international situations, and you will be able to select the person to whom to send the letter.

There are a few basic rules to keep in mind when you are sending letters. The first is to be polite. Calling someone names or saying decisions are stupid is not going to win you any brownie points. No one will read past the first couple of sentences, and your letter will do no good. The second rule is to make the letter as personal as possible. Perhaps you do not live in the nation to whose leader you are writing, but you visited there on vacation. Include that information. Let the person know that you care and not that you are just writing the letter for something to do.

Keep the letter short and to the point. Let us be honest. Most of the time, the person to whom you addressed the letter will not be the one reading it. The person reading it will be someone who is an assistant or even an intern. These people may have hundreds of letters to read every week. They probably will not respond to you directly. Instead you will receive a form letter thanking you for your interest in the topic. Do not be discouraged. These assistants are trained to keep track of how many people write about an issue and the side they take. That helps the person you are writing gauge public opinion on the topic.

By keeping the letter to three or four paragraphs, you are allowing the assistant reading the letter to do the job more quickly. That person will be able to know quickly where you stand, which will help your letter to have sway in the numbers game that most politicians play.

Writing letters really can become a life-changing hobby. I cannot tell you how exciting it is to see that a political prisoner for whom you wrote a letter was released from prison or how fun it is to see your Representative change his mind on a key vote when you were one of the constituents who made your voice heard or the amazement you will feel when someone lets you know that your letter to the editor touched her heart.

Sharing your opinion can be very powerful, and if you are searching for a low impact hobby that matters, then you should give it a shot.

By Julia Mercer

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