Tips for finding the courage to express anger in writing

When I read a letter from my Catholic bishop, Robert Lynch, to the faithful, it made me angry. Although it was framed as an issue of Church and State, I took the letter as a direct attack on President Obama and his health care reform efforts.

I wondered why my bishop and others had chosen to enter the political fray on an issue involving contraception. Why now, and why over birth control, I wondered? Why not about the growing income inequality? Why not about homelessness? Why not about war?

So I wrote the column, which appeared in Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times last week, and have spent most of my time since answering, one by one, more than 300 emails of condemnation or support. Many readers thanked me for what they imagined was my “courage.” Others wrote that they wished they could find the courage to express themselves on such a hot button issue. They felt they lacked the means to write something strong, and the guts to deal with serious consequences that come from speaking truth to power.

I believe that every writer has one of these columns in him or her — a column derived from righteous anger that is looking for a path from the heart and soul into the sunshine.

In this week’s writing chat, we talked about how you can find the courage to write such a column. I offered related tips for journalists and writers in general, answered questions, and responded to feedback from chat participants. You can replay the chat here:

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  • Anonymous

    No courage is needed to further the liberal agenda here or anywhere else because you feel safe in doing so.

    It never ceases to amaze me how most “journalists” have so much left-wing bias but aren’t even aware they are biased.

    How about the issue of free speech?

    The First Amendment applies to all U.S. Citizens, including church officials.

    If you don’t agree with their point of view, take it up with the appropriate church official.

    That would take real courage.

    David Vine
    Aiken, SC

  • Anonymous

    While I agree that unbridled, uncontrolled anger is a dangerous thing, controlled, focused anger can be a genuine agent of clarity. If all we can is present issues in a dispassionate fashion, I think all we’ll get in response to our words of exhortation is a dispassioned response.  And that’s not enough.

    Public officials, those in power, are seldom moved to action, especially revision, if they do not sense the beast has awakened. My experience has shown me that we must be moved before we can move our readers.

  • Mallary Tenore

    Hi Barry,

    This is a good question, and one that we plan to address in the chat. Hope you’ll tune in.


  • Barry Hollander

    Isn’t writing while angry like writing while drunk, something best avoided?