You and We the People: Writing for Change

Today’s guest post is written by Michael Larsen, literary agent and author .
This post appeared first on his blog on July 4th.

“One lazy man is a disgrace, two is a law firm, and three is a congress.
—John Adams in the musical 1776.

Will you create change with your writing?Although its follies and problems measure up to 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 it came about, its vision of America, and our role in keeping its ideals alive.

On the Friday after America’s birthday, I want to recommend two things for you to watch. One may change your mind, the other your life. The first is a talk by John Perkins, author of Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–and 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 what happens in this country.

America is a centrist country, but politicians usually hear more from the ends of the political spectrum rather than the middle. He 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. It’s impossible for you to know how big a difference you can make, 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 that 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 growing urgency about the problems we face. The planet has only one hyper-connected economy and only one family: the human family. As Benjamin Franklin warned, we have to hang together, or we will hang separately.

America can only work if we do what we can and 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.

That is one lesson from 1776, a musical that Elizabeth and I watch every 4th of July on TCM. It’s a Tony-winning show with important lessons we avoid at our peril. It shows how divided and ineffective Congress was at its birth, how one vote made the difference, and the disastrous compromise about slavery required to make it happen.

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.”

About the Author

Michael Larsen, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents, believes that now is the best time to be a writer and that the right book will change the world. The agency has sold books to more than 100 publishers and imprints. He is eager to find nonfiction about change that will, with luck, be fail-proof, because of writers’ ideas, writing, platform, and promotion. He has a consultation service for writers he can’t help as an agent, but enjoys counseling writers whose books will be change agents at no cost.

He is the author of the new fourth edition of How to Write a Book Proposal and and the third edition of How to Get a Literary Agent. Mike is coauthor of the second edition of Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 100 No-Cost, Low-Cost Weapons for Selling Your Work . To keep the conference going year round, Elizabeth, Mike, and Laurie McLean started the San Francisco Writers University: Where Writers Meet and You Learn,

He and Elizabeth are co-directors of the 10th San Francisco Writers Conference,, and the 4th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference: Changing the World One Book at a Time on September 15th,

Join Michael and me at 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, Franklin and O’Farrell Streets,


  1. Thank you, Nina Amir, for posting Michael Larsen’s commentary on your blog, and thank you, Michael Larsen, for writing it. I used to walk across the Park College campus, usually from a classroom building or my work assignment on my way back to the dorm I lived in thinking, “I want to make the world a better place for having passed this way.” (circa 1964-1965)

    • Barbara,
      I think writing with the intention to better the world–even one person at a time–is a noble intention. Even when I make no money, if someone emails or comments and tells me I have touched them, changed them, I feel I have done what I am supposed to do as a writer. Thanks for your comment.

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