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Scott Lax Blog

Jean Paul Sartre and Me - on Writing and Politics

"A writer who takes political, social or literary positions must act only with the means that are his. These means are the writer's words." - Jean Paul Sartre, on refusing the Nobel Prize.

I think at last I understand this. While I am somewhat active in social and civic causes, I've found - often to my frustration - that I am far more effective at trying to effect change or express a viewpoint through writing than any other activity.

I'm not a politician, though politics affects my life and I feel deeply about what I believe to be right, and to be wrong in this country. A barbaric and cruel health care system, for starters; an educational system that is so systemically flawed as to be caving in upon itself, for another; a disturbing movement of frighteningly ignorant Tea Partiers that are in danger of dismantling national civility and progress. On the other hand, we are the land of a lot of compassionate and creative people.

I'm not a true civic leader, though I lend my limited abilities to causes I believe in. I'm not a business leader, or motivational speaker, though I speak to many groups. If I motivate them, good; if not, I'm not going to use glib techniques or gimmicks to try to get people to write everyday, for example. People will do what they will; all I can do is share my experience with them, and if that resonates, they'll act on it. If it doesn't, they'll go have lunch.

After all, I am just a writer. I have learned to embrace this, for I realize it's what life has given me to use. My only truly effective means to effect change or people's ways of looking at things - or to entertain - are through my written words. Read More