The Opinion Writing Process

I find it comes in drips and droves.

Some days I’ll be sitting, pouring through Twitter feeds and news sites for hours, contemplating story after story. What do I think about this subject? Is what I think unique? Can I articulate it the way I want to? Do I know enough about it? Is it going to be of interest to enough people?

As the ideas circle around in my head, I get dizzy. Not knowing what to do, I often just keep reading, keep watching the world. Maybe if I watch for long enough I’ll see something I can write about.

So often I find it’s the ideas¬†which I lack. Execution can sometimes be tricky, especially if it’s a particularly contrarian or controversial argument. But sometimes it pays to be edgy.

Never edgy for edgy-ness’ sake, no, never. Your audience can always tell, I think. Fake rage is frivolous. What’s more, it’s harder to write. When you’re in a true position; have considered all the angles; really have this yearning desire to speak up, that’s when you’re ready to write.

Or, at least, when I’m ready.

My process of writing opinion typically follows an order not greatly dissimilar to this:

  1. Find an opinion –
    As mentioned, this tends to be the hardest part for me.
  2. Research that opinion –
    I’ll sometimes look up other opinion pieces on the subject to grasp an understanding of the common arguments to differentiate myself or to refute those points, but more often than that I’ll do some serious fact-finding to shore-up my position. Often, though, these facts have appeared before me when I saw a news article somewhere, so I tend to start with their quoted sources, and then move on to find competing and supplementary ones.
  3. Develop a mental plan –
    Sometimes I have too much evidence or too many points to make regarding an opinion, so it’s a matter of condensing the arguments. These are my favourite and easiest articles to write. Other times it’s the opposite, and I’ll be trying to really focus on key evidence, expanding upon it as necessary. I find this harder.
  4. Start! –
    When I’ve finally figured out my logic for the argument – what my key points are – I start writing. Unprofessionally perhaps, I don’t often dot-point or have a tangible, over-arching plan written anywhere. It’s normally just all up there in my head.
  5. Make it funny, make it stick –
    After a first draft, if I think it needs more or is a bit dry, I try to spice up paragraphs or sentences one at a time by adding hints of humour or making the phrasing more digestible. More often than not, I opt for humour. Jokes are memorable.

I hope that if you’ve happened across this blog and are keen to start sharing your ideas with the world, that I’ve given you some practical advice to do so. The best advice you’ll get most of the time, though, is from yourself, from your experience, and from your gut. Good luck.

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Our votes aren’t equal

My latest article, “Our votes aren’t equal”, made the front page of SBS World News Australia! And the day before the election, too! Chuffed!

Check it out here:
http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2013/09/06/comment-our-votes-arent-equal

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What You Need Know About the Australian Election

Citizens Down Under in the happy-go-lucky, beach-weather-all-year-round land of Vegemite and koalas are heading to the polls this Saturday, which will likely result in a change of government.

The current Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd of the Labor Party, who describes himself as an economic conservative and social liberal, was first elected in 2007. He served until 2010 when he was ousted by his then deputy, Julia Gillard, who promptly called an election that year. Gillard managed to form government in the resulting hung parliament with the backing of independent MPs. But when her public support dwindled earlier this year, Rudd regained his former office in a dramatic winter’s day in Canberra and social media networks came alight with the hashtag ‘#RuddWedding’.

Since then, Rudd has been quick to announce policies and the September 7 election. However, polling throughout the four-week campaign has seen a steady decline in the initial jump in support for Rudd’s Labor government. The honeymoon has come to an end and there is a slow realisation that we’re back to where we were, with a few notable exceptions.

Not least of all being marriage equality, which has enjoyed its first real time in the national spotlight as a matter of serious policy debate. Rudd has come out in support, whereas his opponent, Tony Abbott of the Liberal Party, is yet to make a firm commitment either way for this election. However he has previously stated that he believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Abbott has run a traditional, conservative campaign, attempting to reflect stability, calmness and responsible economic management. Conversely, Rudd has run a presidential-style, personal campaign which has relied heavily on his previous record as Prime Minister and his ability to connect with a live audience.

Noted Canadian-born advertising guru Todd Sampson has described how Abbott wants the election to be about Labor v Liberal, based on the ‘chaos’ of the last two terms. Conversely, Sampson believes, Rudd wants the election to be about Abbott v Rudd, based on his confident, charismatic style in comparison to Abbott’s unfortunate proneness to awkward gaffes.

Other notable policy issues include a carbon tax, which Abbott will dump but Rudd will keep; a high-speed national broadband network, which Abbott will do more affordably but with less speed and Rudd will do more expensively but with greater speed; and how to process asylum seekers who attempt to come to Australia by boat, which both major parties have eerily similar, conservative-leaning policies on. In fact, it is this latter policy which is expected to keep votes flowing to left-leaning third forces such as The Greens, who are likely to share the balance of power in the upper house with other independents.

Perhaps most notably or controversially of all, though, has been the formation of the Wikileaks Party – Julian Assange’s bid for a seat in the Australian senate. Although many constitutional experts expect he would have to give up his seat to another member of his newly-formed party on account of being stuck some 10,000 miles away.

Polling has consistently indicated that Rudd’s Labor is unlikely to retain government and that Tony Abbott is likely to become Australia’s 28th Prime Minister. However, Abbott has committed himself to not forming a minority government like Julia Gillard did in 2010, so he will need to get an absolute majority in the lower house and requires a swing of at least four seats.