Great Advice from Paul Hsieh

I am a member of the Oactivists, it’s an online group founded by Diana Hsieh which have Objectivists interested in activism as members. Her husband Dr. Paul Hsieh wrote this brilliant piece a few days back, I asked permission if I could reprint it and he has said yes. My favorite part was “6) Obligatory inspiration closing”

Here it is in full, Tips for getting published by Paul Hsieh

“On another thread, Beth Haynes asked how others could also get published.

I’m not a writing expert but I can offer a few suggestions for anyone who is
interested in writing and who also wants to publish OpEds.

(As a digression, I first want to note that there is a legitimate division
of labor here.  For example, I choose to write but I don’t care for public
speaking or radio/TV appearances.  In contrast, others love giving lectures
but are less keen on writing.  Yet others do a terrific job of disseminating
content via e-mail, blogging, and social media.  And others are good at
organizing events such as Tea Parties. Successful activism requires many
kinds of people doing many kinds of work.  Pretty much everyone who wishes
to engage in activism can find a niche where they do what they genuinely
like in a non-sacrificial way.)

Anyways, on to writing.  Here are some tips from my own experience:

1) Get in the habit of writing regularly, preferably daily.

In fact, that’s the real value of the FIRM blog for me.  Of course, I’d like
my posts to get traffic.  But I primarily use it as a place where I commit
to writing some commentary on some aspect of health care (usually based on a
news story) every day — even if it’s short.

This forces me to keep up on the issue and also helps me set what Ayn Rand
called a “standing order” in my mind to always look for something to say.
Plus it gives me a chance to practice formulating my ideas.

2) Get others to review your work

When Lin Zinser started FIRM in 2007, we mostly concentrated on writing
short LTEs to our local newspapers.  Almost all of us were novices at this
kind of activism except for Ari Armstrong who had already done lots of
writing for newspapers.

So prior to submitting LTEs to newspapers, our group of Colorado
Objectivists would send drafts to each other for critique.  And most of us
received and gave good suggestions to each other, which boosted our

3) Start small and then work your way up

After we became comfortable with LTEs, some of us decided to tackle writing
longer OpEds (600-700 words) as opposed to 100-150 word LTEs).  These take
more work.  The purpose of an LTE is to communicate one (or at most two)
points succinctly, typically in response to someone else’s article or OpEd.
The purpose of an OpEd is to be a stand alone piece where you articulate a
theme and then explain/defend it with reasoned arguments.

There are a couple of good guides on the ARI website on how to write LTEs
and OpEds:

“How to Write an Effective Letter to the Editor”

“Writing a Convincing Editorial”

Also, I’ve found that my regular blogging and LTE writing helped prime my
subconscious for writing longer OpEds.  Often, I could take a theme that
naturally developed over 2 or 3 blog posts, then integrate them into a
single OpEd.  So that’s where the regular writing and the “standing orders”
really paid off!

4) Respect your audience’s context

Too often, Objectivists write for other Objectivists assuming a whole
context of ideas that isn’t necessarily shared by the average American.

When I write for the general public, I try to imagine as my audience one of
my coworkers who is a decent thinking American, intellectually honest (in
the sense that he will give my ideas a fair hearing), but who otherwise
knows little-to-nothing about Objectivism.  Most of you probably know
someone like that in your own set of friends and family.

I try to aim my writing for that person.

It also means that you have to tie concrete examples to broad abstractions
and principles in a way that the reader will say to themselves, “Yes, that
makes sense”.  Which means that you have to have a sound grasp of both the
particular concretes and the broad principles in your own mind.  If you hold
some Objectivist idea (such as “individual rights”) in your own mind as a
semi-floating abstraction, then you’ll have a hard time communicating it
convincingly to a non-Objectivist.

And one of the big benefits of writing is that it helped me see gaps and
deficiencies in my own understanding of Objectivism, thus helping me see
where I needed to better understand an issue myself.

5) For more tips

The OActivists Google Groups webpage also contains various files and pages
with archived tips, including:

“Tips for writing LTEs and OpEds ”…

“How To Submit LTE/OpEds to the Top 101 Newspapers”…

6) Obligatory inspiration closing

Before 2007, I had never written an OpEd and I had written one LTE (over 10
years ago).  But over time, I found that I liked writing LTEs and OpEds, and
that it was a pleasurable way to fight for my values.  Plus it is enormously
satisfying to see ones ideas being discussed and debated by non-Objectivists
in a serious fashion.  Even if people don’t agree with you, you are *part of
the debate*.

And for us, that’s half the battle.  Because our ideas are *right*, the
hardest part is just getting them injected into the debate.  Once they are
part of the debate, then active-minded people who take ideas seriously will
note their quality.  But we have to be willing to articulate and defend
those ideas to the best of our ability.

Fortunately, we don’t have to come up with the ideas from scratch.  Greater
minds than mine (like Rand and Peikoff) have already done that hard part.
We just have to work to understand them and then work to communicate them.
But if we are willing to do so, then we can have a positive influence in the
culture far out of proportion to our otherwise small numbers.

Many of the better Americans have a decent implicit sense of life (which we
can see at the Tea Party protests). But they lack a coherent explicit
philosophy that tells them that it’s *good* for them to pursue their own
happiness and seek what’s best for themselves.  They are ripe for an
explicit philosophy that tells them that.  Hence, those of us who are
already aware of that philosophy have to be willing to make that case.

Right now, we have an American public that is desperately hungry for good
ideas that give voice to their sense of life that tells them that individual
responsibility is a virtue, that pursuing their happiness is a noble end,
and that our government should leave them free to do so.

What they most need to hear now is someone telling them that those ideas are
*good*.  If we tell them that and give them an *explicit* conceptual defense
of those deeply-held but implicit values, then we will win.  As Victor Huge
once wrote, “There’s nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come”.

Our future and the future of this country are really up to us. If we act on
our values and promote our ideas, then some day we will look back on
politicians like Obama and Pelosi say, “We never had to take them seriously,
did we?”  But only if we actually *act*.

We have a golden opportunity to shape the future in the direction we want.
We just have seize it…

Hope this helps!

— Paul
Paul Hsieh, MD
E-mail: <>
Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine: <>
Twitter: PaulHsieh”


Brilliant advice.



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2 responses to “Great Advice from Paul Hsieh

  1. Thanks for posting this! BTW, there’s a better formatted version now available on Diana’s NoodleFood blog:

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