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Writer’s Block Busted! Political Speechwriters Edition



Writer’s block afflicts every writer, but the affliction is especially acute for those of us who write political speeches—particularly when the boss needs sizzling copy in just three hours.

I therefore offer the following tips. They may not mean the end of your writer’s block, or even the end of the beginning, but they will, perhaps, mean the beginning of the end.

Thank you for your inward smile.

And thank you for reading! And what a beautiful readership you all are! I believe I may say, in all sincerity, that I have never seen an audience of readers quite like you. You are smart, you are perceptive, and you are, above all, absolutely unwilling to accept anything less than first-rate advice—and you have my word, dear friends, that I shall deliver nothing less.

But before I do, I want to thank the good people of the wonderful magazine that is hosting this guide, along with their beautiful children and their wonderful partners, business or romantic. For while I cannot quite say that this article “would be impossible without them,’”I can unequivocally state that I would be soaking in the tub and reading this to my cat without them. So thank you, host magazine, for your gift of electrons. (I’m clapping for you).

Now then, what say we tackle that nasty old block!

The first step, of course, is to avoid mirrors. This is essential if you are to eliminate the risk of looking yourself in the eye. Avoid as well looking into the eyes of anyone you respect. And resist the temptation to abuse your dog’s simple good nature by seeking validation in her eyes.

Take a deep, cleansing breath to purify your soul. Take a few hundred. Go for a walk to collect your thoughts, avoiding the neighbors’ critical gazes while trying not to look like an embezzler. Return home and meditate. Let go of conscious thoughts— especially those of the child you were, and the adult thing you’ve become. If scruples enter your mind, threatening your tranquility, let them flow past like bubbles on a stream. Pop! Pop!

Have a shot of tequila, pop a pill, do whatever it takes to get into character. For the character you must channel is the boss.

Since 94% of communication is nonverbal—this, according to either “The Scientific Consensus” or “The Global Elite,” depending on which side butters your bread—you’ll need to get physical. Loosen your shoulders, shake your jowls, and let the boss’s spirit invade your body. Feel their spirit within your body. Feel their money within your wallet.

Imagine the boss standing over the crowd. He/she has made the obligatory thank you’s, has cracked Self-Deprecatory Jokes 18 and 27, and is finally ready to deliver The Speech.

Assume the boss’s trademark face, whether he/she favors the Obamaesque/Bill Cintonian Frown Of Concern, the Trumpian/Mussolinian Jut-Jaw Of Power, or the generic Wild-Eyed Radical Crazy. You must be the boss to feel the boss.

You are now good to go, so begin your first draft. Remember, it is not you writing these words, so is it not your soul at risk—you are merely a filter for the words of the boss. So let ‘er rip without hesitation, a sloppy copy, dirty and down. The key at this point is to do it fast—exactly how you grabbed the boss’s first check (though you may find it difficult to type with the gloves you wore to avoid skin-on-skin contact; this remains a constant threat).

Voilà! You’ve succeeded! You, my friend, have produced a rough draft. Now comes the revision process, as delightful to the writer as champagne and strawberries with fat cat contributors. You need merely to utilize your diction decoder to calibrate key phrases to the intended audience. Select, as appropriate:

  • “Job creators” or “the filthy rich”
  • “Agents of oppression” or “our wonderful police”
  • “Corporate greed” or “the entrepreneurial spirit”
  • “American innovation” or “environmental destruction”

Apply the process to the entire draft, remembering that in every kind of speech you must refer to all people as “folks,” even though you’d rather watch C-SPAN while undergoing root canal than spend one minute with the sort of person you imagine “folks” denotes.

There! You’ve done it! Overcoming all moral reservations, you have suited the boss for the intended audience. Ship your hot copy off to the boss, and congratulate yourself—you have lived, in a sense, to write again.


Second City’s online “Writing Satire for the Internet” course, a fav among our writers, starts Sept 23. Use code PIC for 10% off.



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