Scott Bury is an Ottawa based writer, editor and communications adviser. This is the first time I’ve ever swapped guest blogs with anyone and would love your feedback: leave a comment below. I’ll post my note from Scott’s Blog here later.

What good is writing?

I was wondering how I could contribute to Stephen’s fine blog in return for the excellent post he wrote for mine, and after reading his post on January 13, “I am a radical,” I found that inspiration.

I blog for a couple of reasons. The most obvious, and the noblest (I hope) is to help other people communicate more clearly and easily. My target audience is not just professional writers and those who want to write for a living, but also those who have to communicate as part of their jobs as managers or professionals in other fields.

The other, perhaps less noble reason is to point out where someone is misusing words either when they really ought to know better, or where they’re deliberately trying to mislead us. A good Canadian example comes out of the opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline from the Tarsands to British Columbia. Natural Resources Minister Joe Olivier is just one federal government figure to apply the “radical” label in an attempt to discredit any opposition. Fortunately, most of us can see through that attempt to paint anyone who disagrees with the government as an enemy of the country.

That raises a question, though: people generally see through those attempts; so why do governments and wannabe governments keep doing it?

Yes, we do have a message applicable today

Stephen writes historical mysteries and other historical stories — in other words, they happened a long time ago and no matter how much you want to, you cannot change it. But that doesn’t mean they’re not relevant today — it means the opposite, in fact.

In his blog, Stephen states that how he knew that while he wanted to deliver a message in his novels, if he wanted an audience to read them they would have to have a real plot and compelling, believable characters. Audiences have an unprecedented and vast choice in reading material today. They need a good reason to read your book, and a rant about whatever cause you feel passionate about won’t do it.

“After reading a stack of soggy paperbacks by Lawrence Saunders and others, I got the idea that I too could write a murder mystery and use it as a foil for my environmental message. I knew from the start that Cole couldn’t just be a fictional version of Stephen Legault; there had to be a plot, not just a polemic,” he writes in his blog.

In my case, I tried to evoke myths from several different cultures in my first-published novel, The Bones of the Earth. I hope that I at least hint at a few underlying themes applicable today: environmental  degradation; acceptance of people with disabilities or abilities different from our own; and the absurdities in organized religion; and how we need to be skeptical of the history taught to us, to name just four.

You may not agree with these messages. That’s fine. You don’t have to. I hope you’ll read my book and enjoy the story, the action, the romance, the development of a character.

I also hope that you might start thinking about ideas you never thought of before. That may provoke you to write something, yourself: to respond with a comment on a blog or a news feed, or to write a letter to your legislative representative. Or maybe, to write a book of your own. Warning: expressing yourself leaves you vulnerable to being labelled as a “radical,” or a “reactionary,” or a “pundit.” It’s like having the teacher tell you to sit down and speak only when acknowledged.

There has always been a titanic effort by those with power to control speech and expression. They command formidable resources, and regularly employ them to squelch anyone who disagrees with them — especially when those dissidents have the potential to mobilize others.

In the West, where money rules uncriticized, radicals like Stephen Legault get labelled as something undesirable. If you start a blog to promote or just expound your own ideas, you may find the corporate media scoffing at you as a “self publisher.” Sadly, snobbery works. (You remember junior high, don’t you?)

But we’re not in junior high, anymore. There are more of us outside the media establishment than within it, and we all have the right to express ourselves, and we all need to hear you. That’s called democracy.

So here’s my final goal as a communicator: I want to open up publishing and communications. No more gatekeepers. We need editors (and I’m not saying that just because I am an editor) to make our messages as effectiveness as possible. We need editors as quality control, but not as gatekeepers.

So speak, write, dance, sing. Be heard. What’s democracy for?

Follow Scott on Twitter @ScotttheWriter.