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Letters to the Editor:

Egoism, Part 2 — A Personal Essay

(Image by Sandid on Pixabay).

In the first of these twin essays, I gave something of the train of thought that led me to consider uncommon means of publicising my work as an essayist to the world. I concluded I would write a letter to the Editor of The Times — my first, in fact. Here I account for the process and outcome.

. . .

Stage one. With the ‘why?’ covered, ‘what to write?’ would be (for most) the next obvious step. However, as an editor myself, I opted for the ‘how’ first. I was certain I could compile something of merit that might stand a chance of catching the Editor’s eye, although the point was to submit a piece that would be printed once noticed!

There were certain protocols and conventions to be considered before establishing the subject of the letter! If I were the Editor of The Times, what would leave me feeling Tabasco hot or ice Popsicle cold? Worse still, chicken Korma warm and neither here nor there. Could I adhere to the advice I have given to others on frequent occasions?

Below is my aspirational list of the key points I planned to consider (at least) when compiling my letter. It should be:

1) Well-dressed. You know, worded with elegance.

2) Succinct — brevity is king (or queen). Over 200 words would seem indulgent.

3) Factual. Someone stating ‘I never knew that’ upon reading my letter would be magical.

4) Intelligent.

5) Cliché- and embroidery-free.

6) Entertaining — perhaps even eyebrow-raising or laughter-inducing; that I should be that fortunate.

It occurred to me, of course, that editors can be rather capricious creatures. I know from personal experience. That being so, I forewarned myself that, despite my best endeavours and finest work, my letter might still end its life in a virtual shredder.

As I’d written about George Orwell in my first essay, he would now form the basis of my letter, with a guest appearance by Herbert George Wells. Who?

. . .

Stage two. Let writing begin…



To whet my creative work as an essayist, I drifted last Monday into a contemplation about George Orwell. In cadging a ride on H. G. Wells’ Time Machine while passing through this way, what might Orwell have written about the troubled state of the world right now? I conjectured Wells might well perform a handbrake turn soon after their arrival. With Orwell still absorbed in scribbling down his observations, they would return with speed to safer times. Unfazed, Orwell — being such an able writer and a notable essayist — would adhere to his four great motives for prose writing. In doing so, he would ensure his work exemplified historical accuracy, political astuteness, aesthetic beauty and, as with many writers (myself included), appealed to his ego. I then grounded myself and returned to writing.

J. P. Priestley

Aberystwyth, Ceredigion

. . .

Stage three. The response from The Times and how I reacted.

Well, I waited. And waited. No response — anywhere. Utter silence. A bottomless pit. I sent my letter, didn’t I? Let’s check. And re-check. Yep. Okay then, fine. That’s that. The words ‘anti-climax’ and ‘underwhelmed’ came to mind. My ego was momentarily bruised.

I then spent some time thinking about my experience — in a mature, measured way — concluding that submitting a letter to the Editor of The Times is no different to submitting a letter to the editor of any newspaper, magazine, or professional journal. Or, for that matter, submitting a query letter to a literary agent seeking their representation for your debut novel; rejection is part of the name of the game, but so is perseverance! And faith in one’s ability coupled with the determination to succeed.

I’m now off to write another letter to the Editor of The Times, which once again might not bear fruit. I concluded, however, that I had already achieved success and been amply rewarded by what I had learnt from this experiment; how my growth as a writer had been enhanced and advanced. My smile was both broad and satisfying.

Want to write to (email) the Editor at The Times?

Do so here: [email protected]

(Remember to provide your full address and daytime telephone number to confirm your identity)

If you are successful and have your letter to The Times published, please let me know!

. . .

(This article was first published on Medium.com)

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Culture and Current Events, Non-Fiction, Opinion Piece, Personal Narrative