For the past several months, I’ve been working on drafting a young adult novel. Since it’s a solitary activity as well as a first attempt at novel writing, it can be hard to take myself seriously and keep pushing forward. This podcast spurred me to come up with my own Writing Manifesto as a mission statement of sorts to keep me going when the going gets tough.
- You are only the conduit.
Similar to the old concept of writers receiving visits from the Muses, I like to think of myself as simply the instrument for the ideas working through me. If the creative energy is what’s doing the real work, it takes a lot of pressure off of me, and also gives me the impetus to try and channel that energy in the best way possible and to keep working at it so as to be a better conduit. On the mornings when my motivation is lacking, the thing that gets me going is the realization that I just have to play my part in allowing the ideas to get to the page. Elizabeth Gilbert talks quite eloquently about the value of taking this perspective in her book Big Magic.
- You love this.
Writing–or the fear of writing–can be draining and feel immensely daunting at times. Often I’ll get stuck or find some holes in the plot line or realize that the writing is flat, and I’ll reach a point where I’m driving C crazy and complaining about how hopeless the process feels. In these moments it’s critical for me to remember that I am doing exactly the thing I love to do and there is really no other work I’d rather commit my time to. I don’t think there has ever been a time when writing has not provided me with a deep satisfaction, and I am lucky to at least be trying at it.
- Write what scares you.
There are a lot of topics that are uncomfortable to dive in to, and it’s easy to second guess myself and chop out or gloss over the gritty bits. But the fact is, the authors of all of my favorite novels are brave enough to go to challenging places, and that very willingness is often what makes the writing memorable and visceral.
- Keep going.
I am very prone to reviewing something I’ve written and cringing and wanting to give up altogether. But I’m well aware that the only way to improve is through practice and practice and practice. The feeling that comes after I’ve refined a patchy part over and over and turned it around in my mind for days and then finally happened upon something that holds its own is one of the very best feelings in the world.
Another thing to remember in this same vein, is that publication is not the purpose. I’m sure it is a very gratifying outcome, but the process itself is the greatest reward. The path to publication is paved with rejection, and if that is my end goal, it robs from the purity of the pursuit.
- Stay close to your people.
I really need to work on this one, but it is endlessly helpful to be surrounded (online or otherwise) by peers. Writing can be a lonely thing. The most bolstering solution when I’m in a pit is to talk with other people who are trying to do the same thing. For me, this currently means reading books and articles and listening to podcasts about writing. I know I need to build a peer network and find support in the writing community. It is not just the critiquing and feedback that is necessary; it’s also the motivation and shared energy that’s really essential.
I’m sure I’ll have new points to add to this list as I go, but for now this is the essence of what I want to keep in mind as I work.