Where are you as a writer?
That’s not really an odd question. Vague, yes, but not odd.
The question does not inquire where you are physically or geographically. The question asks where you are internally; emotionally, creatively, psychologically. As creatives, it’s a fine idea to take personal inventory of your perception of yourselves as writers. Of course, as writers, you’re doing that every time you sit down to write. But my suggestion is to do it intentionally and consciously.
People ask how long I’ve been a writer for? My response, which always catches them off guard is, My entire life. I may not have recognized my heightened observation skills or my innate ability to be able to see the connection in the most disparate things, but when the time was right, those connections were made. Boy were they ever. It was like some crazy kind of kinetic sculpture in my head made entirely of fuses, fireworks, and ideas. Once the main fuse was lit, the brilliant display began. And it has never stopped.
For this reason (among others), I like to stop to breathe every once in awhile. Take personal inventory of where I am right this moment as a writer. Compared to one, five, even ten years ago, what has my progress looked like? Am I headed in the direction I want to be at this stage in my career? Have I done the work needed to succeed? And what, exactly, does that success look like from my point of view?
What is a manifesto?
One dictionary defines it as:
A public declaration of intent, policy, aims, etc, as issued by a political party, government, movement, organization, or individual.
For writers, one way to take a thorough personal inventory is to create your own manifesto. I choose to write one at least once a year or so to keep on top of my inner growth. For as humans, we are always growing, changing, evolving. If we cultivate the capacity to monitor ourselves as closely as possible, we can save ourselves the frustration of missteps and perceived mistakes. In creating your personal manifesto, you can more clearly get an idea and feel for your inner writer, your ‘writerly health,’ if you will.
I hope this manifesto inspires you to create your own, as this particular version was inspired by Jeff Goins. This is one idea that I hope is perpetuated. Feel free to share this with anyone you choose. All I ask is that this manifesto not be changed or bastardized in any way or be credited to anyone other than myself.
|A WRITER’S MANIFESTO for GROWTH 2011-2012
- Process is more important than outcome. If you get your process right, the outcome will be the one you want. If you aim for the outcome first, process suffers. Honor your process at all times and trust that the outcome will be what it is: Perfect.
- You are exactly where you need to be. We tend to perceive a vague desire to be somewhere other than where we are in our lives. Chasing the carrot, is what it’s called. We chase and chase and chase and never seem to be in that magical place we imagined for ourselves. Surprisingly, we’re in that place right now. Open your eyes. See that chasing the carrot will never create the meaning you’re seeking.
- Begin here. Since here is where you are, why not begin at this moment. There is no preparation required. Simply begin. Procrastination is you sabotaging yourself. Why prolong the start of your desire?
- No judging allowed. You are no better nor worse than anyone else, and anyone who tries to convince you of such is trying to dominate you and make you doubt your abilities. Do not give your power to others to use against you. If you’re into flagellation, join an S&M club. Then you can pay others to debase and humiliate you. Otherwise, stop stating that you’re not good enough, not smart enough, or not talented enough. If you state those things, you become those things. Change the way you see yourself, talk about yourself, and feel about yourself. Never allow others to diminish you. If you can’t speak up for yourself, then walk away from those who fear your success and want to tear you down to make themselves feel better.
- Write for yourself. Period. All humans are born creative. Creativity manifests itself differently for everyone. When you try to write to an audience, real or imagined, you change the natural flow of your creativity. When you learn to write only for yourself, you learn to recognize your unique process and can hear your voice. Focus on that voice. It’s the only one you need to listen to.
- Listen. In this world of sensory overload, we often forget to simply…listen. The world around us creates a need to force all the input into the background. There are rhythms in everything if we can take the time to quiet ourselves enough to listen. When is the last time you sat in a field and listened to birds singing? Or wind through a pine forest? Take field trips. Learning to listen allows us to hear that quiet inner voice that guides us in our journey, the one that we trusted as children, but learned to ignore as adults. It’s you the teacher reaching out to you the writer. If you choose one thing to focus on in this list, start with this one.
- Be Patient. Nothing great happens quickly. The greatest accomplishments took years – sometimes decades or centuries – to create. Don’t let others tell you what your schedule or timetable is. Creativity is never rushed. Writing takes time. Great writing takes even more time. What’s the hurry? Learn to breathe, and to be patient with yourself most of all. Allow yourself room to make “mistakes,” which as someone once said, are really answers looking for better questions.
- Fill your toolbox with care. There are a million products out there claiming to be able to make you a better or faster writer TODAY. Like every snake oil salesman since time immemorial, they’re only trying to take your money and distract you. Only use what’s necessary to help you write. Filling your writer’s toolbox with useless tools creates clutter and keeps you from reaching your potential. Writers have survived for a long time without a faster computer, a new piece of software, or the latest how-to book. There are no how-to books for creativity. It just is. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something. And the problem with software is that everyone has it.
- Keep your power. You can only be creative when you feel you have power over your life. When we give our power away by not being vigilant and true to ourselves, we hand our power over to those who do not have our best interests at heart. Only their own. Make this your mantra: No one has my best interest at heart but me. I am my best teacher, guide, and mentor. Repeat this to yourself every day, several times a day if you can. This is not permission to be selfish, unless someone is attempting to take your power away. Figure out ways to protect it, nurture it, and grow it in as healthy a way as possible.
- Avoid distractions. Do what you need to do to focus on your writing. As mentioned above, distractions are other people’s way of keeping you from your own success, whatever that means to you. There’s nothing more tempting than distractions. Recognize what you’re easily distracted by and eliminate the temptation from your creative space. Free yourself to focus. You deserve it.
- Go deeper. The deeper you allow yourself to go without fear, the more likely you will be to discover something valuable that you didn’t consciously know was there.
- In order to be a writer, you must be a writer. We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it till you make it.” This is a good piece of advice. Don’t be shy about stating with pride that you’re a WRITER. Even if you don’t have anything published. Especially if you don’t have anything published. Being published is not the definition of a writer. Writing is. If you try to live up to what others’ define “writer” as, you will not allow yourself room to grow. You only answer to yourself and you only honor your process, not others’. For more information, see the paragraph titled “Keep Your Power.”
© 2011-2012 Marcus O’Rion