A Writer’s Manifesto (Once Again)

We should introduce this guy to Eraserhead. Photo by Drew Coffman, via Flickr.
We should introduce this guy to Eraserhead. Photo by Drew Coffman, via Flickr.

 

(N.B. I originally posted this last year; reposting and sticking it at the top of my blog to remember that there is a way to navigate the ridiculousness of writing with dignity and integrity.)

1. I will use social media wisely. If I have work to share, I will share it. But I will never blog/tweet/Facebook about how hard writing is or how many words I wrote today. Nobody cares! And every time I get caught humblebragging (“I am overwhelmed by all the talent here at Yaddo!”) I will donate $10 to PEN.

2. I will not be a dick. Given the following conditions, I will always help other writers: (a) the other writer is deserving of help, that is, not a dick and talented; (b) the request is reasonable; and (c) the request does not greatly infringe upon my own time.

3. I will not surrender my autonomy to gatekeepers. I will not wait around for some magic agent or editor to magically make my career magical, especially when I can be writing, submitting and networking for myself. Nor will I ever (and this is really important) assume that anyone in the publishing business will put my needs above his or her own.

4. I will learn how to say no. I will politely decline unpleasant social obligations whenever possible, especially if they interfere with my writing schedule.

5. I will learn how to say yes. Like most writers, I have a day job. So I don’t have much time. However, I will still allow time for rewarding relationships (friends, family, etc.). I will just be clear about my boundaries.

6. I will stay off the Internet when I’m writing. No more, “I’ll just look this up quickly for research.” If necessary, I will download Internet blocking software or take pen and paper to the park.

7. I will value my work. I will not write for “exposure.” I will write for money. If there are exceptions, they will be exceptions that I can live with, for example if it’s a short story that I’m happy to get off my desk, or I have something to promote.

8. I will keep to a schedule. I will write regularly, even when I don’t have a lot of time, for two reasons: (a) so I can actually get some work done; and (b) so that I don’t always feel like I should be writing. If all I have is my lunch hour, that’s fine, because a few weeks of lunch hours will add up to a draft of a short story or a couple of poems. And then when I’m not writing I can be fully present for my kids or friends or significant other.

9. I will strive for graciousness. “Envy is the central fact of American life,” wrote Gore Vidal. But I will not make it the central fact of my life. The best way to avoid the corrosive effects of envy is, counter-intuitively, to accept it: “I am feeling really envious right now, and that’s fine.” I will try to be outwardly gracious and share the truly venomous feelings only with my journal or my best friend or my spouse. I will also remember that it is possible to feel happy for people.

10. I will value myself. I am not worthless because [check whichever applies:] I haven’t yet published. Because I haven’t been paid for a story. Because I don’t have a book. Because my book didn’t go into paperback or it’s not a bestseller or I didn’t sell the movie rights and so on. I will acknowledge and accept my disappointment. But I will try not let it reinforce a sense of worthlessness. I will instead earn my self-worth through self-discipline and sustaining healthy relationships.

3 thoughts on “A Writer’s Manifesto (Once Again)

  1. Jesus, Gordon. I wish I’d read something like this 20 years ago. Though I doubt it would have helped; I’m not really equipped to live by most of this *now.* (Except for the social media part, and that’s only because I’m too lazy to use them at all.)

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