14 January 2013

why this matters (even when nobody’s listening): writing a writer’s manifesto

I ♥ My Blog: Writing a Writer's Manifesto
Some time ago I wrote a post titled “Why Do Poets Write? … Seriously?” in which I attempted to navigate a question I’d been asked many times: simply, the question of why poets write poetry, or, more abrasively put, “Why bother writing poetry?” I was surprised, at the time, both by the answer I came up with and by the response to the post. I’d assumed it wasn’t getting much attention because it only got one comment on my blog … But then I checked the link to the post on Facebook, and read my email, and found a bunch of folks who felt the same way. It’s not a particularly artful manifesto, but it told people where I was coming from, and why, and gave some people an outlet to say it, too.

why this [writing thing] matters

A lot of bloggers, memoirists, novelists, poets, and other writer sorts have felt the cold sting of loneliness when it comes to their writing. Nobody leaves comments. Nobody buys their books. Nobody seems to be paying attention. And the question arises, over and over: Why bother?

Why bother writing? Why put myself out there if nobody’s going to comment and I can’t even, in this social media driven age, get a “Like” on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, or +1 on Google Plus? Why pour my blood, sweat, and tears onto my keyboard or notebook if all I get in response to my sobs, my cries, my screams, my proclamations … is silence?

I’ll tell you why: Because you’re wrong.

Someone is listening. Someone is paying attention. Someone needs to hear what you have to say. Someone is waiting for you to write that novel, that poem, that memoir, that paragraph, that sentence, that line, that phrase, that word that resonates inside her and won’t let go. Someone is waiting for your voice to wake up or liberate a voice of his own. Someone, somewhere out there, needs you.

If you don’t have a mantra or a slogan or an affirmation as a writer, let that be it: Someone needs you to do what you’re doing.

why this [manifesto thing] matters

A writer’s statement of purpose is his or her manifesto. It tells the world, “This is why I’m doing what I’m doing.” It explains why you blog. It reveals how poems burn inside you until you let them out. It details why some of your fictional characters mean more to you than real people. It shares your purpose with a wider world.

But a statement of purpose does something more than that. Beyond being a manifesto, it is also a motivator. It tells that voice inside that doubts whether what you’re doing has meaning, “This is why I’m doing what I’m doing.” It reminds you why you blog. It rekindles that poetic longing inside you. It reignites the flame of passion you feel toward your characters. It resparks the purpose we often forget when we get discouraged.

manifest yourself

Merriam-Webster defines manifesto as
a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.
Interestingly, it is both a noun and a verb. To manifesto is to issue that declaration of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what you believe. Also interesting is the fact that “manifesto” comes from the same Latin root as “manifest.” Something that is manifest is something that is clear or apparent or obvious. To manifest something is to display, reveal, or otherwise make something evident.

It is important for us as writers to manifest ourselves: to make ourselves clear, and reveal to the world who we are. It is important, too, that we manifesto ourselves: to share public declarations of who we are, what we do, why we do it, and how we view it. Why? Because it’s important for the world and our readers to understand where we are coming from. Because that personal touch makes all the difference. Because it is important to remind ourselves of where we are coming from. Because reaching into ourselves and finding or rediscovering the heart of who we are as writers makes all the difference.

Your Turn

Your task this week is to write your manifesto. Who are you? What is it that you are doing? Why are you doing it? What do you believe, deep inside yourself, about what you do? 

I encourage you to share this on your blog or website, perhaps as a post or as part of your “About Me” personal history. You might also consider, to continue the line of wall hangings this challenge has recommended, turning your manifesto into a poster for your writing space. It doesn’t have to be long: it could be a page or a paragraph. Just write it, and share it with the world … and yourself.

Feel free to share your manifesto, or thoughts on a writer’s statement of purpose, in the comments below!



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41 comments:

  1. I neither have a designated writing space nor a slogan nor a manifesto. I did, however, manage to churn out a decent professional bio of ny writing. I love this challenge because it's so appropriate to writers within all genres.

    As a side note, I totally love the website redesign. Let's talk offline about that at your convenience...

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    1. Thanks, Amanda! (And, yes, let's chat--feel free to shoot me a message so we can figure out how best to connect!)

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  2. What a great post! I wrote something similar a little while back, about why one is enough--one person, one comment, one like, etc. I like the direction that this post goes, though, that NONE is enough as long as you, the artist, keeps making art.

    And I'm taking on this challenge. Soon.

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    1. Make that "keep." Because clearly, I is an awesome writer.

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    2. I do that all the time, Lynn :) Thank you for your comment; can you shoot me (here or via a message) a link to your piece? I'd very much like to check it out!

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    3. Sure! I didn't want to comment-jack you, but hey, since you're asking: http://lynndaue.com/2012/12/28/why-one-is-enough/

      Enjoy!

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    4. I just read, and commented: so nicely put. I don't think we can remind ourselves too frequently that, as your title says, "one is enough." A bird in the hand, as it were!

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  3. Wow, Khara. To me, this post is a great perspective on writing. I definitely will enjoy working on this task.

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    1. Thank you, Michelle; it's something that's been rumbling around inside like a hunger pain for a while. Best of luck with your manifesto/statement.

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    1. Here's mine... let me know what you think! It might need a tweak or two...

      Thoughts, feelings, words burn within my soul and yearn to spill forth from my fingertips in the form of poetry. I'm just a girl on fire....

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    2. I love this, Dana--and in fact it's made me feel the "burn" to get some poems written! I love it when smoke kindles smoke: when we as writers inspire each other to create, and the "smoke trail" of inspiration just keeps rolling.

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  5. I think I've been contemplating this all weekend since I am determined in the end to merge my two halves (writer and intern architect) back into one whole. I think the manifesto idea is something that will relate back to why I'm even bothering to blog. So far I have 3 categories, but now I think I need the comprehensive vision. Time to manifest my blog's destiny.

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    1. Heather, thank you for your comment. I love the merger work you're pursuing, and hope this helps. I really like the idea of using a manifesto as a way of seeing and/or figuring out how the various parts of ourselves make up a whole! (By the way--I so love your play on "manifest destiny"!)

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    2. Thanks Khara. I think I may have figured it out. (Fingers crossed). I think in my life it boils down to three words. Write. Design. Create. And the blog is about What I do, what I like and what inspires me in both professions. Now, to figure out my schedule (from your previous post) and how to move forward in this direction. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

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  6. Everyone should have a passion driving them along the road of fulfillment in life. That passion should be shared with others. My passion is writing. It is my greatest hope that my writing will help others, inspire others, and entertain others for generations to come. I am grateful for my gift and I believe that it is God-given. God never gives you a gift without a purpose. I believe God intends for me to share my special purpose with the world at large :) When someone tells me how a piece of my writing affected them, I feel fulfilled. And I keep on writing...

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    1. Wonderful, Cindy! Thank you so much for sharing.

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  7. Excellent post, Khara, and this idea may help readers who visit my blog better understand its (slightly) split personality. I relate to Heather's post, trying to merge my two selves into one comprehensive package.

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    1. Thank you, Sarah. Best of luck with your manifesto/statement of purpose!

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  8. I write seeking the Tertium Quid.

    The Tertium Quid is the third thing. The other thing. The other perspective or point of view or motive or alternative ending, etc. I write to explore what is beneath the surface where the Tertium Quid lies.

    I also read seeking the Tertium Quid. I want to see someone else’s perspective. I know mine (or I think I know mine.) I know the opposite of mine.

    But, there’s always that third perspective, the third motive, the third or the less obvious point-of-view or twist in a plot or villain in the making or . . .

    (gotta go update my About Me page now)

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    1. What an interesting concept! I'd heard the phrase "tertrium quid" in reference to alchemy and W.E.B. DuBois' use of it in Souls of Black Folk, but I love the way you've applied it here.

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  9. Thanks, Khara! I really needed to read this post today. I've been getting a little discouraged on my path recently. I'll really have to think about my manifesto now.

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer. I hope you continue to find encouragement in your writing.

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  10. This is a cute idea that "someone" somewhere some time may need what I do. But I don't really believe that. It is there to just lull my bitterness. It is a mantra that deludes me, and perhaps numbs my pain from not being appreciated (as much as I would like to). But it doesn't change the reality, it doesn't alter the facts.
    On a different trend, if I persist in writing, maybe I'll improve and then i'll get more recognition :-) Maybe that is the reason I shouldn't stop. But, still, that doesn't involve the "someone" out there who needs my writing.
    This is an encouraging post, Khara. I just shared a thought or two, I hope you get me correctly. After all, you know me, you have read a poem or two by me, or at least one translated poem :-D, so you know I side with art. Always.
    Hugs, Mariya

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  11. Aarg! Been struggling with this and still have'nt found anything remotly satisfying. Nothing seems authentic enough. You know...me. I like my about page on my site, that's satisfying, but doesn't have a manifesto quality (I don't think). I'll keep thinking about this.

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    1. No hurry, Veronica ... Something like this definitely can take time. Sometimes it'll come when you're angry (when people keep questioning what it is you "do"). Sometimes it'll come when you're elated (when everything suddenly falls into place and you realize, "This ... this is what it's all for."). Sometimes it comes when you need encouragement, and in reminding yourself, you can remind others "what this is for." Sometimes it comes totally out of the blue! The bottom line, though: It will come.

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    2. Great answer, Khara! I, too, am having trouble with my manifesto/purpose. Hopefully, it will come, soon! ;)

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  12. THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!! I write because I can't Not write. Is it "enough" to others? I don't think so... But, to me... it is Everything <3 !!

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    1. That's great, Henri! Thank you so much for sharing. Best of luck with your writing.

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  13. Just revamped the mission statement into more of a manifesto. Thanks for the reminder to review goals and direction. And, again, the new site is fantabulous and easier to navigate.

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    1. Great, Val! It's fun to revamp, isn't it (or, at least, semi-fun)? ... And thank you; I'm hoping this is a look/feel that will stick.

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  14. Thanks for the nudge, Khara. I have been feeling kind of lost. I cut back on my activities so I'd have more time to write and then didn't do it. I just substituted different activities. It made me wonder if I really have what it takes to be an author instead of a scribbler.

    I've been realizing this past couple of months how much I still have to learn about writing. Maybe I need to start by determining why I even need to do it.

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    1. Thanks, April. And, by way of what I hope is encouragement: I've been reading some of your updates to your site, and you are a writer. It's in you. As one of my dear writing professors told me, and paraphrased from some other author, "It's when you doubt whether you have what it takes to be a writer that you can rest assured you are. It's those who are absolutely certain, who have no doubt about it, that have something to worry about." That questioning of if you "have what it takes"? That's your proof that you have what it takes! Best of luck to you as you figure things out and keep (please, please, keep) writing!

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  15. Khara, just a few days before you wrote this post, I changed the tag line on my blog to Writing for Wholeness because I felt it expressed what I had used writing for and probably would use it for in the future. I guess it is a personal manifesto for now, but one never knows where a thing or activity will lead them. So I'm open and interested to see where I'm headed on this writing path. Glad we've met on the trail.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Sabra. And that's a great tag line!

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  16. Khara,

    I happened upon your site and resonated to this particular post. I've been blogging every day for the past two years. This year I've set myself the task of using the word release, in all its manifestations, in every post.

    I started January 6th and thus far I've done that. In April I'm doing Poetic Asides prompts ( and, yes, including release within each poem or as a title or epigram).

    I've never thought about writing an epigram—but I'm going to do so.

    Lfmarginalia.blogspot.com

    Linda

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Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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