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Just “Say No” to Approval

manifesto: {n} a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.

Manifesto comes from the Italian word meaning denunciation, which is most easily defined as to condemn.

Manifest Destiny is a phrase used to describe a future event accepted as inevitable.

A manifesto is produced in response to an unacceptable reality, due in large part to dysfunction, oppression or dissatisfaction. It may be politics, religion, or business. In Jeff Goins’ case, he created the Writer’s Manifesto in response to unacceptable, dysfunctional motives from which he  decided to declare himself independent.

The subtitle sheds light on the oppressor: Stop Writing to Be Read and Adored.

The even the most disaffected and detached artist-type yearns for approval. Writers are neurotic approval addicts. We need injections of praise like junkies. We are immature. Even if we are lucky enough to skirt the edge of genius, we can’t seem to stand alone on the real legs of our gift. We are like this guy:

Junkie Genius

When approval, be it praise, publication, payment, or what have you doesn’t fill the void we feel like this:

The Letdown

But Jeff Goins provides a key to freedom:

“Real writers do not need inspiration

or an audience to begin.

They know, without question,

that their greatest adversary and ally

is themselves.

And that they are not alone.” (pg. 22, The Writer’s Manifesto)

I have written alone my whole life. I love words, truth, wit, conversation, characters and subtext.

I love to play with words like toddlers play with food. The activity delights me.

But I write with a bit of guilt, too. What I enjoy doing seems purposeless and indulgent without an agent, editor, publisher or advance. So I, like many others, have written strands of breathtaking pose and promising plots and let them languish unseen, unread, unrevealed. To be safe, I set it aside along with these unanswered questions: What if I make a mistake in permanent ink? What if my dream is stupid?

“Be careful what you put down in black and white” ricochets against my brain with the same whine as “You’ll shoot your eye out!”  Ralphie here wrote his own sort of Manifesto and received not only a terrible grade but the broad stroke of rejection.

A Christmas Story illustrates the writer’s life. The obsession, the dream, the beautiful hope of realizing one’s dream. But he meets rejection at every turn, warnings from all authority figures. Yet he perseveres. He dreams, he connives, he begs.

When Christmas morning arrives and the Red Ryder BB Gun actually arrives, the inevitable occurs. The dogs tear through the house, the dinner is destroyed and Ralphie, indeed, shoots his eye out (kind of).

Ralphie wins in the end because this is a story after all. Ralphie is the writer’s poster child. The process was painful and seemed hopeless at times, but Ralphie was a regular kid with an extraordinary wish. He was scrappy. He was resourceful and resilient.

In my manifesto, I’ll include something like the following in denunciation of the lies that informed my thinking.

Lie: You are silly to pursue ________ {fill in the blank}. It doesn’t pay well and you aren’t that good.

Truth: We all possess the ability to participate in the creative process. Beyond the ability, we are intended to be creative, to solve problems, to organize and administrate (yes, I believe these are creative endeavors), to sing, make music, dance, cook real food! We are meant to ally with our gifts and callings.

Lie: I can’t trust others with my creative produce.

Truth: We are intended for relationship and community and we can trust others and become vulnerable to compliments and instruction. My writing allies resuscitated my dream and infused my mind with creative energy. They changed my life. I am not alone. To become my ally I must link arms with the circle of writers God’s given me. He gave them to me for a reason: he believes in my writing. He knows the power of the written word, the energy of creativity, the healing of story.

I know that I’m my greatest adversary, but I disagree with Jeff on this: I am not my greatest ally. I have allies who’ve supported and believed in me when my doubt shadowed my vision. I’m grateful for allies, writers and readers alike who’ve accepted me and my words, in the rough, unedited version.

Lie: I’m not perfect, my work isn’t perfect either, so I should just keep it to myself.

Truth: We are all in process, unfinished works bursting with raw, robust, interesting elements.

A Writer’s Manifesto is an interesting concept. Whatever our occupations or fascinations what do we need to denounce in our spirits and minds in order to find the freedom to actively engage? What manifesto do we proclaim?

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Alyssa. Great thoughts. I DO think you could your greatest ally some day, though. I love the allusion A Christmas Story and really appreciate your blog design and how it focuses on the content.

    • Thanks Jeff for the manifesto! Thanks, too, for investing in writers. {my blog design focuses on the content because I can’t figure out a ton of the techie stuff that makes things scroll and blink and linky. Simple is my plan while I’m learning!}

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