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“The Writer’s Manifesto” and a Fruitless Labor

I've only known Jeff Goins (and his blog) for a brief time, but I've quickly fallen for it.  His intoxicating, no-nonsense posts are always helpful for discussing, in layman's terms, complex things I really care about:  marketing, increasing one's online presence, and, yes, writing.  Today he released a "one-sitter" manifesto on the latter subject, and I really enjoyed reading it.  I think you might too.  It's short, just 1000 words, but it really got me thinking.  I might write more words ON his manifesto than he wrote IN it.

The crux of his manifesto is a point I too have found consuming me lately:

"I could say that I love to write, but, really, I like to be read."

"The Writer's Manifesto" is about rediscovering a pure passion for the art of writing.  About reminding me to be more like six-year-old Aaron, when I was writing fairy tales about baseball players just for the pure joy of writing them.  And, because 1st grade was really fucking boring too.

A fellow idol of ours, Steven Pressfield, quoted an idol of his the other day, Krishna, who said:

"We have a right to our labor, but not to the fruits of our labor."

If you're not enjoying the process, why are you participating in it?

To all those hacks out there trying to write the next big alien movie, or procedural TV show about cops, or genre legal thrillers...if you're not enjoying it, why are you doing it?  Is there enough money in the world to make this toil worthwhile?  (OK, yes, maybe if you're James Patterson.)  As for me, I've garnered some decent fruits from my labor (money, press, a whole lotta free beers), but none of them have brought me more happiness than actually having written "How to Fail."

We have to accept that this thinking about writing for pleasure means we might not become rich from our writing.  Fine.  But would you rather write stuff that makes you happy, or stuff that makes you rich?

(What if you only had one choice:  writing stuff that makes you miserable AND makes your rich; or writing stuff that makes you happy AND NEVER makes you rich?)

"The Writer's Manifesto" is about Jeff rediscovering his love affair with writing, and it's inspired me to do the same thing.

I never actually lost my love of writing.  I still LOOOOOVE writing, it's just, I also love wasting time thinking about making my writing more "successful."  Thinking about the fruits of my labors.  Thinking about it being more well-read.  But, I need to quit wasting time worrying about how I'm going to market my next book, how I'm going get everyone on Twitter and Facebook talking about it, how I need to better optimize my online presence.  I need to quit worrying about whether my next book hits the 5 major keys for successful book-selling in the future.

Instead, I need to just fucking write those books (or movies, or blog posts) that I need to write.

Jeff says it's about eliminating "the tension between creativity and congratulations."

Real writers
do not begin the day with aspirations
of seeing their words in print.
Nor do they dream of being stopped on the street
to be congratulated for their genius.

Jeff feels that the need for attention from writing corrupts the art.  Imagine writing something of pure honesty, with no care what people will say about it.  Imagine publishing your diary or journal.  How embarrassing!  But how raw.  We most admire the writers that write the most honest stuff.  They don't seem to even care about their audience, about what people think.  And we love them for that.

As we disabuse ourselves
of the desire to entertain,
we writers discover something.
That this fasting from acclaim
liberates us to create
remarkable works of art.

It's like:  the less you care about impressing women, the more they are impressed by you.

But you can't fake it.

You can only write what you must write.

Get a free copy of Jeff Goins's "The Writer's Manifesto" here:

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Comments (3) Trackbacks (3)
  1. Well said, my friend. Thanks for the extremely kind words and for sharing the manifesto. This is like an appendix!

  2. Very impressive. I just listened to the Copyblogger interview with Steven Pressfield. Loved it. Here’s an Irish proverb for you: Molann an obair an fear (the work praises the man). Keep it up.

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