When I started writing my novel, I was truly terrified. This was partly because I had worked briefly in the book business in my twenties and had enough knowledge about the industry to see that the likelihood of publication was remote. Also, I had enough self-knowledge to recognize my intense aversion to failure and rejection, both of which are the constant companions of aspiring writers.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I was rejected a lot, and not always nicely. I was raised right, so I’m not going to name names, but among the many indignities I suffered, one agent declared: “Some people have difficulty writing in the first person. Perhaps you are one of those people.” He then proceeded to read to me (for half an hour) from several first-person writers on his list, in the hope that I might benefit from the example of their superior writing. It’s a measure of how much I wanted to write my book that I persisted.
If you are going to be a writer, you will need to be resilient. You will need to cultivate self-knowledge and as much objectivity about your writing as you can muster, so that you can make wise assessments about the criticism you receive. You will need to have faith – and I use this word deliberately – that your work deserves a wider audience. Many days, this faith will seem irrational and misguided. Nevertheless, you must nurture it.
I am a lawyer by training, so faith is not easy for me. I am, however, good at assignments. As part of my women’s networking group, I was assigned a personal manifesto. The one I created is a collection of statements that remind me how I want to live and who I want to be. I referred back to my manifesto many times throughout my book project, and it reminded me to finish what I’d started, to be courageous, to enjoy the process, to share my writing with others and to be proud of my work. So in that spirit, I share my personal manifesto with you. Use it to create one of your own, and see where it takes you.
- Do what you say you are going to do.
- Joy is not a luxury.
- Be honest, with yourself above all.
- Count your blessings. They are many. Be grateful.
- Remember: Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Be generous in all things.
- If you aren’t scared, you aren’t growing.
- You have time. The rest is still unwritten.
- There is only one true inner voice. Trust it. It has never let you down.