Taking Creative Risks

‘Sometimes I wish I’d been a little braver and jumped into the unknown.’

I was talking with a friend about the writing life and the unwelcoming reality of making a living as a writer and teacher during what is now the second economic crash of my lifetime.

It was Tuesday morning and we were sitting in a café I’d only discovered a few days before despite it being a ten-minute walk from my home and opened for over two years. The chai was creamy and spicy, and the older male waiter wore alarmingly short-shorts.

A few days earlier, four out of town friends came to visit, none are writers and only one is a reader.

The spooling conversations about food, travel (or lack thereof), music, climate change, health, changing careers, politics, our dogs, and retirement pried open my tunnel vision and reminded me that there is more going on in the world than my doctorate, my manuscripts, the course I am helping teach, and this blog.

It feels a little like waking up a train, only you can’t quiet remember how you got on it or where it’s going, but hey, you’ve been here for a while, so you figure you may as well ride it out to the end.

Plus, hopping off the train doesn’t mean you’ll step out onto a platform — it’s a scientific fact that you’ll topple off into the massive void of unknown.

When talking about decision making with another friend, she asks herself, ‘If not this, then what?’

Then what?

Then what?!

The void is a scary place. It’s unknown. Empty. It lacks certainty. There is no map or path. It’s living in a cardboard box. Losing all your money. Failure.

But it’s also possibility.

Staying on the comfortable train has its own perils. There’s the fear that you’ll hop off at the end having arrived at a wasteland; there’s nothing here for you (or anybody else).

You stayed comfortable and safe; you got your money’s worth and were rewarded with nothing.

There’s a Virginia Woolf essay where she talks about crossing Oxford and following in all the (male) footsteps that had gone before her and she worries how (and if) she has become complicit to that system, that process, that way of being.

So, do we hop off or stay in our seat?

Or perhaps, the even better and more gluttonous question is: can we do both?

Can you stay on the train and hop off into the void?

Can you keep your seat warm and jump off when the urge for adventure strikes? (Presumably while passing a particularly inspiring landscape).

The train and the adventure will be different for everybody, and both can change form.

Perhaps the train is a day job, and the adventure is starting a podcast, a novel, a new short story.

Perhaps the train is a novel, and the adventure is a part-time gig or saying yes to a work collaboration or opportunity.

Perhaps we need to find better ways to get out of the ‘this or that’ thinking, and instead find ways to ‘have it all’ – while also recognising cost-benefits, time and energy limitations, responsibilities etc.

Like The Fool from tarot, maybe we need to take a leap of faith. Step off the train and onto the terrains of unknown lands, trusting that we are capable, that we will not losing our footing, and that another carriage will eventual come by if need be.   

Removing ‘this or that’ thinking means that we can choose the bigger life.  

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

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How To Write A Manifesto

How To Create A Writing Manifesto

What is a manifesto?

A manifesto is a curation of succinct phrases that best represent your intentions, opinions and aspirations. Typically, they are presented in the form of a list. So, how would a writing manifesto differ from a list of writing rules?

Writing rules are practical. A writing manifesto is inspirational. A manifesto embodies your idealised view of the world, the vision you hold for the future and your core beliefs as they relate to creativity and craft. Though a manifesto may be created through a particular lens – creativity, business, health – these principles can often be applied to other areas of life.

How do you create one?

Creating a manifesto is easy, but if you’re looking for a little inspiration then check out the list of published manifesto included below.

You can write your manifesto whatever way you want to – it’s your manifesto after all. However, if you want to make your manifesto easy to remember I recommended that you make each principle as clear & succinct as possible. For example: “I always feel better after I have written so I will write every day whether I feel like it or not” could be rewritten as “Write every day” or “Inspiration follows action.”

A writing manifesto is a tailor constitution that reflects your unique understanding and experiences with the craft. The purpose of the manifesto is to inspire and ignite you – especially on days when you’re as excited as a wet sock. Once you’ve created your manifesto, it’s a good idea to hang it near your desk as a reminder of how and why you do this crazy thing called writing.

There’s a million way you can go about writing a manifesto, but here are a few easy questions to get you started:

I write because…

Writing makes me feel…

Writing means …

In order to write, I need to…

What’s the purpose of a manifesto?

Creating a manifesto can be a lot of fun and it’s a great way to inject a little creative and playfulness into your writing. And that’s a good thing especially if you suffer from any of the following:

  • perfectionism
  • rigidness
  • taking things too damn seriously

Given that this post is all about writing manifestos, I thought it was only fair that I share mine.

Writing Manifesto

  1. Inspiration follows action
  2. The story already exists, you just have to type it out
  3. Stories have their own logic and it’s your job to follow it
  4. Resisting writing is more painful than writing
  5. No one care if the house is clean but everyone cares if you’re happy and writing makes you happy
  6. Dreams don’t work unless you do
  7. Writing happens even when you’re not writing
  8. It’s easier to write every day than once in a while
  9. New ideas are delicate, keep them close to your chest
  10. Write one good sentence, then another, then another.