July 11, 2011

Writing Manifesto

MonasticGardens(sm)I have what I call a Writing Manifesto. I created it many years ago in the elation of having an article published and the dismay of having another rejected. It's simply a loose collection of personal thoughts, a few bible verses, and some quotes on writing that I've adopted and have tried to apply. It adds up to something like a document of intent, to myself, as a writer.

I do add to my manifesto, occasionally, so it's not a static thing, which if it was, would  eventually become moribund. But then there are long stretches, seasons, more, when I don't think of it…when things are going writerly-well my manifesto is out of mind.

But when things threaten, when my internal witness is signalling by semaphore, when hack phrases like pack-it-in sound like music, when my ambitions ambush good intentions, when that book has stalled on a dry country road, when I can't bear to read what I wrote yesterday, when I succumb to envy and its sinister percolations, when there are no images in my imagination, when I feel less animated than the upper lip of Don Newman, when one or more of these things poke up like those wire spikes on lampposts that prevent pigeons from roosting, and me from writing a sentence without a cliché, then I know it's time to return and engage the manifesto. To retreat, recall, remember and hopefully once again reignite what instigated and inspired and brought me thus far, as writer.

So for what it's worth, let me share one quote, one verse and one thought from my manifesto:

Quote: (I am an ardent fan of Thomas Merton. But please forgive his noninclusive gender references--he wrote (prodigiously) from the 1940's to the1960's:  "If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men – you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write only for yourself you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted you will wish that you were dead."

Verse: "Let my sentence come forth from thy presence..." (Psalm 17.2, KJV) Yes, I've taken this out of context. Sentence here refers to justice. But I've cleared this with God, as it literally goes to the heart of where I want my sentences to come from.

Thought/application: Taken together, my sentences will reflect something of the presence of God; will proceed from the mystical place of Christ's dwelling, which is no other place than within me, within others, even in some mysterious way, within the rocks and leaves—that cry out.

I have a notion that many of you have similar "statements," or ways, to re-ground and give direction to your writing.



  1. Love the quote! We write for eternity, not for ten minutes of fame here, or a moment of personal enjoyment.
    Perhaps it's this focus that brings some surprise at previous writing, that it had some insight and merit. But it is still easy to become more dismayed with earlier writing as we grow older.
    glad the final merit is with Him!
    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. If I do have a statement, I wish it included "when I feel less animated than the upper lip of Don Newman..." Hilarious!

    Seriously, I love your Thomas Merton quote: ""If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy." It's easy to get distracted these days by all the ambient noise.

  3. Thanks Bryan and Violet!


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