The other day I was talking with my friend Becky about this blog. “I keep meaning to recommit to it,” I said. “But I keep failing to do so.”
“If you’re going to recommit to it, you should find a way to make it really work for you,” she replied.
Wise words. So herewith we begin a series of posts trying to find a real character for this blog, one that will keep me interested enough to keep coming back to it–and hopefully be interesting for readers as well.
This first attempt is Manifesto Monday: a weekly post about The World According to Jane. Since this is supposed to be a writing blog, we’ll start out with:
Manifesto Monday: Five Things I Believe About Writing
1. I believe you CAN teach someone to write.
What you can’t teach someone is how to be interested enough in writing to really go the distance. But you can definitely teach someone to write. Writing is a real profession, with a real skill set that requires study and practice. Talent is nice, but it ain’t everything.
2. I believe plot is more important than prose.
Sorry, lit fic gang! It’s what I believe. I can be happy reading a crappily-written thriller, but there’s no chance I’m going to stick it out to the end of a beautifully lyrical novel in which I never worry that the characters are up against forces beyond their ability to surmount.
Prose matters. It does. Read some Alice Munro if you don’t believe me. But also remember, it’s not all there is.
3. I believe it’s not THAT hard to get published.
People say “It’s really hard to get published,” and what they mean is this: “It’s unlikely you’ll be published.”
Bull, I say. If you are persistent, if you are hardworking, and if you are good (and let’s face it, you know if you are), you will make it. Yes, a lot more people try to become writers than actually do it. That doesn’t mean it’s a lottery. The people who deserve to get there? They get there.
4. I believe the success of my work is in my own hands.
Just like I believe that good writers get published, I believe that great books sell. Sure, I’ve read a few stinkers that were bestsellers, but here’s the kicker: I have very rarely read the opposite: a beautiful, wonderful, I-will-treasure-it-always book that never really got anywhere commercially. The few exceptions to this rule were at least big successes within the literary/academic community.
That means that the best thing I can do for my success is not buy ad space in Ellery Queen, not throw together a slick website, not acquire a list of bookclubs to e-mail about my book. It’s write. Write well. Write something kickass and get it out there. And write something even better to follow it up.
5. I believe writing, even “non-serious” writing, can do good in the world.
I guess that’s what I have to believe, because writing is what I’ve dedicated my life to. And I need to believe that my being here has a chance of making the world a better place.
But deep down, I just really think it’s true. I think in order to have compassion for one another, humans need to be able to imagine one another’s internal lives. And reading gets us there, often more easily and completely than our own efforts to cultivate empathy toward others.
Plus, writing gives me a pulpit of sorts, and I plan to use it. So when my protagonist, Kitty, talks about what it means to really love someone else, or how guilt can cripple you, or how you need a place in the world where you feel you belong–that’s me, gang. That’s what I’ve got to give.