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A writing manifesto
Writers of the world unite!
Hey, amazing You Think Too Much people! Exciting news coming soon. My young adult novel, Fair Game, about a girls basketball team that challenges the boys to a high-stakes game, is inching ever so closer to being out in the world. There’s a cover and, very soon, opportunities to pre-order the book. There will be giveaways and games and embarrassing pictures of my childhood sports experiences (you don’t want to miss that). Stay tuned here for all the fun and to help get Fair Game into the hands of the young people who need to read it.
To help get myself psyched up (because hyping a book is so much harder for a deep introvert than writing it), here’s my writing manifesto. Enjoy!
A specter haunts me when I sit down in my writing chair. A specter of infinite possibility and depthless fear.
The history of all writing is the triumph of hope over despair, connection over isolation, communication over silence. Writing is a hand that reaches out into the darkness of the future or our loneliness and pulls us back from the edge. Writing is salvation. It has saved me time and time again. A song. A lyric. An essay. A single line of a novel. The act of writing itself is a lifesaver tossed into the ocean of my hopelessness. I rescue myself, over and over again.
When I write, I bring a world into being. That is my power. I transform the familiar into a landscape of my own making. The bar on the corner becomes a magic place, where squirrels and raccoons drop in for a beer. I create victories that have never happened, but for their writing, become that much more possible. I write into people who are a mystery to me and I come out the other side with understanding. “Pick up your pen with love or don’t pick it up at all,” Luis Alberto Urrea said and we say, amen.
I write to know myself. To make the muddy clear. I write. I think. I write I think I write I think I write I think. I write to purge. I put my thoughts here and the paper takes care of them for me. I set them down and walk away lighter.
I write to bring myself into the present. My body is the only place I can write from. I am not fooled by the tyranny of the mind. Writing is a bodily act, even in its stillness.
But also I write to go to other places. I time travel. I body hop. I feel so much against my skin and inside my mouth and behind my eyes and all the while, I’m safe in my chair.
I write for myself. I write for my daughter. I write for my husband. I write for my sister. I write for my friends. I write for my students. I write for people I don’t know, who need to hear these words as I once needed to hear their words.
I do not write to impress people. I do not write for power. I do not write for fame. I do not write for money, which is not the same as saying my words do not have value. They do. My words are priceless. So are yours. This is, after all, a manifesto. We speak it out to make it true. A manifestation is nothing more or less.
I write to wrestle with my demons. My fingers across the keyboard or gripping the pen summon their secret whispers. Listen close. There’s no point. No one cares what you have to say. None of it will ever be good enough. You’re wasting your time. You’re worthless and so are your words.
The demons have allies. There is a ‘no’ waiting at the end of every page. I do not let this stop me. I am dancing with the demons. Do you see me? Dancing? Can you hear the music?
I do not give in. I do not let the demons take this from me, because what if someone else is looking for that hand in the dark? What if that hand is mine? What if they reach out and there’s nothing there?
I write, as Toni Morrison said, to give voice to the good. I write because, as Susan Cain said, we are creatures born to transform suffering into beauty. I write because, as Melissa Febos’ said, “There is no pain in my life that has not been given value by the alchemy of creative attention.” I write to push the dial toward possibility and away from fear. I write because, as Rebecca Solnit said, writing is an act of hope. Or as Walter Benjamin put it, in the last letter before his death, fleeing the Holocaust, “Every line we succeed in publishing today—no matter how uncertain the future to which we entrust it—is a victory wrenched from the powers of darkness.”
I write against the darkness, within and without.