Go Down the Rabbit Hole: A Writer’s Manifesto

I’m recycling my own work here, which I am usually loathe to do. But a post I wrote last semester, working alongside the students in my Writing for Digital Media class, was just featured on WordPress.com’s Freshly Pressed showcase, and the response has been tremendous. The advice has really seemed to resonate with a lot of creative people, so I thought I would repost the manifesto here, for posterity’s sake.

Go Down the Rabbit Hole: A Writer’s Manifesto

1. You are the work. The work is you: both an articulation of the self and a possibility for self-reflection. Be honest in creation: allow yourself to bleed into the work, but also allow it to work on you. Your work can show you things: illuminate and clarify your own thoughts, motivations, actions. If you do it right, you will find the work changing you, too.

2. Thinking is process. Laying on the floor. Sitting on park benches. Getting lost on purpose. These are all working. Learn the difference between mindless distraction and mindful wandering.

3. Go down the rabbit hole. Sometimes the work isn’t about what you think it is. Allow yourself to get lost down alleyways, to follow a train of thought around a corner. Don’t feel you need to reign yourself in. Too much focus squeezes all the possibility for revelation out of the work.

4. Fear the rabbit hole. There is such a thing as too much wandering. You don’t have to include every thread in every piece of work. If you find something new and intriguing, give that idea its own time and space, rather than trying to shove it into the existing work.

5. Get physical. Take long walks. Do push-ups or jumping jacks. Play with your dog. Working well requires you get the heart pumping — otherwise there’s no blood, no energy, no life.

6. Feel deeply. Distancing yourself too much from your work is killing. If it makes you weep, makes you angry, makes you wiggle your hips, that means you’re doing something right.

7. Revel in the mystery. You don’t have to know where you’re headed to start getting there. Trust your feet to walk the path. Trust the process to create itself. Trust that the work will reveal its own purpose to you.

8. The end (of the draft) is the beginning. When you think you’re finished is when you’re just getting started. Walk away. Hide from the work for a little while. When you return, it should be with total clarity and distance. Cut it up. Rearrange it. Run the sandpaper over it again and again until it gleams. Even then, you might still just be getting started.

9. Change. Get bigger. Go smaller. Turn your head upside down. There’s always a new way of looking. The visionaries are just people willing to try on a different approach.

10. Remember that the work isn’t everything. Everything can be art, but that doesn’t mean everything should be. It’s ok for some things to just be life — private — for some elements to remain unexamined. For a little while, anyway.

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