if you declare to the world that you’re a writer, your subconscious is going to start supporting you in doing the things that a writer does like:
If your biggest challenge is some variation of mindset, motivation, getting the work done, or procrastination, this part is especially important for you.
I want you to open up your email. Find the part where it says ‘settings’. And ’email signature’. And I want you to add an email signature to all of your outgoing personal emails.
Here’s what it should say:
“[Your name], writer”
(You could, equally, add this to a social media bio, if you don’t use email.)
It’s going to feel weird and scary.
Maybe you’ll giggle or feel like a fraud. But you’re not.
You are a writer. By claiming the identity, you will signal to your brain that it’s time to start living up to that.
It’s time to start taking steps that a writer might take.
Change your email signature. Then journal a bit about how you’re feeling.
After we finish these five steps, you will have a really strong sense of why you’re writing.
With these 5 steps, we’re going to create your ‘Writer’s Manifesto’, a document that will help you understand why writing matters to you and what you want to bring into the world, through you creativity.
It acts as a decision-filter for the way you work on every scene, every story, every piece.
When I was procrastinating on revisions to a story, I wasn’t sure what was wrong. Then I looked at my Writer’s Manifesto and realized that the cynical little story I had drafted didn’t match my goals for me, as a writer and human.
That realization freed me to let that draft go, and work on something better…which came much more easily.
Likewise, in trying to write a scene in my novel, it kept trending to a tone that didn’t match what I had written as my aspirations for my work. Remembering that allowed me to find a better tone for the scene, which then flowed better, because I believed in it more.
We start by figuring out who we admire, as creative — who are our ‘Fairy Art Parents’…
Write a list of creative people you admire and what attracts you to them.
Don’t spend too long on this.
For example, I wrote:
Amanda Palmer. For her commitment to making the art that only she can make and for finding ways to get paid for it. outwith traditional structures. And for her commitment to openness.
Mary Robinette Kowal science fiction, fantasy author, whose pursuit of the craft of writing and storytelling is detailed and, logical. For her willingness to share that with others and to keep on turning out her own work and building an audience at the same time.
Nick Stevenson for what I call his calculated openheartedness, the way that he communicates with his readers.
Kim Stanley Robinson for his unique style and optimism.
Neil Gaiman for the same things, and for the literary family tree that he grew out of.
Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams for their quirky style, their humor, their big ideas and for the fact that what I get from them. I can only get from them.
This is a tiny task, but it lays the foundation for the really important process that we’re going through here.
When you’re finished, move on to the next step.
We’re back for Task Two of this five step challenge, which is going to get you on a path to understanding
Any time you get stuck, any time you find yourself not making progress, you can come back to this document you are creating.
It’s more effective than any other productivity hack like making appointments with yourself or setting deadlines and word count goals.
Those things can all help for awhile. But what matters is the story under the story:
Who are you as a writer, and what is the story you’re telling yourself?
In Task 1 you identified people you admire as creatives and wrote down what you admired.
I encourage you to think about these people as your Fairy Art Parents. These are the people who are guiding the way for you. These are the people you want to be like, but in your own way
Now, I want you to look through that list and find the commonalities between them.
For example, for me, I quickly realized that optimism, humor and open-heartedness were something that all of my people that I admired had in common.
It wasn’t about winning awards or being famous. It was their approach to life and creativity. That was what they had in common that I admired.
So those things belong on my list of what matters to me about writing.
I realized that my fairy art parents also had in common, a commitment to the craft and to turning out work.
I also saw a strong sense among all of my fairy art parents, that art matters. Art is life changing. Art is important. They really felt that creative work can change the world, and I realized that’s something I really believe too.
Go through your fairy art parents and the list of things that you wrote down that you admired about them. Look for those commonalities, circle them, write them out in a separate list. Do whatever makes sense to you to highlight those things…
And then just ponder that for a while. Maybe take a walk around the house, grab a drink, and just let it simmer.
Then come back ready to put all this stuff together. In a way that is going to help you figure out your. Writing Manifesto, your values, and the things that will keep you on the track.
In the previous tasks we’ve identified the role models in your artistic life, your fairy art parents, what you admire about them, and analyzed the commonalities among them.
Now we’re ready to start putting together your Writing Manifesto, based on what you’ve learned.
This is a guiding document for you as you play in your creative space.
It works from project to project, from scene to scene. (Sometimes I get stuck on a scene and I can’t figure out why I can’t go forward and I realize it’s because it’s not following any of the principles that I’ve set down for myself as an artist.
Working on projects that matter, in a way that aligns with your values and inspiration, makes makes finding your voice so much easier.
It makes everything better.
So let’s get started. Are you ready?
Look at all of the notes you’ve made about qualities in your fairy art parents that resonate most deeply with you.
(They resonate with you because they matter to you too. And once you’ve got that, I want you to write the words. In my.)
“In my creative life I will be…”
…then list the things that matter to you.
In my work and my life I will be OPENHEARTED, OPTIMISTIC, always looking for the HUMOR, even when it is dark. SKEPTICAL, but not cynical.
FORGIVING of my work’s flaws.
PROLIFIC and POSITIVE and always producing the next thing.
Committed to the CRAFT (read lots, analyze and share, put into practice).
Committed to the COMMUNITY (past, present and future. Part of a lineage.)
UPLIFTING (this doesn’t mean Pollyanna-is. Remember my mentors.)
A BELIEVER that ART MATTERS.
I create worlds I want to live in, and inspire others to do the same (not just on the page).Julie Duffy
(Watch this task’s video at the 02:10 mark, for my explanation of how I came up with this)
A Writer’s Manifesto means that, with every project, you can if something’s not working, you can look and see where it’s not aligning with your values, where it’s not aligning with your strategy for your writing life.
Mine has become a decision filter for everything I do in my writing.
It’s easier for me to ignore the shiny objects that pop up, and the temptation to think I need something new to work on. One look at my manifesto and I realize maybe I need to make THIS project work the way I want to work!
I was really surprised by the clarity it brought me…and lots of other writers have told me the same thing.
This may take a little more time than the first couple of tasks. And that’s okay.
Don’t work on it for hours, just 15 minutes or so.
Write down some of these things for yourself and to start creating that document in my writing life,
it’s not about writing out plans like “I will have a writing contract by the end of the year” or “I will read an essay every day”.
It’s about your approach.
My statements were about being upbeat and optimistic. Yours might be about being sincere and unafraid to write a sad ending.
Really dig for what’s important to you.
When you do, you’ll write the work that only you can write.
The work that people are craving.
You will have the voice that is unique to you.
That is going to make everything that you write better.
Focus on your words.
Sit with it.
Then move on, to find out what’s next.
It’s no small thing that you’re still here, still working towards creating a powerful tool to support your writing practice…and I salute you!
So far you have
This manifesto may scare you a little bit, because it’s deeply connected to your values and the things that make you most uniquely you.
You don’t have to live up to this every minute of every day.
It’s a guide.
It’s guardrails, for when things start to go wrong. A reminder of where you want to be going.
When your version of the document
Then go ahead and sign it.
And date it.
Keep a copy of it (printed or digitally) somewhere you can see it, every day.
This version will serve you for a while.
I’m encouraging you to date it because you may want to come back to this exercise in the future and see how things have changed.
(Probably your values won’t have changed but you might have more fairy art parents, and a deeper understand of yourself as a writer).
So now you have your writer’s manifesto. there’s one more thing we need to talk about: exactly how you can use this document. To help you. write more, write better, never work on ideas that don’t matter to you or in a way that doesn’t resonate with you.
So scroll down and we’ll start to put this into practice in your creative life.
…by showing up for your writing in a structured way, with the I, WRITER Course.
Today’s task is to make a plan to make it stick.
You’re inspired (and inspiring!), but will you still be working towards unleashing your awesomeness into the world, two weeks from now?
In a moment, I’ll offer you one way you could build your practice and skills (in the StoryADay I, WRITER Course), but before that, let’s talk about one more principle that will strengthen your practice.
I first heard this question from high-performance athletic coach Kevin Willis, but it made so much sense to me that I knew it would apply to a writing practice, too.
(Big surprise, huh? Athletes and writers are both humans, trying to change their behavior and achieve extraordinary things.)
When you sit down to play with your words, ask yourself if, today, you are trying to
If you’re focused on ‘be good’, you’re comparing yourself to others.
There’s a time for this– when you’re sending work out into the world– but it’s not where every day should start.
You can’t compare your first drafts to William Faulkner’’s published works!
If you’re focused on ‘getting better’, you are comparing yourself to your own best, to your yesterday, your skills and output last year…
This is a much more helpful place to be, as you approach your desk.
If you’re feeling stuck, unable to make progress, as yourself “Am I trying to be good, or get better?’
As you take your manifesto into your world, making today’s excitement last is going to require
And you can absolutely build that, by yourself.
Or…you can take advantage of the structure, lesson plan, and community I’ve put together in the upcoming StoryADay I, WRITER Course.
(Did you like that segue? I know you see what I did there)
Seriously, though, you do not have to do this by yourself.
In fact, if you’re anything like me, with the best will in the world, you CAN’T do this by yourself.
And maybe, like me, you’re getting sick of repeatedly doing that experiment.
It’s time to try something new.
The SToryADay I, WRITER Course is your chance to spend 7 weeks with me and a cohort of committed writers, going through lessons (like the work you’ve done in this challenge) and workshops that let you build your writing skills in around 90 minutes a week.
You’ll get 2 writing assignments each week (do one, or both) so that you can practice what you’re learning AND build your writing practice week after week, until it feels natural to be making time for your writing and for getting better.
And it’s all broken out into different areas of study (Imagine, Write, Refine, Improve, Triumph, Engage and Repeat) so you never feel overwhelmed.
Everything is shared in video, written and audio form and broken down into convenient bite-sized chunks (kind of like this challenge!) so you can work on each week’s content whether you have a block of 90 minutes or a few minutes on your lunch break.
You can read all about it here.
Course dates: Jan 27, 2023-March 15, 2023
It’s one thing to sign up for a course, quite another to actually DO the course.
So I’m making it easy, with checkpoints, accountability, and one more big fat carrot to entice you to keep going. Read on…
You’ll be invited to join me and other members on 3 calls, where we can talk about what you’re discovering inside the course, where I’ll answer your questions, and where you can begin building your network, with the other writers in the course
Join me and the Superstars group for our regular Critique Week, and get fresh eyes on your story (don’t worry, it’s the most thoughtful, constructive group I’ve ever been part of!)
The I, WRITER Course has a break week built in after Week 3, and it just so happens to coincide with Critique Week. Isn’t that handy?
Imagine making your writing stick, this time.
Imagine seeing the pride in the face of your friend who always believed in your talent, when you tell them “I’m writing”.
Imagine hearing friends and relatives casually talk about ‘my Nana/buddy, the writer’.
That’s a gift, not just to you, but to them.
It needs more creative people.
And you? You need – you deserve – to be able to lift your head from the daily grind and be the person you know you’re meant to be…even for a few minutes a day.
The I, WRITER Course gives you a structure and an excuse, to do that for the next seven weeks.
I’ve seen people come out the other end of this course with writing firmly anchored in their life. And with this certain knowledge that if they show up, the writing comes.
When they do, they keep getting better and they keep getting happier.
And they keep living up to their own expectations of themselves and the expectations of the people who love them.
I don’t want you to wait. I want you to start acting on the amazing manifestos that I’ve seen in this challenge.
I think it’s time that we step up and be courageous and put all of this good
out into the world.
I hope you’ll join me in the course.
And keep writing.