This morning, I found the following manifesto in my inbox:
It piqued my interest, so I read it.
To summarize (though if you’re at all interested in writing, I suggest you give it a read; it’s short), the author argues that writers need to stop writing for their audiences (or in hopes of fame and accolades) and write only because they are writers and writers just write!
On the one hand, I found myself agreeing with him. There is definitely something to be said for being careful not to become the chameleonic panderer who writes anything if it might bring attention. On the other hand, I found myself turned off by the author’s constant distinction between “real writers” and everyone else. So I can’t be a “real writer” if I think about my audience when I write? I’m only a “real writer” if I write “for the sake of art” and nothing else?
I don’t know about you, dear writing friends, but I was very struck by the idea of the rhetorical situation during my studies in college. This basically means that whenever one sets out to communicate, one must consider all the facets of that communication’s context, like the audience, the desired message, my biases, etc. But if I do what the author of the manifesto suggests, it seems that actual communication is no longer the goal of writing anymore — only art.
But isn’t communication an integral part of art anyway? I mean, why do we have museums and art galleries? Is that so you can go look at your one piece of art that you made and congratulate yourself? NO, it’s so everyone can go see your art and receive the message you sent, thereby completing the circle. Art isn’t art without an audience, because art is all about communication. Or, as we said in my high school English class, about “removing the veil” and “illuminating the problems of the human condition”. If there is no recipient, then the communication is lost and there is no point.
Now. Is it possible to write for yourself? Yes. I do it most days — and I have a stack of full-up journals to prove it! Is it silly to sell your artistic soul in hopes of fame and fortune? I think so — and I think the manifesto author is right when he says that often keeping your focus on the art of writing can result in accidental fame. But do I think I have to be some sort of audience-repudiating art purist in order to be a “real writer”? Absolutely not.
I write for myself AND my audience.
That’s MY writer’s manifesto.