Recently, a friend of mine urged writers to develop an ‘Artistic Life Purpose Statement’ and boldly offered her own. Now, I’ve done ‘the vision thing’ quite a lot in my time. I was once a manager in IBM and I’ve been a business consultant. Most ‘vision statements’ are a complete waste of time – platitudes, motherhood, and empty words to make corporate trolls feel good about themselves. So I look on the whole enterprise with a jaundiced eye.
Yet I’ve been having trouble with my writing lately. In the past few months, I’ve started and stopped three different novels. Each one got to about 20,000 words before I asked myself, is this really the novel I want to be writing? The answer in each case was ‘No.” It isn’t that they weren’t good stories, or in the wrong genre, or that I didn’t think they would be good, readable books. It’s something altogether more obscure and disturbing, a feeling that they’re taking me in the wrong direction, that there was a better book I could be writing.
So, taking my friend’s advice, I went on my own little vision quest. I live near the top of a mountain, so it was no problem to go out and climb to a high place, surrounded by massive granite boulders – house-sized if you can picture such massy presences – to find myself a spot where I could look out over wide vistas of rolling gum forest beneath bottomless, blue skies, and just sit and think.
What I came up with wasn’t really a vision, or, indeed, a statement of purpose. It was more a manifesto, a short set of statements of belief that I would like to guide my future work as a science fiction writer. So, without further ado, here is my sci-fi writer’s manifesto.
- Write only about what is real, or about what can reasonably be foreseen based on what is real.
- Be honest about what is real and what is not real.
- Do not write if you have nothing important to say.
- Write in a clear, simple style, so as to be understood.
- Look forward and outward from where we are to where we might one day be.
I think these five statements are all I need to write good science fiction that is worth writing. Soon I will write an exegisis to provide more detail about what each statement means to me.
(Note from the future: This was done and the links above will take you to each statement’s expansion.)