Writers’ manifesto for 2017 – take your imagination seriously

A lucky turn of the radio dial this week and I got a real treat: the Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine interviewing Brian Eno. The whole piece is worth listening to, but this exchange particularly caught me.

Vine was trying to pin down what made some of Eno’s collaborators so special – David Bowie, David Byrne, Bryan Ferry. He said this: they all had ‘a different quality of imagination’.

And Eno replied: ‘I think everyone has much more imagination than they give themselves credit for. But the difference is that some people take their imaginations seriously.’

Yes. One thousand per cent.

Today, I’d planned another kind of post. Usually my new year kick-off is publishing options for twenty-whatever. I began to write it. I realised as I did that not much had changed. What I’d say for 2017 is much the same as I’d said in 2016. And when I wrote 2016’s post I referred heavily to 2015’s. I’d lined up some good reference posts – Mark Coker of Smashwords, who looked back at 10 years of ebooks and forward to how the publishing ecosystem will continue to evolve. And to Jane Friedman, who give some great pointers for sizing up a publishing offer from a small imprint.

But lordy, it was a slog. I felt like I was rehashing material I’d already tackled exhaustively. Planet Earth did not need another article about how to publish wisely in 2017.

And then, by chance, out of my radio come Messrs Eno and Vine. Take your imagination seriously.

I thought that’s IT. That’s how I want to go into 2017. While we’re figuring out whether to self-publish or look for a deal, or mix a trad indie cocktail never tasted before, we must not lose sight of this.

What we do is about creation. Listening to what interests us, moves us. Growing as artistic, communicative beings, finding things that seem to peel back something we must say about our world and our lives. This is where the joy of our work comes from, where we make our distinctive contribution.

Eno said more:

‘It’s not just having ideas, but being prepared to push them through and try to make them work. Some people get discouraged very easily, but I think successful artists don’t. They get confidence in what they’re doing and they decide “I want to see how it works; I want to see what happens when I do it”.’

At a time when  we’re all making resolutions, and resolutions to help us keep our resolutions, and tips for success, I’d like to offer this one. Who’s with me?

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Thanks for the pic with Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards Rusty Sheriff on Flickr

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  1. #1 by raizscanlon on January 8, 2017 - 11:05 am

    I’m with you, Roz! Anything Eno says is gold (a recent Facebook post he made on the state of the human race and the crumbling of our [western society] current political and economic systems of government was brilliant). He’s been my musical hero for over 40 years, and that statement, “take your imagination seriously,” is an easy enough theme to adopt for the year. I’m in!

    • #2 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on January 8, 2017 - 12:26 pm

      Greetings, Robert! I didn’t know Eno was on Facebook, so thank you for that. Start as we mean to go on!

  2. #3 by acflory on January 8, 2017 - 11:50 am

    I’m in too. If we can’t believe in our own storytelling ability, who will?

  3. #4 by acflory on January 8, 2017 - 11:50 am

    Oh and Happy New Year. 🙂

  4. #6 by The Owl Lady on January 8, 2017 - 12:46 pm

    Reblogged this on The Owl Lady.

  5. #7 by DRMarvello on January 8, 2017 - 2:19 pm

    This article really got me thinking. I posted a link to it and my comments on my favorite writers forum. Here’s what I said…

    * * * * *

    Morris quotes Eno as saying, “It’s not just having ideas, but being prepared to push them through and try to make them work.” I think that one sentence sums up why I enjoyed writing my first novel and why I’ve enjoyed writing since then. Many people start book projects and lose interest somewhere along the way. I suspect that’s more a failure of faith (in one’s self) than a failure of imagination. Having ideas is only the first step. You have to be interested in where your imagination takes you more than how it gets you started.

    I understand a little better now why some writing coaches suggest that you start your story at the end. Even if you don’t literally write the end of the story first, that approach might help some writers keep their eye on the prize, which is a completed manuscript. Starting at the end doesn’t work for everyone, of course. Eno himself said that part of the creative spirit is to be interested in where an idea will take you, which is more of a “pantsery” way of looking at things.

    I guess it all depends upon how you like to assemble a story, but regardless of your writing process, I think it helps to take your imagination seriously. Imagination is the tool that puts wonder in the creative process and that makes everything you produce uniquely yours.

    • #8 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on January 8, 2017 - 5:32 pm

      I’m all in favour of wonder – well said, Mr Marvello! And thank you for spreading the word on your forum!

  6. #9 by bevbaird on January 8, 2017 - 6:23 pm

    The perfect words and inspiration to here now! Thanks for sharing.

  7. #11 by tracikenworth on January 9, 2017 - 12:53 am

    I will take mine more seriously this year, for sure.

  8. #13 by Rachel Federman on January 9, 2017 - 8:50 pm

    I am! Thank you. I know exactly what you mean – where a list meant to motivate becomes a slog. How great and serendipitous that you found exactly the advice you (and we) needed through the Eno interview.

    • #14 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on January 10, 2017 - 7:17 am

      As an encore, I went and found another interview with him on the BBC World Service! Now I’m well set up.

  9. #15 by Don Massenzio on January 10, 2017 - 12:24 am

    Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Here is an inspirational post from the Nail Your Novel blog to help you get your writing in gear.

  10. #16 by Alexander M Zoltai on January 10, 2017 - 11:54 am

    Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    In today’s re-blog Roz Morris explores how to get to “I want to see how it works; I want to see what happens when I do it”…

  11. #17 by @SylviaHubbard1 on January 10, 2017 - 12:10 pm

    Reblogged this on 3 Chicks and Some Books.

  12. #18 by dgkaye on January 11, 2017 - 1:32 am

    Thanks for sharing the inspiration. And Happy New Year Roz. 🙂

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