On Manifestos

Everything happens in a completely idiotic way.

—Tristan Tzara, avant-garde poet and an early Dadaist of the more nihilistic persuasion.


Tristan Tzara is the author of any number of manifestos which I adored reading when I was at that time of life when the reading of manifestos played an important role in my intellectual growth. I gave up manifestos and possibly intellectual growth a while back now, but I remember the Tzara quote, or in point of fact, I wrote that Tzara quote down in a document I unearthed earlier this week.

I had a pleasant little jog down memory lane—and realized that even with every stupid, painful, devastating, and miraculous thing that has happened in my life, my world view hasn’t changed much since my manifesto-reading days.

I thought then, and I think now, that the world is a ridiculous place, full of long, dark tea-times of the soul, chittering demons, and a purely malicious amount of randomness.

The only practical approach to living in such a world is to embrace every dumbass moment of it. Also, a glass of wine with friends never hurts.

A colleague says that for someone who reads as much Nietzsche as I do, I write extremely heart-warming and affirming novels, an accusation for which I have no defense except to say it’s not my fault. For my entire life I have lived with dual personalities.

There’s Practical Jennifer, who pays the bills, and deals with the bad news, and takes one for the team. She sees the world for what it is and doesn’t flinch. Then there’s Romantic Jennifer, who ends up stranded in Miami with five bucks in her pocket and also this wicked red lipstick. She believes in Truth and Honor and Love, and other things with capital letters. Practical Jennifer wants to throttle her on a regular basis, but Romantic Jennifer is a lot like kudzu: you might drive her underground for a while but she will always prevail.

I long ago learned that trying to reconcile the two Jennifers was a fool’s errand, and so I stopped. I learned that Practical Jennifer writes the truth, and Romantic Jennifer the Truth, and that both are needed in this dumbass world.

Practical Jennifer sees the world can be hard and gut-wrenching, and Romantic Jennifer knows this to be true, and also know that it is beautiful anyway.

So that is my, or possibly our, manifesto, to tell the truth and the Truth.

I’d love to hear about yours.


Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available on Amazon in print and ebook! (Nook and other ebook versions here)
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

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  1. I like to keep mine as simple as possible. If I make through the day without ruining my future, it’s a good day. If this is that 24-hour period when I make a fatal mistake, a comment that is too damning, then I know it’s time to find a new future. And perhaps a new curse word.

  2. Mine is somewhat stated in The Cold Draft of a Pending Obituary, the last part of a poem that I wrote.
    As a woman in my seventies I’m less impressionable with Adrienne Rich’s poetry collection gathering dust on the bookshelf.
    I don’t want to venture that far in my own dark journey,
    “get caught up in fighting this forest fire” for a pending obituary.
    I want to “only look for a still place in the woods” to write, and believe I’m as courageous.

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