No one cares about your manuscript
(An inspirational wero from Te Papa Tupu)
An introvert’s worst nightmare is meeting people in person. Which is why I work in IT, so I can
daydream about code and stories without interruption. But it was a sigh of relief to be welcomed
into the first workshop with the hospitality only Māori know how to do. I didn’t feel particularly
nervous, or though my smartwatch told me I was highly stressed. But it thinks I am sleeping
when I drive so it’s probably broken.
For two days we were in a state of wānanga, pen poised to capture any gem of wisdom on offer.
Practical lessons like structure, character, setting and perspective. Other lessons I never
considered such as brand management, online presence, mātauranga Māori and the distant
maunga, the publishing process. The pen flew across the pages as the endless list of “things I
need to read” extended tenfold. It was a side comment, “No one cares about your manuscript”
that really stuck with me.
But how is “no one cares about your manuscript” inspirational?
E kore te toka e haere ana ki te pāua.
Stories (when they are finally finished) are an opportunity to connect people to experiences you
have had. If you write from a place that is uniquely your own, you can find connections with
people you won’t expect. So, to not do the work is to miss out on these unique connections you
only find on the page. That you have to be prepared to advocate for your work, because without
you. Your unique story won’t be told.
But the work is really hard. You aren’t just writing down cool stuff. You have to justify everything
your characters do. You have to be both deep (knowing the themes and details of the world you
have made) – and have cool stuff happen. All the while, being able to concisely state what your
story is about in a random conversation – at the drop of a hat. (Don’t ask, I am still working on
If you finally put words on the page, your fingers are hovering over the delete key while you are
actively writing it. Because your characters are allowed to sound like exposition-spewing robots.
It’s a first draft, no one will judge you.
And after a few days of shuffling paragraphs on a page, hunting misspelt words and reworking
exposition to human speech, you have the enjoyment of reading the same sentence over and
over again until it loses all meaning.
Eventually, you find yourself in a state where you are able to share, only to find every spelling
mistake you missed after you sent it to the few people who are willing to read it. And if you are
me, this is only year one.
No one cares about my manuscript, yes. It is my job to make them care.