A manifesto declares intentions, motives, or views. I think I need one.
I went on a hunt to understand how a manifesto could help me in my work. Here’s what I learned on that journey. I uncovered the why the what, and the how.
Many writers and entrepreneurs share their manifesto.
How did writing and sharing this proclamation help them in their journey? What did they know that I needed to learn? How is this different from a mission, purpose, or why statement? Was a manifesto more than that? Did it outline my beliefs or intentions?
In my usual fashion, I looked for answers. Brianna Harrington gave a straightforward definition:
A personal manifesto is a declaration of what you want in life. It helps you prioritize what’s important to you and what you want to achieve. Think of it as the ultimate bucket list.
I found a simpler explanation in a Huffington Post article. The author defined a manifesto as “a statement of ideals and intentions.” This list of 10 Manifestos that shaped the western world offers more examples. Manifestos aren’t limited to political statements.
Why a manifesto is a good idea
Okay, but how is this different from writing goals and my mission? The manifesto serves as a means to keep me focused. Or can it do something more? A manifesto tells the world something about you.
In a noisy world full of words and grabbing attention, a manifesto can distinguish you from the crowd. I like the way Alexandra Franzen explains the purpose of a manifesto.
“After reading your manifesto, ideally, your reader should feel like, ‘I understand this person better’ or ‘I get what this project is all about and why it matters’ or ‘Oh, I can see the type of world that this person is trying to create — me too! I want to join the revolution!'”
Your manifesto expands your mission. You can use it to share the beliefs and philosophies that build your life’s work. A manifesto can expose the underlying context that explains your perspectives.
What an effective manifesto includes
The “do it right” gene in me wanted to find the perfect examples and the right way to develop a manifesto. My research continued.
I knew manifestos had been around for a long time. My search did not go unrewarded. I found Manifestos: A Manifesto by Julian Hanna. He describes 10 traits of effective declarations.
1. Manifestos include a list of numbered tenets.
“The Declaration of the Rights of Man” is an example. Julian also points out that these may seem familiar. Think “click-bait” numbered lists.
2. Manifestos exist to challenge and provoke.
“Common Sense” by Thomas Paine and Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” come to mind.
3. Manifestos are advertisements.
This one made me wonder how often I read manifestos that served more like the author’s means of advertising.
4. Manifestos come in many forms.
Julian exmines the re-birth of the manifesto in the 1960s. The Internet has brought a “new wave of ‘inspirational’ self-help manifestos.
5 . Manifestos are better very short than very long.
I appreciated Julian’s example of Stanley Brouwn’s “A Short Manifesto.” Fewer words give a powerful punch.
6. Manifestos are theatrical.
Bold and radical manifestos catch our attention. Such as manifestos of the Dada movement.
7. Manifestos are fiction dressed as fact.
Storytelling in manifestos can create a picture that entices the readers.
“The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism,” tells the story of how the movement began and includes a “car chase (1909!).”
8. Manifestos embrace paradox.
Absurd and self-contradictory statements can find their way in manifestos. Look at Frederick Nietzche and Walt Whitman.
9. Manifestos are always on the bleeding edge.
They lead the way to the new, the next generation, and iteration of the future.
10. Manifestos are magic (almost).
Many modern manifestos describe lost dreams and disillusionment.
“Manifesto writers over the past century have tried, above all—to paraphrase Marinetti (and Wilde)—to hurl their hopes at the stars while lying in the muddy water of modernity’s ditch.”
How to write a manifesto
I like simplicity. I decided number five from the top ten list fit the approach I sought. But how do I go about shaping this simple declaration of my beliefs and philosophy?
You might want something more sophisticated. In the spirit of minimalism, I gravitated to the steps outlined by Alexandra Franzen.
The template includes three statement stems. Complete the sentences.
I love …
I am committed …
You can add a specific invitation for the reader to join you in your mission, passion, belief, etc.
There you have it.
More ways to write a manifesto
You may want more variety. Alexandra offers five different ways you can write an inspiring manifesto. She suggests choosing one or combining them for your unique version.
I believe …
Simple statements or bullet points expressing your beliefs.
My Example: “I believe in the power of human potential.
I want to live in a world where…
What does the world you envision look like? Include the reasons you want to create this world.
My example: “I want to live in a world where every child has access to books.”
Here’s what I know for sure …
Create a list of truisms. You might write the list for your son, a sister, or a friend.
My example: “Here’s what I know for sure: Learning can change the world.
Always wear sunscreen …
Give straightforward advice like Mary Schmich’s classic “Always Wear Sunscreen” speech.
“Read even when you think you don’t have time.”
“A good poem can soothe a frantic soul.”
The micro-manifesto …
You might consider this the bumper sticker approach. Quick and to the point.
My example: “Be kind. The world needs a break.”
The next step…
There you have it. You can search more, but I have enough to write a draft of my first personal manifesto. A manifesto states your intentions, gives focus, and helps the reader understand you.
Then, yes, I do think I need one.