Writing anything in the age of the internet is as much about how you promote it as it is about content. Knowing what you’re selling and how to sell it is key to building your following. Manifestos are a brilliant resource for writers to hone their ability to persuade. A great manifesto can convince, uplift and focus us in a way that is both comforting, motivating and immediate. Imagine if you could sprinkle some of that power over your creative work. They’re also a great tool for creating Governments, Movements and Characters within a novel. Writing a manifesto from the perspective of your villain can throw up some compelling vitriol that can be woven into your story. I’ve put together a list of some of my favourites:
Strictly speaking, this is a poem. However Charles Bukowski’s “so you want to be a writer” is the ultimate anti-manifesto. He plays the part of the critics you’ll have to prove wrong again and again with your work. He’s the voice in your head telling you you’re doing it all wrong. I’m crouched over my keyboard trying to find the right words all the time! This poem is the criticism writers risk every time they put pen to paper. It also reminds us that we have to write with passion and drive. It reminds us to give writing everything we’ve got or don’t do it.
Many art movements have associated manifestos, the Manifesto of Futurism however is something of a literary triumph. It demands attention, invites interpretation and uses vivid imagery to draw the reader in. It’s the violence of the wording that has always struck me as interesting: hostile, hellish, rumbled, struck, slashing, torrid. It operates in defiance of convention and focuses in on automation and technology. You only have to glance at the advancements that were happening during the time that this was published to see the context. Einar Dessau broadcast using a shortwave radio becoming the first amateur broadcaster. America bought the first every military aeroplane. The year before Henry Ford produced his first car. The world is hurtling towards technological revolution and the Futurist movement is gripping onto these advancements and reflecting them in art. Despite this manifesto being partly of its time, it still holds the spirit of rebellion that we often look to infuse in our writing work. Even if no one did rise up to burn down the museums as recommended this call to arms is a great place to start when writing manifestos.
The Revolution will not be Televised is a spoken work poem made famous around the time of the civil rights movement in America. The way the language is used to juxtapose ideas whilst also adding satirical commentary is perfect. My favourite line is “The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.” It compares the ridiculousness of commercialisation with the reality of the political landscape. It threatens revolution and invites the audience to wake up to the injustices that are happening. I fell in love with spoken work poetry during a creative writing workshop. It’s a great place to turn for political commentary and encapsulated fury.
S.C.U.M Manifesto is essentially trolling 1960s style. Obviously, the views aren’t acceptable and it rightly caused some concern at the time. It has also probably contributed negatively to the modern-day view of feminism. Despite all that, it’s written with such absolute certainty you can understand why people believed the Society for Cutting Up Men to be a legitimate movement. Men are described as “Having no sense of right and wrong, no conscience, which can only stem from having an ability to empathize with others… having no faith in his non-existent self, being unnecessarily competitive, and by nature, unable to co-operate, the male feels a need for external guidance and control.” One derogatory comment may have sufficed, but this layering up of insults is what makes this text so compelling. Taken as a satirical text it’s dry and witty, taken as a serious manifesto it’s the ravings of a crazed extremist. The mythology surrounding this manifesto adds to its appeal, Valerie at one point said that it was simply a literary experiment, however she then went on to shoot Andy Warhol and was institutionalized on several occasions. What is impressive about this manifesto is that to this day, no one can truly say how much of it Valerie Solanas believed and how much was designed purely to cause public outrage. Only a manifesto written with absolute conviction could cause such a degree of outrage and acclaim.
Wear Sunscreen was written by Mary Schmich and later popularised by Baz Luhrman who set it to music. This manifesto is honest and relatable. It speaks to its audience with familiarity and touches on topics and feelings we all collectively share. The relatability of this manifesto has infused it with a magic that transcends generations. In it’s simplicity it dispenses advice that we can all confidently take on board and it makes us feel less alone in our everyday worries. You only have to look at the comments on this youtube video to see how many people love it. It’s a port in a storm and a safe place to come back to. Everything we’d love our writing to be.
Thank you for reading. Do you know of a brilliant manifesto I haven’t listed? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!