You Need To Write Your Personal Manifesto
It’s not just for madmen
In recent years, manifestos have gotten a bad rap, on account of mass murderers using them to declare that, you know, leftists are the buttholes that have shat the world’s worst woes or that women deserve to die for not sleeping with all the nice guys. But don’t be fooled, future manifesto writers. It’s a very valuable practice. Your manifesto can be your mission and vision statement, bible, mantra, love letter, proclamation or any combination thereof. It only matters that you write it. Here’s why.
One of my favorite things about writing is how often I surprise myself. For example, my brain will feed me a word that I didn’t even know I knew! I’ll be typing along and BAM, my noggin goes all PSAT prep-course on my ass. I’m like, “Liturgical? High five you magnificent egghead!” Various novelists claim that they don’t know what a character will do or become until it’s written — the fictitious being develops from a name to a description to a mind to a soul through the writing process. Whether in stories or real life, it’s not uncommon for the brain to withhold information until you give it the ultimate truth serum and developmental aid — writing shit down.
It’s not that you’re lying to yourself, necessarily, you just might be shocked at what emerges from the depths of your subconscious if you articulate it through the written word, because it forces you to create a structure and frame for your thoughts. That’s something we don’t often do. We’re defensive self-actualizers most of the time, meaning that we only examine ourselves when asked. In those conversations with friends and enemies, we have to figure out just what in the shit we believe and why, who we are and what we want for the future. It’s a funny thing that we wing it, isn’t it? For whatever reason, we avoid encapsulating our humanity in words. Maybe we’re afraid it makes it real?
When you go on the offensive, you learn all sorts of fun things. First and foremost, if you write your manifesto you WILL have an epiphany — that’s a guarantee from me to you. It might not rock your world, but you’ll discover that something is very important to you, though you’ve never actually acknowledged its role in your life. Maybe it’s your identity or your goals or what makes you, you. More than that, there’s a good chance you’ll find problem areas, like personality traits that you’re not super happy with. You might read it over and think “Jesus, this is 100% focused on myself.” (Like I did!) Or you might review and find that your tone is angry instead of aspirational, or completely unrealistic and naive.
It’s also a real mindfuck (in the best way possible) to rewrite your manifesto throughout the years. You’ll be able to track your progress and see how you’ve changed, whether intentionally or as a function of living and experience. The thing about change is that we often don’t know when it’s happening — particularly if it’s positive. Then we look back and think, “Holy shit, I have completely outgrown those toxic relationships that I kept in my 20s. When did that go down?” It’s equally, if not more important, to have visual, tangible proof that you’ve improved, because our dumb brains hold onto the bad and let go of of the good. That is, until you write. shit. down.
There’s really no structure or type of manifesto, but here’s mine.
Life can be demoralizing for everyone. Though I’ve experienced abuse and violence, the thing I’ve felt most acutely as a woman is that ‘They’ don’t want us. They don’t want us to speak. They don’t want our opinions. They don’t want us in their professions, their meetings, their boys clubs, their jokes, their movies. They don’t want us to have the right to turn them down or to assert when we’re superior, intellectually, physically, morally. Simply put, They just want us to go away unless we act exactly how they want exactly where and when they want.
I have sensed it and tried to act accordingly. I have tiptoed through halls in my home and kept quiet in meetings. I hid from annoyed looks and apologized for my ideas that They convinced me were too weird, too big or too much. I felt shame for the way that I live my life, because They told me God wanted people to live differently. I have been embarrassed of my feelings and the horrible things that were done to me. I have given up when challenged, because I believed that everyone else’s opinion of me was correct.
Well, fuck that.
I have worked long and hard to get over the guilt of being unwanted, both as a person and as a woman. But it’s not been enough. At some point, you have to just say … this is my fault. It’s my fault for letting people define who I am and who I will become without standing up. I am exhausted with my continuous fight to feel okay about walking through this world as myself… but exhaustion can be good. It can sedate the untrue voices in my life and in my head. It can suppress the hyperactive fight or flight responses that have become a foe and not tools for survival. It can bring out the creativity that only comes alive when all else fades.
I will use this exhaustion to fight the many wrong versions of my life and to pursue that one I’ve been quietly searching out when I tried not to bother anyone. I will banish the insecurities that have kept me sidelined and swept away, onto someone else’s vision for my future. I will define my worth and I will mercilessly excise anyone who treats me like the things that I have to offer don’t matter. I have one life and I won’t go through another day apologizing for my existence or for my desires.
Here I am. And I’m a good, smart, able person.
Whatever your manifesto is, and it can be anything, allow me to give you one suggestion. Don’t give too much thought to the subject matter. You’ll find that your mind will supply you with the message that you need to hear. Maybe it’s a manifesto on the state of the world or the state of your relationship. Maybe it’s about your future or the purpose of life. I know, I know, it sounds like some hokey bullshit. But the difference between a manifesto and a Tony Robbins seminar is that the manifesto is only colored by little ol’ you. It’s only coming from your brain, your heart, your hand. And you, along with the deep wells of your subconsciousness and inner voice, are the only person who can steer your shit in the right direction.
Also, and this is my final piece of advice, if you write some deranged shit that you wouldn’t want people to see, seek help.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post fromZach Sumner.
“I only read nautical novels and my own personal manifestos.” – Ron Swanson
If I were to say the word “manifesto,” you might think of either Communists or serial killers. This is understandable; the word has taken a beating over the years.
But what if I were to tell you that writing my own manifesto has absolutely changed me, for the better, as a man?
A Manifesto: Defined
The word manifesto traces its roots to the Latin manifestum, which means clear or conspicuous. A manifesto is defined as a declaration of one’s beliefs, opinions, motives, and intentions. It is simply a document that an organization or person writes that declares what is important to them.
A manifesto functions as both a statement of principles and a bold, sometimes rebellious, call to action. By causing people to evaluate the gap between those principles and their current reality, the manifesto challenges assumptions, fosters commitment, and provokes change.
While manifestos are traditionally public declarations, every man can also have a personal manifesto.
A lot of people already have books or documents that are important to them and that sum up their beliefs. For some, it’s a religious text, and for others it’s the Constitution. I knew one person who’s manifesto was Machiavelli’s The Prince, and I still don’t know what to make of that.
The Benefits of a Manifesto
What makes a manifesto so valuable is the fact that it is a constant source of inspiration to you, and one that can often be easily read every day. I may completely agree with, say, the Bible, but reading it in its entirety every day would be cumbersome.
I read my manifesto every day, before I start my job. It focuses my mind by reminding me of my priorities. I deal with topics like how I want to treat my girlfriend, how I want to work honorably at my job, how I want to vote, and every day I am reinforcing those values. Over and over and over again.
So your manifesto isn’t so much for you to show people, although, if you want to, I know that there are some people out there it could help. It’s more of a medium through which your present self can correspond with your future self.
This may sound weird, but think about it. When I wrote my manifesto, things were going well in every area of my life. I’m not naïve enough to believe that good things continue forever, and it was just a matter of time before new struggles came and old struggles resurfaced. But man…when those rough times did hit again, I knew exactly how I wanted to respond to them because I had already made that decision and commitment.
When you’re going through something tough, isn’t it difficult to have and hold a steady, objective mind? It is for me.
With a manifesto, it’s like you always have access to a calmer, more rational you.
I have no statistical data for this, but I can say with certainty that since I have written my manifesto and began reading it every day, it has made a huge difference in my life.
How to Write a Manifesto
There is really no right or wrong way to write a manifesto; the style of it is up to you. You may want to make it very straightforward or launch into impassioned arguments for why you believe in each principle.
Here are a few of my personal suggestions:
Pick the topics. You first need to figure out the topics you want to write about. These are the areas of your life for which you want to declare your principles. I started off with three: how I want to treat my girlfriend, how I view hardships, and how I view my right to vote.
Set down your principles. Write down your beliefs, motives, and intentions about each of the topics you chose. A manifesto is an opportunity for you to lay your cards on the table. I didn’t realize some of the feelings I had for my girlfriend until I wrote them down and stood back and saw them in a much less abstract fashion than they had been.
Below is a sample of what I wrote in my Manifesto in the section on hardships:
In any situation, regardless of how difficult it may be, I will exhibit strength and control. I will display the courage to stand steadfast in my principles, even in the face of impossible circumstances. I will take the words of Invictus to heart:
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloodied, but unbowed
Now, this is a stance that is personally important to me. It doesn’t matter if you disagree, you should be able to see how I structured it.
Use strong, affirmative language. Notice that I didn’t use phrases like “I want to exhibit strength and control…” I used the more powerful “I WILL exhibit strength and control…” This may seem minor, but if you use active language, you’ll take it much more seriously. You may wish to punch up the language even further, by using the present tense: “I exhibit strength and control.”
Write it down with pen and paper. You should consider writing your manifesto in a physical book. In ancient Israel, the kings were required to write their own copy of the laws down. The physical act of writing on an actual page with an actual pen is symbolically powerful. Sure, you could type yours up in 20 minutes, but there is something special about taking far more time and actually writing it out; as you press the words on the paper, they’re pressed into your mind as well.
I hope this helps, and I hope it inspires you to not only write your values down, but to create a whole manifesto for your life. Not only will it grow you as a man, but it will help you live out those beliefs. And, when all is said and done, one of the true hallmarks of being a man is knowing what you believe, and having the guts to live it.
Last updated: November 26, 2017