the ‘how to write a creative manifesto’ manifesto

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1. Writing a manifesto is ideal for our creative work and promotional use of social media because it’s about defining the path and the way.

When we are on the path, when we commit to the path, we win.
The fun is to win everyday.

Creative work is a practice.

Social media is a practice.

We must design our path so that we love the practice. Many roads may lead to the same place, but that doesn’t mean they’re all equally effective or enjoyable for me or for you.

(And if it’s not enjoyable, it won’t be effective for very long, because you’ll be sitting in a corner somewhere poking your eyes out.)

2. Our manifesto is our way of announcing not only where we are going (your open-space, ultimate horizon dream) but how we are going to get there (the small, measurable actions you take on a near-daily basis) and also why we want to get there: the beliefs and principles that connect intellect to emotion.

Intellect and emotion: the one-two punch that powers motivation and keeps us going.

We take ideas and inspiration from wherever and whomever we find it, but in the end must build out our own unique road that plays to our individual strengths and neutralizes our weaknesses.

3. Social media is an ongoing conversation. Conversation is how we riff off of each other. It sends out sparks of electricity and magic. It is the grand arena in which ideas meet and mingle, cross-fertilize and combine; where people deposit bits and fragments of knowledge that build and open out into new dimensions of insight.
Social media embraces those who bring something to the conversation. Nobody wants to keep talking to some dude who is constantly promoting only himself. It is much more interesting when we promote others. It is much more interesting when we promote a cause.

Promote only yourself, and you are hitting the same note over and over again. When we promote other worthy people, when we link ourselves and our work to a larger social framework, our conversation becomes much more inclusive, relevant, wide-ranging and multidimensional – while still unified by the message, the vision, at core.

4. The challenge in building an ‘online platform’ for our creative work is finding a way to promote that doesn’t just flash things at people but engages them

intrigues and draws them in

and makes them part of an ongoing conversation that is relevant to our work, but also rich and deep and flexible enough to keep a lot of people engaged over a sustained period of time. Our creative work offers value, but so does our conversation. Which is why our conversation has to be passionate, sincere, and, yes, authentic enough so that people know we’re for real — and this they can trust us with their attention, their time, their love and their cash.

We build out our art through the art of conversation. Our creative work and our social media become two halves of the same larger whole. Suddenly we’re no longer marketing…

we are unmarketing, which is way way cooler.

(Find the cause in your creative work, the message you want to give the world, whether it’s to end genocide or celebrate family and relationships or be a career renegade or sacredly self-actualize or whatever.

Your manifesto is your vision, but it’s also your point of view.)

5. There is no place for spam in our practice. If it doesn’t offer value, it is spam.

6. If it is spam, then it must get the hose.

7. In our creative work, and our use of social media to promote said creative work, we must be passionate. We don’t always start from passion: we start out with glimmerings, hints and hunches. Through trial and error and study and hard work, we build upon those glimmerings. We become better and better at whatever it is we do, and through our own growing mastery find our way to passion. So those glimmerings are our guide.

(Pay attention to yours. Organize yourself and your work around them.)

8. We must be sincere, in that we do what we do because we want to do it and not because it’s what we think we should do (and then do in a half-assed way…or decide to poke our eyes out instead. Or watch The Bachelor.). We must seek the sweet spot where our beliefs and talents and the needs of our audience overlap. We must give the people what they want and need whether or not they know they want and need it. Chances are that if you need it, someone else will need it too. We may each and every one of us be a unique and individual snowflake – but, in the end, we’re all freaking snowflakes, and tumble down from the same freaking sky.

9. We must think big. We must be gloriously delusional. People want to be inspired, and they are not inspired by small and modest aims whose sole function is to stave off disappointment.

(Create a vision for yourself and your work, and turn that vision into a cause that other people can participate in and find meaning and value in.)

Social media gives us the tools to reach and teach, enable and empower.

Make the most of it to make the world a better place. This earns us trust and influence, the most powerful forms of self-promotion – which can be neither purchased nor faked.

10. We must have (or work to develop) the substance to back up our style, the steak to flesh out our sizzle. If people are going to pay for content, it must be Damn Good. The content we give away for free is how they learn to trust that what they buy will be Damn Good.

11. If it is half-assed content, then it must get the hose.

12. Know yourself. Investigate yourself. Search through your soul and your work and your interests and your role models and your personal heroes to find the themes and obsessions that inspire and compel your creative work. Look to what inspires you. Follow your strengths: those moments and activities that make you feel strong, energized and most like yourself. Brainstorm. Journal. Think up 100 questions to ask yourself about yourself and answer every single one of them. Carry a memo pad around with you and jot down every article or news story that catches your interest. Examine your bookshelves. Ask your parents what you were like as a child, the subjects you couldn’t stop talking about at the dinner table.

Investigate the magic and the mystery of You.

Then gather this information and sift through it for clues, for glimmerings. What is that you are here to do, and make, and give the world? What do you want to accomplish as a creative? Give your work a voice: what does it want to accomplish in the world?

13. Give your work some goals, some big hairy goals, some open space goals that have no real ‘trophy’ or end point — there’s a difference between “lose twenty pounds” and “be fit and energized for life”. Break those open space goals into process goals, the small incremental measurable things that when done everyday will move you and your work toward the stunning horizon of your ultimate dream. The point isn’t the destination. The point is the journey, the process, the practice, what you do on a day-to-day basis that fulfils you, that demands the best and fullest use of your soul, your talents, your self. Remember – when you’re on the path, when you practice the practice, you already win.

14. No creative person, no creative work, exists in a vacuum. Link those goals to your community, society, the world at large. Why does the world (or at least some part of it) need you to do this work? Why should we care? Find the reasons. The difference between art and simple self-expression is that art takes the raw materials of your life, your mind and personality, and weaves meaning from them in a way that has relevance for others as well as yourself. It doesn’t have to have meaning for everybody. But it has to mean something to somebody other than your mother.

15. Originality happens when we take familiar elements and combine them in new ways. Take these elements – your goals, your ambition, your self-knowledge – and combine them into an overarching vision about who you are and what you’re here to do. This doesn’t have to happen overnight. Mull it all over for a while. Put it out of your mind for a while. Give things time to gel. Let your vision come to you in flashes of insight. This is your cause, your mission, your point of view, the rallying cry for your tribe. Remember that you will continue to develop and refine it over time. It will evolve as you evolve.

16. Who do you want to reach with your message, your work? Who do you want to include and participate in your vision? Where do you think they are online – where do they live, what spaces and niches and communities? Where do they visit and hang out? What are the best ways to reach them? How can you best use social media to do that? What are the social media tools that will best serve them, and thus you? Play around with these questions. Play around with your answers. Whenever you feel a glimmering – an inner surge of excitement, a mental yawp, a Yes – see if you can weave that into your manifesto.

17. Your manifesto, remember, is a declaration of your principles, beliefs and your intentions.

Write in strong dramatic declarative language.

Write in present tense.

Write out a blend of vision, dream, philosophy, and the best practices and habitual next actions that move you in the direction of your dream. You can mix these ingredients in whatever proportions you want. After all, it’s your manifesto. The important thing is the heat the manifesto generates in your heart, gut and soul. If you don’t feel that primal, visceral, emotional connection – then stop. Play with the ingredients again. Toss stuff out and bring in something new. Mess around. Have fun. This should be fun.

18. Maybe you’re not a writer. Maybe you want to use images instead. Or music. Or video. Or cartoons. Or all of the above. Go ahead. Go wild. Do what you need to do. You are master and authority. This is the universe according to You.

Declare.

Be.

There are no rules except the rules you set. Or break.

20. A manifesto is a public declaration – so, if you’re ready, when you’re ready, make it public! Post on your blog or your website or your Facebook page. Post it here, in the comments.

Not everybody has to agree with you. Not everybody has to ‘get’ whatever it is that you’re doing.

Besides, you don’t want everybody. You want people who will love and adore your work – and you. You are communicating your manifesto to them. Everybody else can go stuff themselves. (Or watch The Bachelor.)

Remember — when we are on the path

when we commit to the path

we win.

The fun is to win everyday.

Jun 21, 2010
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16 comments · Add Yours

Fantastic stuff. Not much to add other then to remind people (and myself) that this isn’t something you do and then forget about. You have to make the conscience effort to apply your manifesto to your daily life.

Will you be planning to publish your manifesto (or manifesta if you prefer)?

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Thank you. That’s just the kick in the pants that I need as I finish up my first novel. I’ve taken longer than Margaret Mitchell to get to the end of it. I have a couple of chapters to go, but a big editing job in front of me. You can’t really edit without a manifesta. I suppose one operates unconsiously from some sort of manifesta, but until you are really conscious of what you are trying to communicate, things get lost in the translation. I’ve been beating my head against the wall for the last few weeks, trying to define what it is that I am missing in this whole process and that no one has really pin-pointed before–not fellow writers or teachers. Manifesta!

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Talk about an inspirational post! As one who’s only just now dipping a toe into the social media waters because I equated it with others’ self-promotion (and broadcasting of what they had for lunch..), I’m finally understanding it is a gateway for genuine connection with like-minded people.

By the way, Justine – it was great to meet you at Skylight’s Lit Thing and hear your uproarious deconstruction of Sweet Valley High. Thanks for your virtual writing mentorship with Tribal Writer!

Now, onto manifesto writing…

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Wow… I had a very slow and ponderous time reading this post because every sentence pushed me into thinking about it’s expanded relevance. Consequently, I kept losing my train of thought. Eventually though, I got wise and copied your wisdom into a Word doc so I can take it in again and again.

So, passion I have, but marketing and unmarketing… Whoa! This is the insecure tightrope I’m walking as I leave my comfortable face-to-face world and step into into a boundless universe of virtual connections. I’m so worried my ego won’t stay in check. When does offering the world a different idea turn into self promotion? Am I promoting myself NOW? How can I stay sincere about writing a web column or participating in yours, when my ultimate reason for doing it at ALL, is to build an author’s Platform? Every writing book and lecturer is telling me to do this, even before publishing my work! START A FAN CLUB! Optimize your site for search engines! Link to others. Create your BRAND!

Sure, I know I have to build a product, but jeez…this is NOT my way of living. If I only think about marketing, marketing, marketing, I will surely contaminate my “content.” No! I must NOT let that happen. Hopefully, your ideas in this post will steer me around the traps. I will reread your advice tonight.

Thank you again, Justine.

Irv

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Irv’s got a really good point. I can relate strongly to what he says. Some of us who aren’t extroverts automatically think what we have to say, or try to make up to say, is so trivial it’s not worth typing. Posting several times a day is an impossible task to me. Once a week on twitter maybe. This social networking is harder than all the rest of the blog stuff.

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Dear Justine,

This is a phenomenal post and one that mirrors so many ideas I have been percolating but haven’t verbalised yet. Thank you!

May I ask what inspired you to put together such a useful and down-to-Earth list of what makes a good manifesto?

The first manifesto I ever read was written by Valerie Solanas, who has since been “immortalised” as the woman who shot Andy Warhol. Her “SCUM MANIFESTO” was raw, beautiful, traumatic and though I don’t agree with a lot of it, I loved that she put herself and her ideals, her ideas out into the world in such a physical way.

I think I may have always wanted to write a manifesto.

You have given me the impetus to go forth and finally put those words and images together.

Thank you.

All the very best,

Sezin

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Justine! Nearly breathless I ran along with your out-pour stream of consciousness automatic writing down the bones with the flow. Brava!
Your manifest shared on the spot, your message an example of your message. Bravissima!

You are absolutely right, as artists/ writers, creative people we don’t live in a vacuum.

Just this morning I thought: It’s time to literally take note, distract short notes of the articles I’ve been bookmarking in the magazines that pile up around me. Where to post them, in an existing blog, or perhaps start another one? And then, as I open my mail, there’s a message that Anastasia Ashman has tagged Dialogue2010 Velvet Sisters within her note that accompanies a link to this TribalWriter blog.

When we find an other artist/writer is working on the same thing, don’t feel discouraged, on the contrary, feel the vibrancy of connectedness, feel you’re in the moment and give your idea that twist that’s yours alone.

Yeah!

Do you notice how often you find out that someone, a group, somewhere, somehow is thinking along the same lines as you are at that very moment in time?

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I’ve read this once, and I’ll read it again – as Sezin and Judith mention, there are now a pack of us art/writer wolves ready to take on our creative manifestos. Not wanting everybody to “get” it is a good reminder, t00. Thanks for putting so much energy into this post!

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I just came across your blog through the A-List Blogging site because you’re listed as a ‘writing’ blogger. Great advice, and I love the look of your blog, right down to this font. Do you have any advice for how to come up with an idea for a next novel? I’ve just written my third and feel bereft because I don’t have any compelling ideas for another one.

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“Your manifesto is your vision, but it’s also your point of view.”

Nicely done. My favorite ebook will acquire a manifesto, definitely preceding the Preface. Come to think of it, might have to precede the whole title page.

By the way, Justine, your enumeration delights me. I love finding an old rule to break in a new way.

I see you have also escalated redundancy into near-repetition. I’ve gone for the gold on this. Few ever notice, but the few are who I’m looking for.

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I think the Web’s effectiveness when it comes to marketing has a lot to do with the product and the demographic. The watercooler has always been the perfect place for informal marketing and for many of us blogs and other kinds of social media have taken their places. The problem with them is that we can usually only interact with one person at a time. You talk about unmarketing and I think the real difference is that marketing is directed to strangers, the more the better. Marketing is by its very nature impersonal, the trick is to try and make it feel personal which is why chat shows are effective because we get to sit in on a conversation and are under the illusion that we’re a part of it especially if comments get addressed directly to the camera.

The problem with the nature of the Web is that everything is quid pro quo – yes, I’ll read your blog if you’ll read mine – yes, I’ll promote your book if you help me plug mine – and that’s nice but imagine if Ian McEwan tried to have a personal relationship with everyone who read one of his books. I think that’s the problem here: the line has blurred – once there used to be readers and writers and each knew their place but now everyone is a writer so where are all the readers?

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Excellent advice for bloggers as well!

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It is difficult to sail without an orientation with regard to the stars above. Perhaps the idea of a manifesto is useful, whether we make an explicit list for ourselves, or not, but the promotion aspect can become a bit tricky.

It can be difficult when suddenly everything feels like it’s become a product in one big advertisement; perhaps it’s just a challenge to overcome whereby we find out what we really value in the other.

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Hey man – this is fantastic! well written. I’m busy trying to write up a manifesto for a product right now and I really needed some inspiration to get me going.

Shot!

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I came back to this as I re-write some of my promotional copy. Didn’t quite get it though the first time I read it some time ago. I’ve read some other material since then and when I just read this again now, a lot of the stuff just connected a lot more. Read “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, and even a seemingly unrelated book by John Hegarty, “Hegarty on Advertising”. Find that cause and philosophy!
Thanks!

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Justine,

I love what you have written here about creating a manifesta to guide your creative life. It has stunned me, to be honest, and inspired me to make real changes on my online life. I’ve been keeping bits of myself separate from the others… one blog for my author platform, one for exploring ideas about feminism and leadership, another for writing about gardening… and doing none of them well because I’m so spread out.

The inspiring thing about your series on the manifesta is that these things COMBINED is really the trick to creating a brand and for letting your audience see you. And the combination of these things being the fertile ground for a uniquely creative life perfect for your own self. Brilliant. Completely brilliant. And why the hell didn’t I think about it that way before! :)

I’m off, I’ve got some big online restructuring to do.

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