A recent assignment in my M.F.A. program called on us to write a manifesto for ourselves. My first thought was, “I have no idea how to write a manifesto!” Yet, the moment that thought evaporated, another was close on its heels: “Be particular.” It is a phrase my grandfather used often. Honestly, I am not 100% certain what he meant when he used it, but it became a catch phrase in our family over the years—a response that could suit more occasions than you would imagine. “Be particular” became the beginning of my manifesto.
More words followed easily. I pulled phrases from my website through the years and thoughts I realized had long been guiding principles behind my work. Voila. A Manifesto. Homework completed.
Sharing it with my writer’s circle after submitting it for class, my fellow writers liked the sentiments I expressed but bristled at the word “manifesto.” For most, it conjured notions of “manifest destiny,” of conquering and taking by force. These meanings are the antithesis of what we foster in our circle, where we cultivate deep listening and seek to nurture each of us as writers to find and live into our own voice.
I admitted to the same initial reaction. My feelings shifted, though, when I thought about manifesto as more akin to manifestation than dictum. With that lens, the word became more of an evolving process to me, a sense of creation and offering, rather than an imposed mandate. We talked about reimagining the word as coming from birthing rather than conquering and what that transformation might look like.
In the spirit of manifesto as an invitation to growth, evolution, purpose and practice in the world, I offer you my mine. What’s yours? Or, what’s a better word than manifesto that can accompany us with ongoing relevance?