Manifestos – On Being a Writer


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Last week, Maureen Johnson posted a Manifesto that took the writing world by storm. Some people agreed with her that writers shouldn’t only be a “brand” and others disagreed. I think I’m somewhere in the middle myself – I can see the value of an author brand, but like Maureen, I don’t like the implication that I must be limited by that brand.

But reading her blog, as well as several others I recently stumbled upon, I’ve noticed that Manifestos are becoming really popular. Everyone – blogger, writer, artist, social media guru – seems to have their own manifesto, their own blueprint for how they intend to live their lives or run their business. And that got me thinking (always a dangerous thing). Do I have a manifesto? And do I even need one? What is the purpose of having one?

Just to make sure I was on the right track, I looked up the definition. Manifesto: a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.

So basically, it’s a way to let others know what your beliefs and intentions are. I’m not sure how I feel about that. As a private person, I feel that my beliefs and opinions are my own. But now that there’s so much interconnectivity due to the Internet, social media, blogs, etc, is there such a thing as privacy? By writing anything and posting it on the Internet, you’re already implying a belief or opinion about something. Wouldn’t it be better for people to know for sure what your objectives or motives are, rather than assuming them?

And, even more, does creating a manifesto somehow create a “brand”? You’re limiting yourself to a certain extent by defining your beliefs and objectives.

I don’t really have the answers right now, but I’m definitely going to be thinking more about this. Do you think an author needs a manifesto? Is it helpful to know someone’s beliefs and views on life? Or is it something we should stay away from?

4 Comments

  1. I think you'd need to feel very definite about your beliefs before creating a manifesto. If you change your mind later on, it can be difficult to go against what you've previously declared. Besides, we're writing fiction, not public opinion pieces; our beliefs should be reflected in the themes we choose.

  2. She doesn't realize that she's creating her own brand this way, does she? The fact that she writes using her same name each time, that her blog tone matches her books, etc etc. All a part of branding.

    /sigh Doesn't anyone read business books anymore?

    The example of the hard sales pitch is not about branding. That's about someone not knowing how to properly sell. I think writers like to confuse these two so that they can justify writing as their art and not worry about the business. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon who you ask, publishing is a business.

    I have a brand in marketing terms. Sure, it's a tiny brand and no one has heard of me, but it's still there.

    @Sandra – I couldn't disagree with you more. I rarely include my own personal beliefs in my fiction. That would be writing an op-ed piece. Instead, I use fiction to explore different things and see what comes out of it.

  3. I don't know if all authors should have manifesto's but its definitely neat. It kind of makes them a little more accessible- personality wise- to the general public.

  4. I go back and forth on this myself. And I think for me what it boils down to is your intention for having a manifesto.

    A lot of them that I've read have been more marketing pieces than anything. Sure the author says that they're pronouncing their beliefs to the world, but a lot of times, that also means they're trying to sell you on their beliefs and opinions (or an ebook that they've just released 🙂

    And when you think about, all authors are trying to sell you the same thing – their opinions, ideas, stories, etc. even if they're not published. But do you actually need a manifesto to do this? So you need to specifically say "I believe this and this I believe" I just don't know…