D.T. Pennington

Writer – Photographer – Creative Coach

Notes On: The Manifesto

Update: Since I published this, I have also released an entirely free online guide to creating a manifesto that matters (to you). You can check it out here.

Fictional television anchors are driven by their manifesto, each proclamation stemming forth from an existential crisis. Howard Beale in Network – I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore. Or The Newsroom’s Will McAvoy: “The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

Maybe the newsmen, presenting a daily analysis of the world through the other side of the lens, how could they not see the gestalt of our reality? Or, perhaps this is the manifestation of the writer, the screenwriter, who spends too much of their time perceiving the world through a series of lenses distorted, scratched, marred, and melted by time and experience. Of course, what would a discussion on manifesto be without mentioning the finest manifesto on recent popular culture – Things We Think and Do Not Say.

Yeah, the Jerry McGuire manifesto that altered his career, his life, and jettisoned us into Act II. Also, I’m now old enough to consider something from a 1996 film “recent popular culture.” The manifesto – yet again “fictional”- runs for 25 pages and served as Cameron Crowe’s exploration of the title character.

It’s 1 AM and this might be the bad pizza I had earlier talking, but I believe I have something to say. Or rather, I have something to say that I believe in. My father once said, “Get the bad news over with first. You be the one to say the tough stuff. Well, here goes. There is a cruel wind blowing through our business. We all feel it, and if we don’t, perhaps we’ve forgotten how to feel. But here is the truth. We are less ourselves than we were when we started this organization.

It’s worth the read.

The first draft of every manifesto comes from a place of fear, anxiety, frustration – a position of “fuck this.” A single event – bad traffic, an asshole boss, an absurdly horrible day – and the pressure is let off. The gas burns, the rant begins.

Most people rant, rave, have three glasses of wine and hope tomorrow is better.

Others, usually writers (narcissistic, neurotic shitheads they are) put this frustration to the page – sometimes with wine or whiskey nearby – because surely everyone else needs to feel this way.

The OutWord Manifesto happened because of the gig economy – a marketplace of copywriters and companies who didn’t know what they wanted. One needed to get paid, the other had a budget to burn. At one point, nearly 70% of the leads I fielded through platforms like Fiverr and Upwork were companies requesting a rewrite of copy from another writer. The other writer did what they asked, but they company didn’t get what they wanted. They were also tapped out. The OutWord Manifesto is an invitation to eschew the standards and the principles and deliver more of what people want.

Because, frankly, fuck everything else. I’m not here to waste time.

First, you likely heard of the Communist Manifesto. Heard of it, because it isn’t taught in American schools beyond “This Marx guy is everything our country isn’t, communism is bad, and here’s McCarthy for ya!” Marx was writing the founding guidelines for the communist party – the party that aspired to protect the growing population of post-agrarian workers who were now easily exploited in the industrial age.

Communism wanted to give this newly formed “working class” a community. The manifesto set out to give them a fighting chance against the new capitalists – the most frightening idea of the haves is the desires of the have nots. The high school kid who openly reads Marx is looked at with the side eye because how often is the Communist Manifesto lumped in with Mein Kampf? German is as German does.

The idea of the manifesto is riddled with slime. Those who write them are deemed “crazy” and on the edge. The news points out that the last thing a mass-criminal did before they walked onto the campus was upload a manifesto to a message board that will almost certainly brick your computer. Manifestos are written by the mad.

As they should be.

Manifestos are written by the mad.

A new definition:

Manifesto: noun. nnA document written by a soul entity, from the first person, declaring their intentions against the status quo.

From the idea of the manifest – who/what is contained in a ship and where it intends to go.

The manifesto: I’m going somewhere, are you coming with?

The key element of a manifesto: it is written by the lone soul. Companies, establishments, corporations, institutions – they are forbidden from writing a manifesto. A charter? Sure. A mission statement? Whatever. A manifesto? Never – for the manifesto is the document against the incorporated, against the status quo. The manifesto is designed to change the course, to smash the state, to give voice to the voiceless.

Manifestos are about letting your ass hang out in the wind for everyone to see. Manifestos are an intentional vulnerability. It invites the entire world to see what is at your core. Half will want to dig their fingernails into your open chest and the rest will reel back in horrid disgust.

Either way, you get your reaction.

Read Redemption Song – the Joe Strummer biography – the essential story of the essential punk. Manifestos are punk documents. The anti, the dirty, the unconventional.

If you don’t read it, here are three Strummer takeaways:

“I’m far more dangerous now because I don’t care at all.”

“You gotta be slightly stupid.”

and, crucially,

“Don’t write slogans, write truth.”

How To Write A Manifesto

Mad As Hell. I don’t know what will do it for you but notice the anger when it comes. Anger gets a bad rap. Anger is great, anger is an energy. It’s wrath that gets people in trouble. Take notice of the “fuck this” moment. Find the anger, find what pisses you off, and let it steep. Then, with pen in hand, open the bleeder valve and see what flows to the page.

Aim High, Punch Up. The point is to write something you can’t come back from. You’re mad at the price of gas and want to strangle the pump handle – but that energy is better spent writing something that might scare the hell out of an Exxon executive. Write against the people who decide what is “normal.” Challenge their ideology.

Side note: most American ideologies aren’t ideals at all – they are merely business plans, transactions. Every one of them is fair game.

Write to Death. One sitting, one draft. Don’t get up until it is either done, or you die. Keep the first draft to yourself. Use it to ignite the second and third drafts, use it to build the rallying call for others.

Live it. Even if no one else reads it, even if no one knows it, you are obligated to live the new principles of your manifesto. Live it beyond the best of your ability. You owe it nothing less.

The world around you is fascinating. It’s the people who are boring.

The world looks insane because we view it through the glass of a smartphone.

What would you do with a moment of clarity?

Let us start a revolution. Let us start a revolution that is not just about basketball shoes, or official licensed merchandise. I am prepared to die for something. I am prepared to live for our cause. The cause is caring about each other. The secret to this job is personal relationships.