Simply put, a manifesto is a statement of ideals and intentions. One of the most famous examples is The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (the word is right there in the name!), but there are many others. The Declaration of Independence is a manifesto. So is Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech."
According to The Art of Manliness (a site that we promise can be enjoyed by ladies, too), "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."
Because of their power to provoke change, manifestos are often embraced by creative and political types, but you don't have to be a writer, artist, or revolutionary to draw up your own personal manifesto. Here's how to write your own in five steps:
1. Get Inspired.
Read what others have written. Check out this list of ten great modern manifestos to get you started, but don't feel that you have to conform to any of these examples. This is your personal manifesto, so copying someone else kind of defeats the purpose.
2. Make Notes.
Your manifesto has three basic components: beliefs, goals, and wisdom. Grab a notebook and write "I believe..." at the top of a blank page, then think of five or ten ways to complete the statement. On the next page, write "I want to..." and fill in the blanks with ways that you'd change the world. Finally, write "I know this to be true..." and record words of wisdom. These can be things you've learned from your own experience, wisdom passed down from your family, or even inspirational quotes.
3. Write a Rough Draft.
Using the notes you made, create a rough draft of your manifesto. It can be as long or as short as it needs to be. You can write in long, flowing paragraphs, or you can make a bulleted list like architect Frank Lloyd Wright's manifesto for his apprentices. You could even create an infographic-style manifesto if you're a visually inclined person. Don't worry about impressing your significant other, your parents, your best friend, or the fourth grade teacher who criticized your penmanship.
4. Put It Away, Then Proofread.
Once you've written the draft version, set it aside for a day or two. Resist the urge to tinker with it! When you come back to it with fresh eyes, you may find that some of the statements don't ring quite true. Cut out any instances of the word "try": As Yoda told Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, "Do or do not. There is no try." While you're rereading, you'll probably also find some typos. If proofreading isn't your forte, try using an automated proofreader.
5. Live It.
A personal manifesto is a declaration of your core values. It's like a mission statement and owner's manual for your life, so don't let it sit in a drawer or a file you never open on your computer. Hang it over your workspace, put it on the fridge, make it your desktop background, or print it on a laminated card you keep in your wallet: the idea is to read your manifesto regularly to reaffirm those values and remind you of your goals.
Keep in mind that your priorities and goals will change over time. Like the U.S. Constitution, your manifesto is a living document. Let it grow along with you as you go forth to follow your dreams!