Do you have a personal mission statement (also called a “manifesto”)? A statement of beliefs and intentions? A set of guiding principles for how to live your life? It’s possible that you do somewhere in the recesses of your brain. You may not have articulated these even to yourself, though you may be living according to them. For people who have written out their mission statements, these may be a little like New Year’s resolutions, lofty goals that sound good but are difficult to apply consistently throughout a year, much less a life. But that’s no reason to avoid creating one.
I read two artists’ “manifestos” on Dailygood.com that show how varied these may be.
American architect Frank Lloyd Wright‘s list included “an eye to see nature, a heart to feel nature, fertility of imagination, and capacity for faith and rebellion.” Knowing how important bringing the out-of-doors inside was to Wright, the list seems completely in harmony with his designs. Russian writer Leo Tolstoy‘s “rules for life” were much less fanciful and much more practical and included: “Get up early; go to bed early, eat little and avoid sweets; keep away from women; change nothing in your style of living even if you become 10 times richer.” I don’t think he could have completed War and Peace (1,472 pages) and Anna Karenina (864 pages) without following most of these rules.
On-line readers who commented on these mission statements sent links to other manifestos. I found one easy-to-remember and reasonably easy-to-apply manifesto from a book compiled by a small group of Italian artists: “Work hard and be nice to people.” Some responders submitted their own, including one reader with the on-line name of Blá Blá Blá: “I consider myself a solver.” Other responses came from those who hadn’t yet written their mission statements, but were about to do so after being inspired by the article.
There’s something appealing about articulating how you intend to live your life. When I first read the article I thought about creating my manifesto with a spiritual focus. Since then, more worldly concerns have chimed in, and these are calling for a Leo Tolstoy approach. After spending four days at the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conference, I have a new retirement goal: have a book ready for publication in two years. I am going to take a year-long class through the University of Washington. Once school begins, I will write 700- 1000 words a day, stick to a regular writing schedule, stop fleeing to my inbox whenever an email notification appears, and let the telephone voice mail service do its job. This goal statement has all the signs of a New Year’s resolution. Maybe by starting in October and not January I will increase my odds of success. Anyway, I would be too busy to start work on a goal of this magnitude in January, when I’m also resolving to exercise and lose weight.
WARNING: For anyone who read the earlier blog, you’ll know that I was unsuccessful in “pitching” a memoir to an agent. After that experience, I attended a seminar by a memoir writer and decided that perhaps my life wasn’t particularly “memoirable,” but that didn’t mean I couldn’t create a memoir for a fictional character, incorporating some of my experiences and those of people I know. The teacher of the university course told me to develop my book’s protagonist before class begins in October. Since often main characters are composites of the author and the people she has met, I’m alerting blog subscribers who know me to my new manifesto: friends, beware, but don’t worry…unless you begin to see yourselves in the book’s antagonist.