Observation Journal: Manifestos (ugh)

Pen drawing of a person carrying a banner over their shoulder.
Terrible as an army with banners (O-week picture, Slatter reference)

At this stage in the observation journal, I decided to try an exercise everyone else seems to love doing and I don’t. And it wasn’t even collage.

(I also got a procrastinatory haircut, which was good timing, because it was a while before that could happen again).

Double page of observation journal, densely handwritten. On the left, 5 things seen, heard, and done that day. On the right, a handwritten manifesto.

So: this exercise was simply to do a very fast creative manifesto, which always sounds like a good idea, except I don’t like introspection-without-action and many manifestos make me sigh: nothing ideological, they just weary me. Probably the effect of too many corporate mission statement workshops.

  • Make things.
    Bet you didn’t see that one coming. But it’s also a reminder not just to think about making things, or plan to make things, or start and not finish making things.
  • Make people homesick for places they’ve never been.
    Oh, this is a teenage hangover one, and sounds like it, but it’s still true — both as a reminder of what I personally love in stories and a checkpoint to make sure I actually put the descriptions in.
  • Beauty and terror.
    Both is good.
  • Be wary of poetry.
    Like fire, it’s a good servant but a bad master. Like glitter, you’ll never be entirely rid of it. It also makes editing a lot like negotiating a laser grid in a 1990s heist movie.
  • Forward motion.
    This is tied to “make things”, but also to one of my favourite creative metaphors: the joust between Sir Grummore and King Pellinore in The Sword in the Stone. Specifically the bit where they are on foot in heavy armour at opposite ends of the clearing, rock until they get their weight over their toes, and have to either run at each other or fall flat on their faces. I like narratives (visual or written) that feel like that.
  • Narrative before decorative.
    This is related to “forward motion”. I like illustrations that have a sense of movement and draw the story forward, and a few well-placed lines can do that just as thoroughly as a highly-rendered picture. It’s a personal preference, not “better” — and in Flyaway I quite deliberately did the opposite (see the article on Tor.com: Illustrating Flyaway).
  • But find the line that pleases.
    Eternally misquoting Peter de Sève.
  • Abundance — seek, evoke, create.
    Previously discussed here — Observation Journal: Plenty and time.
  • Make a pleasant place to be.
    I tend to live very much in my thoughts. This is just a reminder to at least straighten my desk up occasionally.
  • Don’t run too fast, because you can’t stop running.
    A parallel to Grummore & Pelinore above. It’s never stopped me doing it, but if I remember that I do it I can at least try and run into softer surfaces occasionally.

If you must try something similar, just sit down and quickly (or set a timer for 5 minutes, or race a friend) try to jot down ten guiding principles you tend to consciously or subconsciously use (or wish you did). This is more about what currently is than what you plan to do in future.

At the end, see if there are any patterns. Do some embarrass you, and do you mind? Do you remember where you picked up that approach, and does it still work for you? Are there directions you’d like to pursue further? Mottos you’d like to pinch from someone else? Do you actually do these things, or just wish you did, and is that gap stimulating or demoralising?

Or, if too much introspection enervates you, don’t.

3 thoughts on “Observation Journal: Manifestos (ugh)

  1. Pingback: August post round-up | Kathleen Jennings

  2. Pingback: Observation Journal — a tremor in the web | Kathleen Jennings

  3. Pingback: Observation Journal — unsubstantiated manifesto | Kathleen Jennings

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