Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Manifesting Ourselves

As a side project on my Napier MA Course, and what a pleasant course it is, if you want that £3750 removed from your bank account, six part-time students wrote manifestos to be produced in print and ‘manifested’ at a local venue. The experience has been an interesting lesson in patience, collaboration and writing-in-the-real-world-to-deadlines-and-such.

My manifesto evolved from four children sitting in the café discussing various ways to torture monkeys and cats. The end result was a sect known as the Hattists, the gag being the ritual donning of hatwear at all times. Har-har. At the time we chortled at our strange humour, and the presentation went down well, but after a weeks, I got fed up of the thing.

My task, then, was to sustain enthusiasm for a project that basically took one night to write. The manifesto had been ready since I wrote a mock-up for a class presentation. So I would have to hold onto my fondness for this thing for the eight months it took to bleed it into print.

At first I was irked that it was our responsibility to design the manifestoes. There seemed to be an assumption that we were knowledgeable about how to format A5 documents, that we were also visual artists, and that we knew how publishing layouts worked. So, in a muddle of confusion, the project hid in the cellar for months until we were forced into action.

At this point, the few undergraduates who volunteered to help us dropped out, leaving us on our own. Now. I am not a natural leader. I don’t want to lead anything. Except leading my stories into print. Or leading cake into my mouth. Leaders are people willing to be called tosscocks, and have loins of steel. I take a slightly large phone bill as a personal insult. Not a good leader.

I am also, frankly, unhelpful in a group scenario. Generally, in groups, there are only a short number of logical suggestions to be posited, and they get posited by someone eventually. I limit my contributions to nodding and basking in the charm of others. So this group collaboration was a new experience for me, and I like to think I handled it with a certain flexibility. Though no sexual acts were required, apart from some mild fisting.

We were being tested on our autonomy as a group, and coping with the deadlines and demands. I also had to take on a second manifesto when one member of the group pulled out, so had to edit someone else’s work for publication. This was another daunting challenge, and I’m not sure I pulled off a first-rate editing job, but hopefully the manifesto speaks for itself. That is, after all, the purpose of a manifesto. That’s my excuse, anyway.

The biggest challenge for me is on Saturday, when we ‘manifest’ our manifestoes in little 10-min presentations, organised by Forge of the Wordsmiths. In front of people. I still can’t believe that I volunteered to speak. But I could use the experience at reading as – like it or not, and I don’t like it, not one little bit – public reading is part of the writer’s life. I will have my Hattist comrades for support, so fingers crossed it goes down well.

A big round of applause, then, for all the manifesters and their sterling work in putting the manifestos together. It has been a painfully jolly time for all.


  1. One thing I've liked about this project is that we've had no bitchings within the group. Or if anyone secretly hated anyone else, it was dealt with in an adult way.

    Thank you for helping me with the whinging moaning pissing exhausting block I've had. I don't have a better word for block, partly because I'm still blocked.

  2. You should hear what Dundas was saying behind your back. Oh, the spite!

    It was my pleasure to help. You were squeezed harder than the others. My only solution to block is just to write. Anything. How I feel about my favourite socks. It doesn't matter.

  3. Alas, my presence is required at a golden wedding anniversary in another country, so I cannot bear witness to your manifestations. But best of luck to all those who manifest themselves on Saturday!

  4. I've heard if you present in your underwear, or better yet, bare naked, that nobody will criticize anything you're saying, so you're welcome to give that a try (just be sure to blog about whether it works or not).

    I detest group projects, but it's mostly because I'm in denial about my internal control freak. So well done for BEING done and good luck this weekend!

  5. David: Darn! No, actually, that's probably just as well...

    Hart: Thanks! We could do it naked, but we want people to laugh at our hats, not our... yes.

    There weren't any control freaks among the group. The worst we had to cope with was ambition and enthusiasm going against what was practical. Which was nice.

  6. On my fear scale, reading in public is right up there with drowning and being torn apart by instruments of torture.

    I'm sure Saturday will go fine. How can I be so sure? Well, I can't.

  7. When 16, I was conscripted into a school play. It was a disaster - I mumbled, shuffled and make a thorough fool of myself. I didn't even get to kiss the leading lady. I decided that any acting was not my forte.

    In my professional career, I first had to address meetings, and then go on speak in public. I became very good at it, ever growing to love it. I often ad-libbed with no prepared speeches.
    The difference between that success and the disastrous school play?
    I was not acting, I believed in what I had to say. I was just being myself.

    So, doing 'readings' of my work, not a chance in bloody hell!
    I really cannot act.

    I wish good luck to all of you in your Manifesting!

  8. Thanks, Mike. We did it on Saturday. It went very rather well indeedy so it did so it did.

    It is unusual how many extroverted people used to public speaking are embarrassed by reading their writing aloud. It also sounds as if you don't believe in what you write, which I'm sure isn't true.

  9. I believe in what I write, but I don't believe I'm any of the characters. :)