Why do you write?
That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. Not because I’m questioning my identity as a writer, but because with the dawn of a new year filled with global uncertainty, I’m feeling the need to commit myself to a higher calling. I know I’m not alone in this; the writing blogosphere and Twitterverse has been exploding with articles and tweets about finding purpose amidst the rollercoaster of societal change.
The key to finding your purpose? Create a mission statement.
Mission statements are perfect for writers, because they’re really just about defining your story. Creating one benefits both you and your readers. For you, it clarifies your purpose and encourages your growth in a healthy direction. For your readers, it’s a quick and easy way to understand the unique perspective of the writer they’re studying.
I’ll walk you through the steps I took to create my own mission statement. Not all of the answers became elements of the final statement (which should be brief), but they served the process.
What’s your story? (How did you get into writing?)
I’ve kept a daily journal since I was fourteen and dabbled with short stories in high school, but I didn’t seriously commit myself to writing and the dream of publication until my late twenties. At that time, I embraced writing as a way to alleviate depression after the death of my beloved grandmother (also a writer). It worked: I found the outlet for creativity and expression that my soul was craving.
As for finding my specific genre, historical fiction was a no-brainer. I have always loved history, and my favorite books since childhood have been set in the past. I see writing historical fiction as a chance to immerse myself in another world that might teach me something new about my own world.
What’s your readers’ story? (Why will they read your work?)
My readers may or may not have a love of history, but enjoy reading about a moment in time from multiple perspectives, each of which encourages them to think differently. They also appreciate strong characters, and respond to the emotional connectivity that infuses my work.
What will you contribute that no one else can (or that you can do in a unique way)?
- Research; love of history and sociology. Willingness to do my prep work in detail.
- Connecting with readers on an emotional level.
- Writing adult fiction in plain-spoken English. My writing isn’t fancy, but it’s clear.
- Shifting perspectives while connecting deeply with each character.
- Dedication to the quality of my work and determination to bring it to as many readers as possible.
- Constant scrutiny of my writing process to see where I can do more and better.
What are your past successes?
My best work has been done with flashes of insight that turn into quickly-written first drafts. It’s then followed by re-writing and editing through several slower drafts to become a polished product. Success is also tied in with the courage to submit my work over and over again.
What is your future ideal writing life? (Two-part question)
1) How would writing ideally impact your life?
I’d have the opportunity to publish a string of historical novels, working closely with my agent and editing team. I’d have short stories, personal essays and articles published, and as my books gained popularity, the publishers would come to me instead of my having to query them. I’d continue my blog, build my email list, start a podcast and do live readings so that I could reach my readers personally. After several historical novels, I might branch out into memoir or YA contemporary fiction. It would be nice to be able to live off my writing, but my main goal is to have continual demand for my work, even if it’s not at the highest income level.
2) How would it ideally impact your readers’ lives?
My readers would gain fresh perspectives on the past and present through the eyes of my characters. They would experience what a character would go through during a difficult time in the past, and relate it to present circumstances. They would learn truth through fiction. They would enjoy the stories I tell, and become fans of my work.
The result of these questions? My mission statement:
My mission is to write fiction that tells stories from multiple perspectives about a significant moment in time. I will connect with readers on a deep emotional level, and create strong characters that live off the page. My work is important to others because the sharing of history and social behavior through engaging storytelling can shift readers’ perspectives and affect change. My work is important to me because it fills me up, makes me happy and gives me insights into myself.
It’s important to remember that a mission statement should be fluid. It’s good to examine and reevaluate it about once a year to make sure you’re still going in the same direction. I thought writing mine would be painful, but instead I felt energized by the process.
If you write your own mission statement, I’d love for you to share it with me! Connect with me at leannesowul.com, email me at leannesowul(at)gmail(dot)com, or if your mission statement makes it under 140 characters (impressive!) tag me @sowulwords.
Leanne Sowul is a writer and teacher from the Hudson Valley region of New York. She’s the curator of the website Words From The Sowul and writes the “Be Well, Write Well” column for DIY MFA. Her current projects include submitting her novel BEFORE THE FIRE to editors and several short stories/essays to publishers; working on her second historical novel; and enjoying time with her newborn daughter. Connect with her at leannesowul(at)gmail(dot)com, or on Twitter @sowulwords.