There’s an old saying I repeatedly tell my kids: “If you don’t have a target to aim at, how will you know when you hit it?”
If we writers don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish with our writing, how will we know what success looks like when it comes–or how far we still have to go to achieve it?
Every business, non-profit, and even individual should have some sort of mission statement. This is another way to say you should have a purpose, a reason for being, a destiny. You may not know entirely what that looks like yet, but as a writer, you should have some driving force that brings you in front of your computer or pad of paper every day.
Often, we do have something in mind when we begin to ponder what our purpose or mission is in writing. But, more often than not, it stays in our head and never gets written down. Something powerful happens when we take the time to articulate our mission and actually put it into writing. In fact, there’s a Bible verse that states this very well: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets that he may run who reads it” (Habakkuk 2:2).
When you have your mission written out and keep it in front of you, you can run with it. It serves as a constant reminder of the target you’re trying to hit.
So, what exactly should a mission statement look like? It can and will look different for everyone, but it should somehow answer the following questions:
~ Why are you writing?
~ What is your writing passion? (What is that force that makes you sit down and work?)
~ What is your writing focus? (This could be genre, audience, or subject)
The mission statement I’ve used for myself over the past few years has been: “To develop written materials that help kids and adults draw closer to God in fun and practical ways.”
I try to keep this focus as the center of all I do. Sometimes projects will arise that don’t completely fit that description (for instance, I just wrote two books for Capstone Press on earthquakes and volcanoes), but I never stray too far from it (it’s quite doubtful that I would ever write chick lit strictly for entertainment).
A mission statement, therefore, should help keep you on track with your purpose. Unless you’re just starting out and want to take every writing job you possibly can, your mission statement will help you say “no” to those projects that are not aligned with your purpose. It’s OK to take on differing assignments for a while as you’re building writing credits, but there will come a time when these “outside-your-purpose” jobs will rob your time and distract you from ever reaching your writing destiny. Sooner or later you’ll have to set writing boundaries, and having a well-thought out mission statement will help you do just that.
A mission statement will also help you set boundaries between your writing and the rest of your life. Unless your purpose includes becoming a best-selling author with at least one book coming out every year (hence, you’re writing 50+ hours a week), you’ll need something to help keep your writing in perspective with the demands of a family and perhaps a full-time job. Having a realistic mission statement can help keep you grounded and better prioritize your various responsibilities.
What a mission statement is not, however, is a detailed blueprint for how you’re going to hit your target. Rather, it’s a picture of what that target looks like. From your mission statement, you can formulate short- and long-term goals that will tell you how to get where you want to be. Those goals should be fluid; don’t be afraid to change them. And, don’t be afraid to change your mission statement either. If you thought your purpose was to be a comedy writer so you can make people smile, but everyone groans at your jokes instead, it might be time to rethink your writing mission!
If you don’t already have a writing mission statement, I highly encourage you to take some time to think about one. Why are you writing? Where do you see yourself as a writer 5, 10, or 20 years from now? Put it down in writing and place it where you will see it every day. I guarantee it will help you “keep your eyes on the prize” on those days when you feel like getting out of the game.