Why do I write?
Every now and then I ponder this question, especially on days when it feels like the work far outweighs the reward. When the marketplace feels impossibly crowded. When I’ve left it all on the page and no one seems to notice or care.
This question resurfaced recently during my time in quarantine, triggered by watching the healthy heartbeat of my book sales fall to near-comatose levels. By flipping through page after blank page in my day planner, not a speaking engagement in sight. By the fog of uncertainty hanging over the future.
As indie authors we wear many hats and often work at an exhausting pace to simultaneously write and produce new projects, promote our full list of titles, show up for events and speaking engagements, and, in some cases, balance freelance work. So, when a crisis yanks the rug from beneath us, it’s easy to lose sight of why we do this work in the first place.
I’ve been down this road enough times to know that when I start asking this question, it’s time to take a break, clear my head, and reconnect with my why.
In the corporate world, a company’s why is often articulated by its mission statement. A mission statement answers the 3 Ws—what you do, who you do it for, and why you do it.
- Highlights for Children: We help children become their best selves by publishing content and creating experiences that engage, delight, and foster joyful learning.
- Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
- Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
A mission statement can be a source of inspiration or a helpful filter through which to evaluate decisions. And when the fog of uncertainty rolls in, it can be a guiding light.
I needed a guiding light to find my way out of my quarantine funk. So I reached out to the Writer Unboxed Facebook community for advice as I set out to create an author mission statement to help me reconnect with my why. Today, I’ll share what I’ve learned and provide three simple steps to help you create one too.
Step 1: Break It Down
An author mission statement should answer the 3 Ws—what you write, who you write for, and why you write. Let’s break it down into three questions.
Question #1: What do you write?
Make a list that summarizes your body of work.
For example, I write:
- Illustrated chapter books
- Indie publishing advice column
- Travel articles and essays
Once you’ve completed your list, look for the common thread that runs through your work. If it’s not immediately apparent, consider each project and recall what compelled you to write it. What did you hope to accomplish? What message did you want to convey? Pay attention to common words and themes that emerge.
For example, when I wrote Empty Arms, a novel for adult readers, I wanted to teach people about an oft-overlooked period of U.S. history, known as “the Baby Scoop Era,” during which 4 million unwed pregnant women were coerced into giving up their babies for adoption. When I write the High Flyers chapter book series for kids, my goal is to teach young readers about the fun and fascinating sport of pigeon racing, which involves specially trained homing pigeons that compete in races spanning several hundred miles. My goal with The Indie Way column here at Writer Unboxed is to teach writers what has (and hasn’t) worked for me to help them succeed in their independent publishing pursuits. Through my travel writing, I aim to teach people about inspiring new places.
Despite the diversity within my body of work, one word kept rising to the surface: teach. [Read more…]