Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Your Mission... Should you decide to accept it.

[Note: I found this in a file of things I wrote three or four years ago. Considering that I am moving closer to a time when writing will be my main "career" focus, this was actually helpful to me, as I hope it will be to you.]

Most businesses and nonprofit organizations have mission statements. A mission statement is an (ideally) short statement of the purpose of that organization which sets a focus for the organization's activities. Of course, the reality of mission statements is that often they bear little resemblance to what the organization truly does and those that do, are rarely short.

So, what does this have to do with you as a writer?

Often, we lose focus as writers, just as organizations can lose focus. Our writing goes off in all directions and we are unable to learn to excel in certain targeted areas. Now, I'm not suggesting we do not need to stretch or try different things. Those are matters of personal growth I take seriously. Nor does it mean that we try to find ways to make our writing fresh, original and surprising even to ourselves. However, until those things become central to our writing, then they fall more in the area of personal improvement, entertainment or hobbies and not a part of our main writing career/ministry.

At some point, you may feel competent enough in these peripheral pursuits to make them part of your central focus. Or if not competent, committed enough to them to develop them thoroughly. I'm not sure I've hit the skill level to consider myself fully competent in the execution of long fiction, but that is core to my personal writing and should be reflected by my mission statement. However, if I had to make a living writing, then it would be more peripheral and probably not reflected by it.

One important thing to remember is that mission statements tend to evolve over time as our careers take different and sometimes surprising paths. The mission statement is as much descriptive as it is directive.

Mostly, the mission statement (and more importantly the career focus contained within the mission statement) helps you drive your marketing. When promoting yourself either to a publisher, a local business client or directly to the reader, it helps you shape your marketing message. It's not enough for your profile in Facebook or LinkedIn to simply say "Writer." The potential client/publisher/reader is asking what kind of writer. Whether you use the words of your mission statement directly or not, it can help you answer that question.

So, how do we construct a mission statement? Remember, when I said mission statements are mostly descriptive. Start by listing the types of writing you are doing right now. Start with those which are consuming most of your time. We invest our time in what we consider most important. So, I'll use myself as an example:

Writing which teaches writing
Science Fiction Writing
Mystery Writing
Learning materials for oral communication
Writing which assists other writers market their writing
Bible Study writing
Christian Living writing

Since writing learning materials is more related to my teaching than to a more pure personal writing activity, I'll leave it out of the mix. I write the Bible studies primarily for the church, and devotions/Christian living writing are peripheral forms of writing right now done more for personal enjoyment and fulfillment. They are not things that form part of the core of my professional writing efforts.

The next is to make a list of things which you expect or desire to form part of the core of your writing within the next year or two. Don't worry if they overlap or are identical with the previous list.

Science Fiction Writing
Fantasy Writing
Mystery Writing
Writing which teaches Writing
Writing which teaches creative forms of Bible study
Writing assisting other writers marketing their writing.

Okay, I have a good deal of overlap along with two new items: fantasy and creative Bible study. The Creative Bible study has emerged from a specific project which may or may not become a major part of my future writing. I think I'll leave that out for now until I see whether or not it becomes important enough to promote as part of my total writing effort. Now, I have enough to begin work on the mission statement. As a good practical rule of thumb, try to keep the mission statement under 25 words. It is not a listing of every project you are pursuing or would like to pursue. It is a general direction and not a specific road map.

So, let's see how I can condense my goals into a mission statement:

Terri Main's mission is to write entertaining, character-driven, science-fiction, mysteries and fantasy stories and assist other writers in developing their writing abilities and marketing skills.

Not bad but it still came in over 25 words, lets see if I can condense it. Let's assume I want to write things that are "entertaining" rather than boring and eliminate that word. And, on second thought, fantasy is still something I'm just experimenting with, don't want to make it part of my public persona just yet, nor make it a core part of what I am planning to do. And, if I am assisting writers, one would assume they are "other" writers and not myself since I am not a plural. So, let's see what we have now.

Terri Main's mission is to write character-driven science-fiction and mystery stories and assist writers in developing their writing abilities and marketing skills.

We are now down to 24 words. I'm still not sure about leaving in the word "abilities," but sometimes you can over think a mission statement. This is not one I would have written a year ago and it will be changed by next year I'm sure. But for now, it gives me a personal direction and a direction for my future marketing.

Now, is your turn. Try your hand at writing a personal mission statement for your writing ministry/career.


  1. Great post, Terri.

    My mission statement is similar to yours:

    Karen Cioffi's mission is to continue to write and publish children's fiction books, continue to write and self-publish informational e-books, continue with business and health related ghostwriting, and assist other writers in developing their writing abilities and marketing skills.

  2. Hi Terri,

    This was a very useful post. Your site says others can share this info and blog link. I might post this on my blog if that is okay.

    Now I'll try.

    Lisa Blackwood's mission is to provide readers with entertaining fantasy, science fiction and paranormal romance stories.

  3. That's right, Lisa. I not only allow it, I encourage sharing if people find this information useful as long as there is a link in return.

    I'm glad to see people are thinking about these things.

  4. Terry, great post. Would you consider this the statement you would use in the About the Author section of your publications?

    Cher Green's mission is to provide the best possible journey, rather it be through her own writing or the editing process of others work.

    comes in at 24 words.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Cher Green

  5. I wasn't thinking so much about the mission statement being for others as much as for the writer's own sense of direction. In other words, I can't do everything so what am I going to aim at in my life.

    Also, unless you are Stephen King or you have a writing business where you hire yourself out to local clients, I'm not sure a writer's webpage is that important. I'd rather have multiple targeted websites until I have enough name ID that someone would actually be looking for me and not for books similar to the ones I write.

    However, if you do have a writing business with local clients, I would think a mission statement would be perfect in the about us section.

    I'm working one up right now for the online learning center.

  6. My mission is to continue writing stories I'd love to read, and to grow as a storyteller and a writer. Grow, grow, grow.

    Oh, and to spoil my grandchildren.


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