Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rediscover Your Love of Writing: Finding Your Writer's Mission

Step 1: Figure out what your Writer’s Mission is for today, and for the week, and for the month.  Just don’t spend three hours on it when you should be writing.

Your Writer’s Mission for the day (and week, and month) is your intention.

Think about all of those amazing fantasy movies you’ve seen about wizards and witches who need to learn to cast powerful spells.  Whether it’s Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Hogwarts or Percy Jackson, when someone wants to learn how to use magic, they always begin with gathering their thoughts and focusing on what they want – a fireball, someone to fall in love, or fall asleep – and then putting their will and lifeforce into it.  That’s what makes the magic happen.  Without the heart, and then the drive, the spell won’t work.

You probably already know that writing is magic.  But we all could use a little reminder, sometimes. 

So we begin with our intention.  Our Writer’s Mission.

I bootlegged the term “Writer’s Mission” from Roy Peter Clark’s book, Help! for Writers, which I think is pretty fabulous in many ways.   He dislikes the word goal as much as I do.  Here's what he says about why the word 'Mission' is better than other words, say, "goal" or "task-list:"

The word goal comes t us from Old English, where it meant ‘barrier,’ and Middle English, where it meant ‘boundary.’  It suggests something to hurdle.  Mission, on the other hand, comes from the Latin verb ‘to send.  I like that better.  I am sent to accomplish something important; I’m a missionary of the word.

For those of us who are doing the Nanowrimo thing of a novel-in-a-month, our Writers’ Missions might already seem spelled out for us: 1500 words a day.  Fin.  But what about if you are working on a webpage, or a collection of short stories, or… you have a life, and that life doesn’t allow you to write 1500 words every single day?

I think deciding on a writer’s mission for your day, your week, and your month should help you stretch out of your comfort zone, and be exhilarating and stimulating – but it shouldn’t burden you down with dread or disempower you by setting you up for failure.  We all have our triggers, for good and for bad.  If you know that you already feel completely overwhelmed by the thought of writing your bio or your first chapter, what’s the point of telling yourself you need to write the entire “about me” section or the whole first act before next Tuesday?  Is that really going to help you get to your ultimate goal?

So, start with what you can do, and add about 10-20% on top of that.  For me, I’m going to let this blog post count towards my 1500 words today – but, I’m also going to devote extra time this weekend to my novel, so that I feel good about where I’m at.  Will I be done with 4500 words by Sunday night?  That’s my Writer’s Mission.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

It’s already late afternoon.  Have you done any writing yet today?  If yes, awesome!  Kuddos!  Bravo and bravissimo.  If not, that’s totally okay.  Like, really, truly, totally okay.  What can you today, to set yourself up for a great weekend of writing?  Maybe you can do 250 words, and also spend a little time outlining the next two or three sections of your work, so they’re easier to write when you come to them.  You can set yourself up for success this weekend by blocking out chunks of time for writing, and maybe even calling up a writing buddy to work with you and provide some accountability (we’ll get more into setting up the conditions for inevitable success later). 

Finally, know that Writer’s Missions change.  They are subject to our moods, our bodies, heavy winds, the weightiness of living in a reality of traffic jams and children with runny noses and beautiful evenings with friends that run over.  Let this be a process where you learn about yourself, as a writer, while also pushing yourself that extra little bit.  Says our friend Clark:

A mission statement of any kind must be expressed in strategies and tactics.  It cannot be frozen in time.  It will change.  Expect it to melt and flow into something else…. And please don’t wait until the end of a project to celebrate.  You need more moments of joy than that, rewards scattered across the span of a writing projet like gorgeous shells on a long sandy beach.

I’m looking forward to hearing how it’s going from you.  And please do let me know if there’s anything I can do to help by leaving me a comment below!

In the writer’s trenches with you,

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