Mission Statement, Do Authors Need Them?
As an author, I’m sure you know a lot about goals. We set deadlines for ourselves, we have word count goals we set daily and monthly, and we know what releases are coming for the following months, and maybe even the following year. One of the best ways to stay focused and to know what you’re aiming for is a mission statement.
Everyone in business makes a mission statement (and if they don’t, they should). A mission statement is really nothing more than writing down your goal and your aim within your venture. When I first read about mission statements, I brushed it off. I wrote something down, and it was generic. But I wrote one. I didn’t write my real mission statement until I got so frustrated with writing and trying to make sales, that I gave myself two options:
- Learn to love your craft again.
- Give up.
Writing is too damn important to me to give up, as I’m sure most authors feel. But writing for the sake of selling books (that weren’t selling) was sucking the soul out of me. I’m sure if I was selling oodles of books that I would really love what I did. I’d probably go skipping to my desk each morning, and really have a fire lit under me to write another book for people that showed appreciation by showering me with money. But that wasn’t happening, and I had a choice before me, as you see above.
So giving up isn’t an option for me. Call it a character flaw of mine, but I’m damn stubborn. I sat down and asked myself a couple questions:
- What do you want out of this if you can’t get money?
- How do you get back to your love for writing again?
Those answers (approximately five targeted sentences) became my mission statement. Now that I’ve created one, I have a very clear goal in mind. I know what I want, and I know how to get it. Money is no longer a goal of mine, though I admit I’m going to do everything I can to be sure that ever new release is well marketed and promoted because I still want to make money off my craft, but that’s not a goal of my mission statement.
But what is a mission statement? Business Dictionary tells us a mission statement is a written declaration of your core purpose. These purposes rarely change through the duration of your business. The mission statement helps you focus on what is important to you and your business, and it helps you to weed out what isn’t important.
Entrepreneur goes further and tells us that a mission statement defines your organization (your writing, in this case) and its reason for being, and why your writing exists. This can be for many reasons, among them:
- Can’t live without it
- To show people they’re not alone
- To fulfill my goals
- To give me a sense of purpose
Crafting your mission statement.
I hope you don’t have to come to a point in your writing where you’re at the end of your tether and you’re half a step from smashing your computer, burning your projects, and going to sign up with the circus because literally anything sounds better than forcing words out of your fingers that are never going to sell. A mission statement doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take some work. You have to be honest with yourself, and you have to really know what you want from your writing. If you’re looking to make money from your writing, and you’re not sure where to start, check out my post on For Love or Money.
So sit down with a pen and paper (or a word document) and write down a list of what you want from your venture. Be honest, and be brutal. Some companies and organizations whittle their mission statement down to a single sentence, and that’s great too, but for me, there was a lot I wanted to put into my mission.
Great, with that done, put them into an actual statement. This is how I wrote mine.
To find my love for writing again and to write what I’d love to read. To remember who I am and help my readers discover parts of themselves they have lost touch with, or forgotten about; to remind me and them that there’s a reason we’re alive, and that reason is worth living for. To meet new people and discover new worlds I will never be able to see outside of my own head. To give up the mechanical writing and the sense that “this next book will be a great seller,” and to relax and enjoy each new character and story I put into print. To be present in each scene I write.
I think it’s an awesome mission statement, but it’s one thing to write that, and an entirely different thing to know how you’re going to stick to it. So, that’s where I broke down each sentence and figure out how I was going to implement the mission. For me, it looked something like this:
How to Implement your Mission Statement
To find my love for writing again and to write what I’d love to read.
- Get excited to write and flesh out scenes
- To flesh out themes and have them stand out in the book
To remember who I am and help my readers discover parts of themselves they have lost touch with, or forgotten about; to remind me and them that there’s a reason we’re alive, and that reason is worth fighting for.
- I miss my younger days and the freedom I felt then. How I lead with my heart.
- Capture those “sweet” days in the book.
- Draw on memory of “better” times to help give the book life.
- To express my “lost” feelings of love and wonder through my books.
- Remember how my emotions felt and how they made me feel, and put that in writing.
And so on. It’s a very personal thing to do, and it took a lot for me to share some of the truths in my mission statement here, because I often don’t tell people that I’m not happy with my life, and that I miss those feelings of wonder I had when I was younger, but it’s very well known to me, and so it went into my statement. I’m sure yours will be just as personal for you.
Unlike company mission statements that appear on their websites, I feel an author’s mission statement isn’t something for their readers. It isn’t something for your editor or your publisher. This is for you. You need to set clear goals with yourself so you know when you’re reaching them. You need to know what’s important to you for your writing so you can keep on track, and not lose yourself along the way. It’s so easy to talk to other authors and see what they’re doing and how well they’re doing, and want to jump on the bandwagon. But with a mission statement firmly in place, you have something to weigh the trends with. You can ask yourself “is paying $500 for this course going to help me with my mission?” If you think it will, then go for it, but if it’s not something that’s going to help you reach the goals on your mission statement, then you know which direction to head in.