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Write On 2017! Your Mission

Picture of frog

Have you heard the phrase, Eat the frog first? It references Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” When  I worked in the corporate world, this phrase essentially meant do your toughest work first, and the rest of the day will be a breeze.

Today I’m here to help you craft a writing plan that will help you stay on course and on fire about your writing throughout 2017 (Write On 2017! Worksheet). And it all begins with the Mission Statement. I’ll be honest, IMO, this is the single hardest task we’ll cover in the next seven weeks as we craft writing plans. It took me a week-long retreat in Mexico with some writing friends and a couple of margaritas before I finally got my head around my mission statement.

Simply put, a mission statement is a formal summary of your aims and values. It’s the heart of who you are and what you do. Above all, your mission should INSPIRE you.

Missions are short, about twenty-five words or less. Management guru Peter Drucker suggests your mission be short enough to fit on a T-shirt. Missions are broad; they don’t box you in.  Missions should withstand the test of time and changes in your writing and the industry. Finally, missions are realistic (practical and workable) and easily understood.

Corporate America has spent millions of dollars crafting mission statements to inspire and guide. Here are some good ones:

  • To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. (GOOGLE)
  • To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. (NIKE)
  • To make the world a more caring place by helping people laugh, love, heal, say thanks, reach out and make meaningful connections with others. (HALLMARK)
  • To spread ideas. (TED)

Your Assignment: Craft your mission statement.

As I mentioned, crafting my mission statement took me a couple of whacks. The task felt so big…so important. But when I reminded myself that missions are about that little nugget, the heart of who I was as a writer, the task got much more manageable. So what’s at the heart? You, your product, your aims, and your audience. Here is a quick exercise to get you thinking about these factors.

  1. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your writing
  2. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your ideal image from READERS’ POV
  3. List 3-5 words or phrases that describe your ideal image from YOUR POV

With these words/phrases in mind, take a crack at writing a mission statement for your writing. Start with MY MISSION IS TO…

Here’s mine: My mission is to tell great stories…that capture the hearts and entertainment dollars of a loyal and ever-growing reader bse.

Feel free to post the above exercise and/or your mission in the comment section below. Write on!

This is Part 2 of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s series, Write On 2017! A Writer’s Guide to Prioritizing, Goal Setting and Time Management. Part 1 here.

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

31 responses to “Write On 2017! Your Mission”

  1. I can see where really coming up with a great mission statement can help with branding, something I think we all struggle with.

    I need to give this thought. Much thought.

    Great post. Thanks.

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    • Like I said, Autumn, this is tough for most people but the key is to think about what INSPIRES you.

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      • I thought about this all day while in the sprints. Here is what I came up with.

        My mission is to write empowering stories for women that will inspire them to follow their dreams and showcase the love and respect in a fulfilling relationship.

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        • This is lovely, Autumn! It’s timeless and speaks to the value your product delivers. Woot! Quick question: Do you want to change “them” to “readers”? Even if you write women’s fic, you could have male readers, like Liane Moriarity.

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  2. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    Greetings!

    Here is is, short & sweet:

    “My mission is to write as if I am the reader.”

    I realize that this may change over time and do believe that mission statements should change with us as we evolve.

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  3. Liz Talley says:

    I love this, Shelley!

    Ironically I sat down and wrote my business plan for 2017 yesterday morning in preparation for a lunch I had with two writers friends. We plan a business lunch in early January and bring our plans for the year. I noted that the template for my business plan had a blank spot for a mission statement so I crafted one. I tailored mine to THIS year not my overall goal as a writer. Essentially, I made it my mission to open myself up to the process of change and to be open for new direction.

    This is really hard for me because I’ve always been a cog in a wheel. Put me in and I’ll do my job, but the idea of blank space and being flexible and not having concrete expectations is hard for me. This year as I embark upon indie publishing I want to be somewhat flexible in my approach and I want to focus on learning, making mistakes and not being afraid to ask for guidance.

    So I likely need to redraft my mission statement to be more concise, but that’s the gist of my goals this year.

    Thanks!

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    • I feel ya! I love being a cog. Somedays I wish someone would just TELL me what to write and when and give me a damn paycheck! But alas, I’m supposed to have an independent voice and vision…

      (This comment is going to come back to haunt me when the Booker Prize commission is researching me, isn’t it?)

      Indie is terrifying, but I *think* that once you do it, it’s not so scary.

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    • Because it’s easier to do for someone else than myself, here’s my crack at your mission statement:

      To write entertaining and heartfelt stories that celebrate the power of everyday people to change their lives with love.

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    • Liz, I’m going to play devil’s advocate and ask you to stop thinking about self publishing, the year ahead, and changes you need to make to self.

      Instead, look inside your heart. Who are you as a writer? What and why do you write? When you see yourself as a successful writer, what do you see? When your beloved readers meet you, what do they see? (And yes…what you and your readers see may be two very different things! For example, in my ideal image, my readers see me as a writer who takes on a broken and brutal world with grace and heart and often humor. They don’t see the business woman. Make sense?)

      Anyway, your mission should reach beyond this year. It should inspire you if you succeed at self pub or if you end up being the darling of NY. If should inspire you if you’re a cog or a free spirit.

      In the upcoming weeks we’ll get into two specific areas that will address your concerns and opportunities about the upcoming year: goals (SMART and long-term) and strengths/weaknesses.

      Missions are all about INSPIRING. You need to read those words and feel a tug at your heart. Read Rita and Elisa’s in the comment section. Great stuff!

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  4. Elisa Beatty says:

    I find Mission Statements so intimidating, Shelley!!!

    As a teacher, I’ve served on several committees drafting and re-drafting mission statements for my schools/district. It all feels strange and artificial to my holistic mind, but it’s definitely valuable in the end to have clear objectives in mind.

    As a writer? Hmm….that’s even more challenging.

    Maybe “to write books that are as passionate on the page as they feel in my mind.”

    Though it might be more useful to me to keep it progress-oriented and concrete, like “to finish revisions and formatting on WIP 1 by the end of January, and draft of WIP2 by March.” Nowhere near as romantic, but maybe if I write it in big letters and post it above my computer, I’ll stay on course.

    Thanks for running this series!

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    • The key to a mission statement–one that truly works FOR you–is to create something that INSPIRES you. Not prod or motivate but INSPIRE. What will fire your belly and fuel your soul? Specific page goals or writing processes won’t do that. Honestly, I think this is exquisite…

      >> to write books that are as passionate on the page as they feel in my mind

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  5. Can you give me more direction for the “ideal image” portion? I’m not sure how to answer!

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    • For now, I have:

      To educate, entertain, and empower readers through page-turning and insightful stories about human emotion.

      (I accidentally hit “like” on my own post above when trying to click reply.)

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    • Good question, Jamie. I need to be more clear on “ideal image” as I always get this question when I give this workshop in person.

      We’ll get into vision work next week, but for now picture yourself in your ideal state as a writer…essentially, what are you writing and why are you writing? Also picture yourself as how you would ideally come across to your beloved readers. These two ideal images probably won’t be the same, which is why I ask students in my classes to picture both. When you have both of these “ideal images” in mind, you are answering to both self and product in the hands of your public (READERS!).

      >>To educate, entertain, and empower readers through page-turning and insightful stories about human emotion.

      This is a great start. Or a great end. 🙂 Will it stand the test of time? Will it still be meaningful if you switch genres? IMO, it’s a winner on many levels.

      As an aside, I am absolutely intrigued by the idea of you “educating”, and it’s fascinating that it’s the first verb in the series. Why?

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      • That helped, thanks!!

        Re: educate, I put it first because that’s where it sounded best in the sentence, but I wanted to put it second. I don’t even know if “educate” is quite right…I kept thinking about it and I feel like “illuminate” is more accurate. Through my writing, I want to make readers think about the world in a new way. I don’t want to leave readers unchanged for having read my work. I want my work to effect change, or to unsettle.

        I don’t think I’ve necessarily accomplished this with my existing books, but that’s my goal, you know?

        Also, I think I’m all over the place with this and need to focus my thoughts a great deal more.

        If I were being really honest, I’d say that I’m writing to be heard. The question is, what do I have to say?

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        • Couple of fascinating things going on here, Jamie.

          First, forget how your mission “sounds” and concentrate on how it “feels.” I’m dead serious.

          I agree, you don’t want to educate. Sounds like you want to “touch” readers in deep and meaningful ways. And in the broader sense, your world. Yes? Which leads us to this gem

          >>>I’m writing to be heard.

          Oh, God, YES! How does this make you feel?? I literally stopped and read these words again, slowly, savoring. This is heart stuff. I’m wondering if you need to sit with these words a bit and possibly explore. Or not. Again, it’s all about the words that INSPIRE YOU.

          Look at the TED mission above. It’s so pure and powerful.

          Good luck, Jamie!

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  6. Rita Henuber says:

    Write and love every second of it. 🙂

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    • THIS! Everyone reread Rita’s mission above then compare it to mine. Rita and I, who both write somewhat gritty romantic suspense, have very different missions, and I’m guessing, very different ideal images of ourselves as writers. Through her mission statement, she positions (and inspires) herself to LOVE the process of writing while I long to connect with readers and earn a living. Both missions are valid and good, as long as they INSPIRE the creators. Love your mission, Rita!

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      • Rita Henuber says:

        Shelley I don’t know if my motivation is so deep. I love writing and don’t want anything to diminish that love. I also feel if one doesn’t love what they are doing it will tell in the finished product.

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  7. Tamara Hogan says:

    A sad admission: I haven’t been out of corporate America long enough yet to not reflexively gag whenever I hear the words “vision and mission statements.” I’m still detoxing from too many years of too many team-building exercises where we were forced to produce both.

    But the concept is awesome; I just have to come up with something else to call them other than the v-word and the m-word. My Rebel Yell, maybe. Or, to kick off brainstorming, “What Would Carrie (Fisher) Do?” (She’d please herself first, of course.)

    Hmm. 😉

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    • So glad you chimed in, Tamara, because I’m sure there are other writers reading this and getting a nasty case of the hives. If creating a “mission statement” doesn’t inspire you, don’t force it into your writing plan or processes.

      But as you note, the concept–finding and giving name to the core of who you are and what you want as a writer–benefits most writers, regardless of where they are at in the writing journey.

      For the record, I <3 the idea of MY REBEL YELL. And I'm going to steal it for future workshops, with proper credit. 🙂

      So, want to give a shot at Your Rebel Yell!?

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  8. PennyH says:

    My mission is to create fun, interesting, well-crafted adventures. These adventures will be full of great characters that connect with peoples’ hearts, minds, and pocketbooks and are easy, fun, and exciting for me to write. This will give me a life with more time for my creative self, my pups, and my family so we can have more adventures and save more pups.

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    • Wonderful, Penny. You know what I love about your mission? It speaks to personal, social (reader), and professional aspects of your writing career. That’s a hard-working mission. Well done!

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  9. This is so fascinating – and tough! Hmm… I think my mission is to write real, compelling stories that make readers think and put more love into the world.

    That last part always seems powerful to me. Put love into the world.

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    • Excellent, Viv! If you’re still unsure about this mission. Go back in a month or two and re-read. Pay close attention to how your body reacts to certain words or phrases. If there are any ho-hums, slay them!

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  10. elise hayes says:

    My mission is to create worlds that my readers will never want to leave.

    Hey…I didn’t think I could pull off a mission statement, but I think I just did! 🙂

    And it made me think about what it is about writing–and reading–that I love.

    Thanks, Shelley!

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  11. […] put, a vision defines the desired or intended future state of your business. Remember when we talked last week about missions? Missions INSPIRE; visions are what you ASPIRE […]

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