On a Mission from…the Muse

Source: Wikimedia Commons: "Uffizi Gallery - Daughter of Niobe bent by terror" by Petar Milošević - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Uffizi_Gallery_-_Daughter_of_Niobe_bent_by_terror.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Uffizi_Gallery_-_Daughter_of_Niobe_bent_by_terror.jpg

Source: Wikimedia Commons: “Uffizi Gallery – Daughter of Niobe bent by terror” by Petar Milošević – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

While that headline doesn’t have the same ring as a certain Blues Brothers quote, it does get the idea across that I feel like my writing comes from a higher source – and for a purpose.

Lately, I’ve realized that while I started writing books just to tell the stories that were in my head, it’s come to mean more than that. While I don’t intend to start a Hemingway- or Pound-esque writing revolution, there is a deeper reason behind my writing, one I want to make sure everyone knows.

I’ve distilled this into two mission statements, one for each genre I currently write:

Historical fiction: To rescue little-known women from being lost in the pages of history. While other writers may choose to write about the famous, I tell the stories of those who are in danger of being forgotten so that their memories may live on for at least another generation. I also tell the female point of view when it is the male who has gotten more attention in history (i.e. Guinevere to King Arthur).

Women’s fiction: To create strong female characters who are role models for women of all ages in stories that are fun and romantic. These women represent the modern independent female spirit and are meant to appeal to women who feel they are outside of the norm of society whether by age (my heroines are almost always over 30), race, sexuality, or natural inclinations (we all have things that make us feel like freaks, right?). I hope my readers can find something in my books that makes them think, “Oh, thank goodness, I’m not alone.”

If nothing else, I figure this gives people (readers, potential publishers, etc.) an idea of what to expect from my writing. It also helps keep me focused and reminds me on the bad days exactly why I thought it was a good idea to become a writer in the first place. And yes, it doesn’t hurt as part of my “brand” to know what sets me apart from other writers. (If you want a good resource on author branding, I recommend this post by author Jami Gold.) But did you notice that I listed that last? It’s because it’s not nearly as important to me as making things clear for myself and my readers.

I all of you feel like you know me just a bit better now.

What’s your personal mission statement? No matter what you do for a living, it doesn’t hurt to know why you feel like you’re here, on this planet, in this life. Give it some thought and share with me in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

 

A Love Letter from a Writer to Her Craft

I own a copy of this print from http://www.thewanderingreader.com/, so I don't feel bad using their photo. Go look at their site.

I own a copy of this print from http://www.thewanderingreader.com/, so I don’t feel bad using their photo. Go look at their site.

“Writing for me is like breathing.”

I actually said those words when the company I work for was going to through reorganization a few years ago and one of my bosses was considering putting me in a non-writing role. (Yes, I like it so much I do it all day long. But it’s not as much fun as writing fiction.) I wasn’t being melodramatic, either. Take away the storyteller and you take away my soul.

I write because I have to. That’s the short version of this post. If I didn’t, I really think I would lose my mind. Maybe I do it because I’m an only child and have always had to entertain myself. Maybe I watched one too many soap operas as a teenager. Maybe it’s a desire for control (of the world and lives of my characters) in a reality that is too often unpredictable. Or maybe it’s all of these things.

No matter how you look at it, I write because I have a story to tell. I would do it even if I knew I would never be published, just to get the story out of my head – even if only my family and friends ever saw it. I have voices in my head and characters who demand to be heard. They’ve chosen me over all the other writers out there, and I can’t let them down.

Most of all, I write because I love it. I like playing with language and challenging myself to be as good as my favorite authors. I want to capture the images in my head in words that (hopefully) evoke them as clearly for the reader as I see them. I love getting lost in the story, and, in rare moments, letting the characters take over and shape their own destinies. Writing is my creative outlet, the thing that makes me feel the most alive.

But writing isn’t just about the creative process. It’s also a lot of hard work. My willingness –nay, joy – at doing it is how I know I’ve found my vocation in life. The old phrase “writing is rewriting” is very true. More often than not, it means multiple rounds of editing, untangling plots that have gone awry, deleting treasured scenes, and many, many late nights. It also means taking vacation days and sometimes foregoing social gatherings just to have uninterrupted time to dedicate to my craft.

But you know what? I don’t mind that one bit. This is more than a part-time hobby to be set aside at will. It may not yet be what pays the bills, but it’s my passion. Someone told me recently that when I talk about my fiction, my entire being glows and I get excited like I’ve had too much caffeine (which I don’t consume). But in many ways, that’s only natural. Being a writer is how I self-identify. Talk to me about it and you’re giving me the opportunity to share the thing in my life that has the most meaning.

I know not everyone reading this is a writer, so you may not be able to personally relate. But I hope you experience something similar in your life, no matter what it is you choose to do. Life is too short, our moments too precious to waste on things that don’t compel us from the depths of our souls. I’ve found my calling and I hope you will, too.

What activity can you not imagine living without? What brings you authentic happiness? Please share your stories below. I’m sure we will all be uplifted by hearing from one another.