Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Purpose Driven Writing Life

Posted by Lynne

Have you ever felt like a greater power reverts to banging you over the head to get you to pay attention to an important life lesson? Well this week, it hit me. My writing life must be purpose driven.

Early in the week, I was telling a friend of mine how much work it is to write a book, seek representation, a publisher and then to promote said book. To which she mused, "You must really believe in what you have to say to put yourself through all that?"

"I do," I said, giving her remark little thought.

Then Amy's post this week about JK Rowling's need to write for the story was my next hint that I needed to pay attention to the purpose of my writing. Ms. Rowling knows her purpose, and because she does, she will continue to write regardless of the pressure she will surely face in the marketplace.

And last night I got an outright shout when my husband and I heard a speaker say the key to success in any endeavor is to have a clear purpose--a strong belief in what you are doing, clarity around what you simply must achieve.

With my non-fiction writing my purpose has always been clear to me. I want to do what I can to nurture healthy families, ones where harmony and understanding run high and hurtful communication and conflict are low. I've never wavered in my belief that my ideas and opinions would some day make it to print in the form of a book. I never had any intention of giving up, despite the long and winding road.

But what about my fiction writing? I admit, in the beginning, I didn't really know what my purpose was for writing my novel. One day there was this woman, fierce and edgy, who refused to leave my mind. Each day she told me more of her story. Soon I felt compelled to write it down. It was then and still is, a heartbreaking yet important story.

As I maneuvered through the up and down process of filling first draft holes, smoothing out the second draft seams, and as friend of our blog Hank says, "nipping, tucking, tweaking and polishing" during the revision stage, my purpose for writing became clearer. What keeps me persevering in shepherding this story toward publication is my belief in it.

My compelling need to tell this particular story, at this particular time, pushes me to steal away time from other work, create a schedule that includes writing time, and helps me nurture an environment conducive to writing. In short, my need to write and my goal to get the story into the hands of readers give me the self-discipline to get the job done.

Maybe like me you write with the goal of publication. Or maybe this is the furthest thing from your mind, which by the way, is fine as long as you know your purpose for writing. I recently met a writer who's spent ten years on her novel and because she isn't willing to make any marketplace compromises would rather not be published. She writes for herself. Whatever your purpose for writing is, name it and claim it. Knowing your purpose will shed light on all the things you'll need to do to be successful. And remember success isn't just getting what you want, it's wanting what you have.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

This is beautiful and thought-provoking. The story I have is definitely something I am compelled to tell; in giving the Why more thought, I might find the polishing and tweaking coming along more smoothly, and/or more effective!


Lisa said...

This is a wonderful post and I think it's critical to step back and periodically ask this question of ourselves. I feel the need to write for the story and the process itself first, but I also dream that one day I will be published and I imagine and hope that somewhere a reader will feel, after finishing my book, the way that I do when I turn the last page of a story that touches me.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Hannah and Lisa,

Thanks for weighing in on the subject of purpose and writing. I feel that if our goals are clear, the tasks to achieve the goals will be clear too. There in lies the hope. Good luck with your stories.


olufunke grace bankole: said...

dear lynne:

such a thoughtful post. i think the purpose of the writing is the only enduring thing. all other moments--publication, reviews, awards, or whatever else we've imagined--come and pass.

Patti said...

as i struggle with all that is the business of writing, that i write and will continue until my last breath has never been up for discussion. it just is.

i feel an urge akin to breathing to continue...sometimes this is my blessing and sometimes it is my cross.

great thought nudging post...

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Thanks iyan and egusi soup for the reminder. The reviews and rewards are fleeting, it's true; it is the work that endures.

I just read an interview with Min Jin Lee, author of Free Food for Millionaires and I quote--For what for it’s worth, I pray a lot, and I think about what I care about over what the world cares about. Sometimes, this offers consolation. Sometimes, this does not...having said that, I am not immune to the blues.

I often share this feeling, yet I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thank you both for stopping by.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posing the question and making me think about this.

Larramie said...

Your last phrase says it all, Lynne. Wanting what you want drives you forward to getting what you you will in four and a half weeks.