by Jon Bard & Andrea Woolf

 

You are standing at the end of a massive field.  In front of you is a giant, steel ball.


You are told that you need to get that ball from one end of the field to the other.   How do you do it?

You have two choices:

1. You can get behind the ball and push, and strain, and huff, and puff in hopes of somehow rolling it across that vast space.

or

2. You can place a giant magnet at the other side of the field, sit back and watch as the big ball glides across the surface by itself.

If sitting down to write has ever felt like you were exhausting yourself trying to unlodge an immovable object, your solution is simple:

YOU NEED YOUR OWN GIANT MAGNET.

And in writing, the giant magnet is this:     Your Writer’s Purpose.


Having a real purpose for sitting down to create will “pull” you toward a completed manuscript, rather than forcing you to push your way to one.

Have you ever gotten into your car to drive toward something that really excited you? The big game?  A concert from your favorite artist?  A rendezvous with your sweetheart?   Chances are, you barely notice the potholes, tolls or traffic tie-ups along the way because your anticipation of what’s coming — the purpose of your trip — is so vibrant.

Now imagine you’re on your way to the post office, or perhaps the dentist’s office.  Your outlook may be just a tad different, yes?  The other drivers are idiots, the ads on the radio are annoying,  your mind starts wandering to all the tasks on your to-do list.  Honestly, you’d just as soon turn around and go home rather than deal with it.

That’s what it’s like to sit down and write without an overarching purpose.  You’re doing it because “you have to” or “you’re expected to” or because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t.  Hardly a recipe for crafting great literature.

On the other hand, if there’s a big reason for your writing, each visit with your computer is another step in fulfilling your purpose.  It’s not just another day at the keyboard — it’s an exciting piece of an exciting puzzle.

You’re on a  mission.  And you are unstoppable.   That’s the power of having Writer’s Purpose.


Let’s Define Your Writer’s Purpose

“I want to get published” is not a purpose.  It’s a tactic toward fulfilling your purpose.

“I want to make people laugh” is a weak purpose.  It’s barely enough to get you near the keyboard let alone creating something special.

To act as a giant magnet, your Writer’s Purpose must be big, and bodacious and even a little scary to you.  And it must, must, must be about the impact your work will have on the world — not just about you.

Here’s what’s true about a real Writer’s Purpose:

  • If focuses on the value and meaning your work will give its readers, and it does it in vibrant and emotional language.
  • It’s honest, and connects to your actual work, not a romantic or unrealistic ideal of your work.
  • It moves you, and inspires you no matter how often you read it.



Now, let’s build your own Writer’s Purpose, with a series of questions:


Whose life do you want to improve?

Let’s start by making an important statement that all writers need to understand:  No matter what you write, you have the opportunity to improve the lives of the people who read it.    It doesn’t matter whether you are writing a breakthrough self-help book or a book of silly jokes, you are giving real value to your reader.

So, who is that reader?  What are they going through that they need you so much?

Here are some examples:

 

  • Children of divorce who are worried about the future
  • Teens who are stressed and need a fun outlet
  • Young girls who are interested in science
  • Pre-teens who love soccer and want to learn more, etc.



What Will You Be Giving Them?

What value will your work give your reader?  Remember, it’s all about them, so focus on what your readers will receive from your books.

Some examples:

 

  • Guidance and advice
  • Joy and laughter
  • Cool facts that will enhance their interests
  • Encouragement and support for what they’re going through, etc.



What Are You Showing Them?

As a children’s writer, you have the opportunity to show important things to young readers. (Notice I said show, not tell.  This isn’t about preaching or tacking on “morals” to stories.  It’s about letting your characters and plots convey meaning.)

For example:

 

  • That they’re not alone
  • That preserving the environment is vitally important
  • That reading is fun
  • That any problem can be overcome, etc.



Why Are YOU Uniquely Qualified to Do These Things?

Now we come back to you, the writer.  For your Writer’s Purpose to resonate, you must not only believe that what you’re doing is important.  You must also believe that it’s important that you do it!   You must get into the mindset that says this:

 

If I don’t sit down to write today, all the readers whose lives can be enhanced will suffer because of that decision.  That’s because I have important things to convey and, if I don’t do it, no one else will.  Because no one else can.

 


Pretty bold statement, isn’t it?  But it’s also true.  That’s because you are unique.  No one else writes like you, no one else has your life experiences and no one else has a Writer’s Purpose that comes from the same place as yours.


Finally:  How Will Your Work Make the World a Better Place?

Every great book, article or blog post you’ve read has somehow made your world a better place.  Perhaps it was in a modest way (you got a good recipe for eggplant), in a  lighthearted way (you laughed out loud during a trying day), in an absorbing way (that new spy novel made the two hour wait at the DMV fly right by) or in a profound way (you discovered something about yourself that changed your outlook forever).

Take your experience and multiply it by how many other folks read that same piece of writing.  Do you start to see the compounding power of the written word?


So now, dream big, and answer this question:

When I am published and widely read, the world will be a better place because I have given it ____________

You have so much to give, so many lives to touch.   It’s time to do the work.

 


So let’s build that giant magnet.  Use the answers from the previous questions to complete your Writer’s Purpose:


My Writer’s Purpose is to improve the lives of ____________  by giving them ________________ and showing them that ___________________ .  

I am uniquely qualified to do this because no one else _____________ the way I do.   

When I am published and widely read, the world will be a better place because I have given it ____________


Use this as a beginning, and play with it.  Create a Writer’s Purpose that really speaks to you, that really compels you to get away from the TV and to your keyboard.  That makes you excited and proud to be a writer, and gets you motivated to keep dreaming up new ideas and expanding your reach.

This is your giant magnet.  May it pull you to great things.

Photo credit: BobMical via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC
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