December 9, 2009

Subject: Going forward, looking back

I might have mentioned feeling, oh, weary last week. This week is better. I feel really good about my decision to set my novel aside for a while. It’s been a relief, and I’m actually excited about what I might work on next.

How did I shift from weary despair about the present to excitement about the future? By looking back, to the past, of course.

You know how sometimes different things happen at the same time—a series of coincidences? Well, in the midst of wondering why I ever started writing this novel, I flipped through my old notebooks, trying to find when the story sparked and what enchanted me about it. What had I been trying to achieve in the story?

Then, I saw a link to Linda Urban’s blog post about spine. She talks about your Big Why: “your reason for doing what you do.” I had seen the post several months ago, and it inspired me to read Twyla Tharp’s book on creativity. Why was I writing in general?

I also received my weekly email from Author, the online magazine from the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association. It had an article by Bob Mayer that encouraged writers to set up strategic writing and career goals. Where, he asked, do you want to be in five years?

I needed a personal mission statement. Fortunately, I had already written one of those, a year ago when I was applying to Hamline’s MFA program. Here’s what I said I wanted to achieve:
I want to write entertaining and suspenseful middle grade and young adult novels about coming of age, finding inner strength, and the excitement of discovery and knowledge. I want to write about vivid characters who show readers the sense of possibility, the essence of hope and the truth of being human. I want to write novels that feature a strong connection to place, with beautiful language, striking details, and multiple layers. In other words, I want to write the kind of book that you can’t put down on a first read, but that you’d enjoy reading a second or third time for new details and deeper meaning.
It’s a little long for a mission statement. I’ll have to sharpen it. Still, it gives me a clearer picture of what I’m working to achieve.

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