Pushing us to take a hard look at the pursuit of writing as a career, the conference session “The Strategic Writer” provided some realistic, practical perspective for writers in any stage of their development. Led by literary agent Eve Bridburg, the session took us through a framework for approaching writing with clearer purpose and direction, ultimately allowing us to find the viable paths and then select the best ones—reminds me of the quote from Émile-Auguste Chartier shared in Do More Great Work, “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one you’ve got.”
Two major components of the framework are
- Define Your Mission: Why do you write? What do you seek to achieve? What impact should your work have?
- Define Success: Qualitatively and quantitatively describe how you’ll know you’re achieving the mission. In doing so, think about what gives enriches your life and you energy; don’t set a target that doesn’t resonate with you (e.g. having 2,000 followers on Twitter when you hate tweeting). For example, if knowing you’ve connected with readers helps sustain your spirits and work, make sure you have at least one way to hear from them that works for you; as one attendee said, a handful of positive emails can actually be powerful indicator that you’ve achieved or are on your way to achieving your mission of sharing valuable perspectives.
These points Eve discussed immediately reminded me of concepts from the invaluable books Made to Stick and Switch, especially
- the core: clearly capture and convey the essence of your idea
- point to the destination: have a picture of what the near future looks like if your goal is achieved.
The session also resonated with points made in Kevin Starr’s PopTech talk “Lasting Impact” which I require all of my Intro to Environmental Science students watch and apply. Clarity of mission can make all the difference.