Writers Need Mission Statements Too—Lessons from The Muse and The Marketplace 2014

muse2014posterPushing 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.

Kevin Starr: Lasting Impact from PopTech on Vimeo.

Game Changing: the latest from The Story of Stuff

The latest installment of The Story of Stuff, “The Story of Solutions,” is an accessible, even empowering fresh framing of familiar environmental and social issues. Although we’ve bemoaned the shortcomings of GDP as a progress indicator for quite some time, Annie Leonard does an amazing job of explaining this and offering a path forward in just under 10 minutes!

While the analogy of the economy as a game used in “The Story of Solutions” is simple, it’s remarkably effective in its intuitiveness and provides insight for action. I also love that excellent examples of what is working (what Dan and Chip Heath call bright spots in Switch) are mentioned in this video to give us a sense of what we can do now. And speaking of Dan and Chip Heath, with this video The Story of Stuff Project, once again, nails nearly every dimension of stickiness in the Made to Stick SUCCES model. Awesome.