Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The importance of having purpose

One of my favorite book genres is memoir. I love knowing that a story is based on real life and that I can go on wikipedia and google images and stalk the author after I finish reading the book, gathering as much behind-the-scenes information as possible. Another reason I read memoir is that I'm writing a memoir, and it's important to read in the genre you work in.

A perk of writing memoir is the wealth of primary material from which to draw on. I've got so many stories from my four years in the UK that I'll never be able to use them all. Like the time I was walking home one summer evening from a friend's house in Fulham and totally slipped on what I quickly realized was human vomit. It was quite unpleasant, seeing as I was wearing flip flops and a skirt and had to ride the bus home with the remnant barf caked to my shin. When writing a book about your life you get to relive your stories again and again as you brainstorm, write and rewrite and rewrite some more.

Until there comes a point after you've spent a year and a half rehashing your stories ad nauseum when you get so sick of reliving the same four years and want to just move on with your life and not have to think about England every single day.

It's easy, when you are the topic of your writing project, to become jaded and dismissive -- who would want to read about little old me slipping on human vomit in West London? It's times like these when I need an author statement to bring me back to the purpose behind why I write.

I was inspired about this the other month while reading the memoir This is Not The Story You Think It Is. The author, Laura Munson, was certainly correct about the title -- even though I'd read the synopsis there was still way more too this my-husband-is-leaving-me-but-I-don't-buy-it play-by-play than I expected. Ms. Munson had 14 novels rejected by publishers before getting this memoir about the intense summer of marital strife published and she has a lot to say about contentment, intentionality, success and living the creative life.

She must have gone back to her author statement many times throughout the years of writing and rejection, trying to see in the dark what the point of writing more words even was.

I've written statements like an author statement in the past, but after I read hers I decided to whip one up again. Here's what I came up with: "I write to bring truth, encouragement, clarification, simplicity and life where it's needed. To bring order out of chaos and wholeness out of confusion. To help people, rich and poor, live to their full potential and to thrive."

It may not mean much to someone else, but for me it's important to come back to my purpose as often as necessary. I've been loving the following quote recently, which pretty much sums up the importance of vigilant purpose-honing:  

"People don't leave because things are hard. They leave because it's no longer worth it."

Creating something from scratch is exhausting work, but when you have purpose, it's completely worth it. It reminds me that my story is about much more than slipping on vomit (that anecdote's probably not going to make it in the book, sadly), it's about sharing a journey and encouraging people on similar journey's along the way.

Do you have a purpose statement? I won't ask you to share it but encourage you to think about what it would look like.

OK, now back to writing that book of mine... :)


Claire Carey said...

What a powerful post, Alisha. It is one I am going to print-off and re-read (again and again). I love it.

Heidi said...

This is so great and something I needed to read. Like Claire, I'm going to come back to this when I've lost my way.

Kim said...

Thanks for this. An author purpose can be a tether when the writing slope steepens. It keeps us attached to our goal. I, too, loved Laura Munson's book. I'm encouraged by her bravery.

alisha said...

I like that idea of an author statement being a tether when the writing slope steepens -- very nice! Kim, glad you're a fan of Laura Munson too. I was disappointed not to be able to see her speak at a recent PNWA meeting.

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