If you are like most nonfiction writers, you have a sense of purpose. You know what you want to accomplish as a writer and how you would like your work to contribute to your readers’ lives or the world. You have a mission. But sometimes you make choices that take you off track, which makes it hard to achieve your writing purpose.
I have a strong sense of purpose as a writer and author, too. It shifted for a number of years, and I also got involved in a few writing projects that seemed like good opportunities at the time. However, in hindsight, I see that the shift in focus and willingness to take on work outside the realm of my purpose got me off track.
I was off purpose, and I had to make different choices that allowed me to be on purpose again.
Choosing Purpose Over Completion
A few years ago, I shared with my husband an idea for a self-published book. It was a project I began many years ago. Completing it would have cost me a lot of money and time, and it would have taken me away from some book projects more aligned with my overall vision for my writing career.
My husband asked, “Does publishing this book serve your purpose? It isn’t really what you do anymore. Will it get you where you want to go?”
His questions were powerful questions and appropriate. In fact, I typically ask my clients—and myself—those types of questions. Yet, I hadn’t been considering them.
“No,” I answered without hesitation.
I hate to leave anything unfinished. And, at the time, it sickened me to think I had spent more than a year on a project and wouldn’t ever see it completed. Plus, the book included interviews, and I felt bad about wasting those people’s time.
Yet, I had to stop and think about the project—and the investment in time and money I planned to commit to it. More importantly, I had to consider if publishing that book would move me in the direction I wanted my writing career to go. In fact, it was far from on purpose for me in many ways.
So, I made a decision. I dropped the project entirely. I chose purpose over completion.
Are You On Purpose in Your Writing Career?
When it comes to making decisions about your writing career, the most important question you can ask yourself is, “Does this choice serve my purpose?” And this remains true for every aspect of your writing life.
That means you should ask:
- Does being on social media right now serve my purpose? (It does if you are building platform so you can reach more readers; if you are scrolling the feed as a way to avoid writing, it does not.)
- Is writing and publishing a blog post on purpose for me right now? (It does if you want to create expert status or stronger search engine optimization for your website; it may not if you have a deadline for finishing your book manuscript.)
- Does taking on a new client project get me one step closer to my professional goals? (It does if your goals involve ghostwriting, writing for publications, or being a professional copywriter; it doesn’t if it takes up the time and energy you need to achieve your existing writing goals and fulfill your purpose.)
- Does this particular activity serve my purpose? (It does if it moves the needle toward accomplishing your mission; it doesn’t if it offers another way to avoid doing the things that will truly make a difference.)
Being On Purpose Consistently
It can be difficult to look at life through an on-purpose vs. off-purpose lens. You have to make some tough choices to stay on purpose consistently.
I get it…
Sometimes, you just want to sit in front of the television and “veg out” or read a book and drink tea. Such activities could serve your purpose by allowing you to relax for an hour or two and refill your creative well, especially if you choose to work hard most of the day on on-purpose tasks. Engaging in these activities can still represent a conscious and on-purpose choice.
That said, if you approach your writing goals and career with a desire to be on purpose all the time…or as much of the time as possible…you will see progress toward your goals much more quickly. You also will know you are fulfilling your purpose as a writer.
Choose to be On Purpose Consistently
I can’t say I succeed at being on purpose all the time, but I try to remember to ask the question above more and more often. Then, I make choices that ensure I remain on purpose.
It’s my goal to write on purpose 100 percent of the time. Over the last five years or so, I’ve chosen to shift my writing focus to topics and projects I feel are on purpose for me…even when I got pushback from publishing professionals.
Think about it…
Why bother going to all the trouble to write and publish nonfiction books if they don’t help you make the contribution you desire? If you are going to invest your time and money in your writing career, do it in a way that helps you fulfill your purpose. Make choices…even tough choices…to focus on activities that move you toward achievig yoru mission.
Are you making choices that help you fulfill your writing purpose? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post on social media or with a writing friend.
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