Author Mission Statement

I wrote my author mission statement awhile ago, as suggested by Colleen Story. It’s good to know what you really want from writing because it saves time and trouble. Your journey as a writer in the world will become less about the shiny next thing and more about what will serve the unique writer you are and want to become.

“I am motivated by creative fulfillment. The tougher the work, the more diligently I seek transcendence. I’ve gained emotional resilience by traveling into the world, observing all I see and distilling the essence into story. My writing features strong women tested by tough circumstances.”

Since writing out this statement, I’ve looked at it often, and it always centers me and settles me back into what is most important, in writing and in life. Every writer will have a different mission statement. It feels like I always intuitively knew this about my writing self, but I couldn’t quite put it into words until now.

Thanks, Colleen!

Renewing Writing Practices

Reading and journaling these past weeks with Colleen Story’s game changing Writer Get Noticed, so many of my writing plans have come into sharper focus, including how best to adjust my writing practices. Specifically, I’m looking at changing writing routines when my husband retires at the end of the year.

When I finish Jane in St Pete in December, I have no plans for a next novel. Al’s retirement is not the only reason it feels right to take a break from writing novels. Since I’ve been publishing books, I’ve steadily released at least one a year. I noticed a slow down with Lily White in Detroit, my tenth novel.

At first I attributed my decreased output to the added research that comes with writing crime novels, but after studying Colleen’s writer’s self-help guide, I realized I’ve come to a natural stopping point, at least for now, at least as far as writing novels.

As I worked through the illuminating exercises Colleen lays out in a genius step process, I learned that while adjusting to a new life passage that involves fun, travel and moving out of my home state, I still want to keep some portable writing practices. Writing a novel takes a big chunk of time, a room of my own and steady commitment, day after day, month after month.

My life is not going to have those long stretches of time in a writing room, at least not for a year or maybe even longer. Although…I start every day with morning pages, and have done for many years. I won’t give up my journal and gel pen. And I don’t want to give up my fiction writing groups and friends, either.

Short stories helped me fill the gap after Lily White and gave me something to bring to my critique groups. Stories kept my craft skills sharp. And eventually, they led to Jane in St. Pete. Like many writers, I started writing fiction with short stories. I published a few of them, but mostly they were a way to begin to figure out my voice and how to write a narrative.

Things can get stale for me if I keep doing them over and over without hitting refresh, and that happened recently with morning pages. I’d write a half page and sit there with nothing to say. Julia Cameron, who introduced me to morning pages, recommends three pages every morning. That’s still what I shoot for. Answering the questions Colleen poses became a way for me to write not just three pages every morning, but four, five, even six pages. All while discovering what to do next.

I was on fire as I got deeper into the heart of what I really want out of my writing life now. More flexibility. Less sustained attention. Writing I can finish in a couple of hours or days. Long before I began the daily discipline needed for writing novels, I was a blogger. I also published book reviews, personal essays, poetry and short stories. All things I enjoyed and could do around my teaching job.

With the help of Colleen’s therapeutic method of writerly inquiry, I was able to figure out how to keep the writing I love close while figuring out how this new adventurous phase of married life will look in retirement. I have so many new goals. I’m looking forward to finishing Jane and going through the editing process with my publisher’s guidance. I can’t wait to gear up for the marketing aspect of a new release–Colleen also helped me clarify how to do publicity my way.

I’ve learned what does and does not work for me as a writer. I love morning pages, social media, my blog. I especially enjoy giving my website a fresh design, which will happen in 2020 along with that novel I’ve been working on for a while now. 🙂 I’ve still got a ways to go with the novel, but the revision is coming together even as I decide what to pack and what to leave behind on this next great adventure.

The Social Side of Writing

Michigan Sisters (and a Mr) in Crime Critique Group

I’m still reading and journaling with Colleen Story’s book Writer Get Noticed. It’s been so enlightening. Light bulb after light bulb. Today I worked on identifying my strengths as a person and as a writer. I don’t focus on my strengths very often. I take them for granted. Maybe because they’ve hardly changed since I was a child: creative, organized, introspective. I’m social, too, but I’m always looking for the balance between being social and being alone for essential-to-me writing and reading time.

One way I combine being social with my need for writing time is in critique groups. I have two groups I meet with regularly plus another writing group I love in Florida. I’m a member of Michigan Sisters in Crime. Saw those folks Saturday (In photo, I’m sitting next the Mr–yes we have men in our group!) and will see them again on September 28 at Elizabeth Buzzelli’s workshop. Elizabeth always gives good workshop. This will be no exception. It’s open to the public, so if you’re a Michigan writer, you should come! We can be social together 🙂

About six months ago I felt like I was getting a little too social online. I quit Facebook (I talked about that decision here.) This morning I was texting a friend and, not for the first time, thought about getting on Facebook again in a very limited way. I have a few non-writing loyal friends and yes, being off FB meant we were more reliant on text and phone calls. We set up RL lunch or dinner dates. All good. But I was amazed when, after a few texts we spoke on the phone and I found out how much had happened in Donna’s life since we saw each other last, just a few weeks ago.

I thought about my strengths, the ones Colleen made me remember, especially being social. And I dipped my toes very carefully back into Facebook. I know better how to deal with FB this time. I’ve been on Instagram all along so I’ll reconnect those two accounts, post exactly the same and basically keep my friend list very short, as I have done on Instagram.

I follow thousands of people on Twitter, but interaction there is very different and I manage it just fine. You can tweet me anytime @cynthiaharriso1. Twitter is my favorite way to interact online. I met Colleen there! And so many other writers who are important to me. I’m very comfortable with the “super soft sell” approach I take to book marketing on Twitter. I’m not on social media to sell books. It’s nice if it happens, but I wouldn’t do any of it if I didn’t enjoy it.

Which brings me back to why I’m trying Facebook again. I want to see if I can be there in a way I enjoy more. I’m not going to open a new business page on Facebook, as that really never worked all that well for me. I didn’t have a huge following or sell a significant number of books. It’s difficult to interact with readers, there, too.

You might have noticed that Colleen’s book has the words GET NOTICED in the title. I won’t lie, this made me nervous at first. I don’t really want to get noticed. I like laying low, holing up, doing my own thing. That’s why I’m a writer. I work alone. Well, until I send a new book to my publisher and my editor comes on board. But sure I want to sell more books. I thought it was a dilemma but Colleen has made me realize it’s more of a fine line. Finding the best way for me to be comfortably noticed as a writer.

As I get older, and look toward my husband’s retirement, I’m less interested in teaching, public speaking or giving workshops. I don’t enjoy book signings unless they’re group signing with other writers. Some of this marketing stuff is important to do when I release a new book. It’s gratifying to connect with readers in real life, so that’s why I do some limited public appearances. Colleen helped me clarify all that. Her book helps writers figure out ways to work with their natural inclinations and strengths to measure and build the platform that is right for them.

Feeling Published

Remember flame wars? In 2002, this same week, I got torched on a Yahoo Fan Page. Which led me to leave a group I’d really loved. It was so hard, and so much on my mind, I told my son about it. I shocked myself when cried a little bit before wiping my tears away and laughing at myself.

My son Mike asked me what I’d liked so much about the group. I thought about it. I finally said I liked talking about writing. Which was something we did a lot in that group. I’d miss having that outlet. Mike said “Mom, you should start a blog.”

I sniffed and said I wouldn’t know how to do that, and anyway, weren’t blogs over? He replied that he’d set up the site for me and also, no, blogs were not over. They were only going to get bigger. He was in IT, so I figured he knew more about the internet than I did. I said yes, thank you, that sounds like fun.

I hadn’t published a book yet, just some poems, short stories and book reviews in magazines, but the minute I posted my first blog entry, I felt published. It was an incredible validation. All these years later, I still feel so good about my blog, which my son continued to help me with for more than ten years, until his first son was born.

I have such happy memories of this adventure. Choosing wallpaper for a custom template, learning to write a key lines of code, blogging every single day about the novel I was working on. In 2002 there wasn’t any software that did tech things for you, so Mike did them for me. He was so patient when I wanted to change my blue stars wallpaper to pink flowers. The blog was a joint project and my son was my teacher. What a gift.

Mike said he could still do the work on my blog after the baby came. By this time we had been through Blogger and Moveable Type and were firmly into Word Press. I’d met Barb of Bakerview Consulting online and was sure she could do the housekeeping chores. I was also sure Mike was about to be way busier than he could begin to imagine. Both of these things turned out to be true.

What started out as a way to talk about writing became my author platform and I didn’t even know it until I read Colleen Story’s “Writer Get Noticed!” I’m learning more about my writing self from Colleen’s book…like what specific things I want from this writing life I’m living. The answers will be different for everyone, but the discovery process is the same.

It starts with the question Mike asked me all those years ago: What do I like about doing this? Why do I like it? These days I’m revisiting those questions and so many more that Colleen poses. Doing the exercises in Colleen’s book is an illuminating way to fill my morning pages. Which is the way I always start my day. Why? Because I like it.

Why do I like it? Any of it? Morning pages, blogging, writing novels, participating in a Twitter hashtag? It’s all one reason, really. It’s the best way, the perfect way for me, to communicate with the world. And I didn’t really put it all together quite like this until I read Colleen’s book, so thanks Colleen. And thanks to Mike, who set me off on this adventure. And most of all to you, whoever you are, wherever you are, reading this. ❤