Here it is. Are you ready?
Wait, what? You want a drum roll?
I don’t have a drum. I sold my drum set when I was in college. I needed the money for hallucinogens meth porn food. Give a guy a break. Maybe just tap your fingers on your desk or something.
Are we good now?
Fine. Yes. Excellent. Here we go!
Your Authorial Mission Statement — by which I mean, your hot fresh tasty goal as a writer in the New Year — is — wait for it — waaaaait for it —
You will put yourself in there, and out there.
“What the hell does that mean?” you’re asking me. “And isn’t that two mission statements?”
Just — shh. Shut up. Relax. Don’t nag me. I mean, hot damn, I shouldn’t even have to write a post after the Mega Self-Publishing Opus I thunked down in front of you like a treasure chest filled with dead puffins.
But here: let me break it down for you.
First, Put Yourself Into Your Work
Hey. Hey! Zip. Up. Your. Pants. That’s not what I mean.
What I mean is, one of the greatest things a writer brings to the page is his personality. The authorial voice matters. It is one of those things that engages us, that puts an indelible stamp upon the end product.
I love it when an author’s voice matters. I love it when it is distinct. I love it when I can read every book in that writer’s canon and I can pick up on consistent themes and character quirks and elements of voice. If I grab a Joe Lansdale book, I don’t have to know it’s a Lansdale book to jolly well goddamn know it’s a Lansdale book. His books are his own and nobody else’s. That is incredibly bad-ass.
But you know what I’m finding? Too few books that end up in my hands have that authorial imprint. They feel stale, staid, without that life-giving breath — man, I am making myself sick talking about it in such a hippy-dippy way, but damnit, I shall not relent. See, it’s not just about voice, either. I want an author to love the work. I want a writer to be saying something, to mean something with her work or to show me that the work means something to her. That is in part what helps carry a work to a bigger, more profound place. It’s what helps the work transcend.
And I’m just not seeing it enough.
So, there. That is my first exhortation to you: the first half of your mission statement.
Put yourself in the work.
And put your pants back on.
Second, Put Yourself Out There For Your Work
Boy, that is just awkwardly phrased, but hey, fuck it. Nobody’s paying me per word to knock this thing out — you’re just going to have to deal with all the hangnails and cancerous lip moles.
I want you go.
I want you to get out there.
Take your manuscript, duct tape that fucker to your chest so that even the swiftest arrow could not pierce it, and stomp forth into the Publishing Arena and make it happen.
Query an agent. Submit a short story. Contact an editor. Or, yes, if you must, self-publish that bad little sumbitch. Get a cover artist, hire an editor. But it goes beyond just your manuscript, too — join a writer’s group, have drinks with some writers (trust me, this will not be a problem — every last one of us seems to have a liver shriveled up like a fire-scorched walnut), go to a writer’s convention.
But it goes beyond even that.
Go out into the world. Experience life. Do some shit. Have adventures both big and small. “Write What You Know” isn’t absolute advice (few pieces of advice are absolute), but that doesn’t mean the advice is without value: the things you experience will inform your work. Go forth. Ride a lion. Punch a robot. Throw a Nazi into a plane propeller. Do something. Be awesome. Be afraid. Fail until you succeed.
Put your mind, body and soul out there.
Put your ass on the line for your work, for your writing, for your craft.
For your art, if you care to call it that.
And that’s it.
That’s your mission statement. From me, to you. Enjoy it. Lather it up and rub it on your pale body.
Your turn. What would you say is your writerly mission statement in the Year Of Our Penmonkey, 2011? What informs your upcoming word-slinging madness? Don’t be shy. Delurk and share.
Don’t make me hit you with this drum I just bought.