Writing seems pointless.

At this time, there are so many more important things to do — volunteer to help feed our neighbors, check in on isolated relatives and friends, make the million decisions about daily risks.

I’m not a health care worker. I don’t work at a grocery store or gas station. I’m not needed to keep our population safe and stocked.

Writing for me has been hard since the stay-at-home/stay-safe orders were put into place. The little voice in my head says: This is pointless. This is meaningless. What good does this do? Who can you possibly serve or help?

Pre-pandemic, writing felt like part of my being. Something I had to do, to get words out on paper so they weren’t mucking up my brain. And I enjoyed it. I enjoyed creating something out of nothing, to look at a blank page and fill it up with words.

It still feels like it’s part of me. I don’t think that desire would just disappear. But it feels different, like I need something more beyond myself to keep me going.

Mid-April, I decided to write a mission statement for my writing. I was writing a mission statement for a work project, so I thought, why not write one for my writing? Maybe it would give me some direction.

Here’s what I came up with:

I craft informative, thought-provoking writing that allows curious readers to learn something about the world around them or about themselves. 

If I can bring a new idea or a new perspective to a reader, then that gives me fulfillment. Writing used to be something I did for myself, and then if other people read it or liked it, that was a bonus. But doing it for myself doesn’t seem relevant anymore.

There’s little I’ve written in the past three months that makes me excited or pleased. A couple of exceptions — blog posts I wrote that give some historical perspective to the times we live in (here and here). As a historian, context is important to me and gives me comfort. Yes, our exact, specific circumstances today are unlike any other time, but broadly as a species we’ve experienced these fraught emotions and circumstances before.

I have lots of essays I’ve started in the past few years, but I’m not sure I will be able to finish them unless they fit my mission.

If you’re interested in writing a mission statement for your writing, first answer the following questions with complete sentences/short paragraphs:

  • What does my best work look like?
  • Who am I serving?
  • What do I do?
  • What change do I make to better the world?

Then, draw a square around words that deal with people or places. Circle words that are about making a difference or taking an action. Underline anything that changes for the better as a result of your work.

You should be able to identify the who, the action, and the impact. Write a sentence that involves all of those things.