Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Do Mission Statements Change?
I've been writing professionally for most of my adult life. My first novel, THE JOSIAH FILES was published twenty years ago by Thomas Nelson.
When I began, I attended a Finding Your Mission Statement workshop at a Christian writer's conference. Through prayer and much thought I came up with one. It guided my life and my writing for a whole bunch of years. My intent was to write about real Christians who were suffering, real people who felt ostracized and out of place within the Christian culture. I had gay people in my books who were still gay at the end. I wrote about a minister’s wife who loses her faith, and by the end of the book she is still searching and unsure. I wrote about a Christian woman who is abused by her Christian husband and by the end of the book they don’t reconcile, but she finds the strength to leave him.
I used to think mission statements were sort of like getting married. They were yours for life. I think maybe the workshop leader even told us this.
I'm not sure I believe that anymore. Corporations change their mission statements from time to time. Companies change their names and their logos. Before I wrote novels I was a news reporter for a local paper in western Canada. Every five to ten years the newspaper would go through a complete metamorphosis. Masthead, colors, and logos would change. In other words their 'Brand' changes.
My website has changed. My brand has changed. Even my name has changed. I’m writing mysteries under the name LR Hall now.
Life has changed me. I’m reminded of the old joke about the child psychologist who had six theories and no children and then went on to have six children and no theories. I had all the answers back when I started. Armed with my mission statement I was going to change the world. Everything was black and white.
The publishing industry has changed astronomically in twenty years and with 18 novels, I've been there through all its ups and downs. Back in 1992 the highlight of my day was not checking my e-mail, but waiting for the mailman to come. My acceptance letter was an actual letter. With a stamp on it. (In case anyone is wondering what an actual letter is.)
In twenty years my own Christian walk with the Lord has grown such that I now see things in shades of gray.
Many of my years with Christian publishing were very good. I’ve worked with some remarkable editors who saw my vision, mission and helped me turn my books into the best they could be.
But then, as publishing changed, things became “tighter”. It became more and more difficult to find a publisher willing to go out on a limb with me and publish Christian books that weren’t somehow “safe.” One publisher told me, “We just don’t know how to market you.”
So, for a short while I wrote the kind of books they wanted. I could write for hire couldn’t I? How hard could that be? Hard, it turned out. Really, really hard. I felt like I was losing part of myself. I had to leave Christian publishing. (Or Christian publishing as I know it now.)
I’m moving into the general mystery market with a brand new name. And so what is my mission statement now? It’s not very fancy. I still want to write about real people. I still want to write about struggles. I want to pour myself into my mysteries and make them the very best I can.
But there’s more. I want to be a friend to people. I want to learn more about kindness. I want to take time for people and my family. I want to go for walks every day. I want to enjoy music and spend time with God every day and simply write the best books I can. That, I guess, is my mission.