Writing Credo

My last post was about the importance of developing my voice as a writer. I’ve been thinking about that journey over the past few days and there have been some significant steps on the way.

One of these steps took place years ago, when an instructor at the Act One program encouraged us to develop our own “Writing Credo.” At the time, this didn’t essential for me as a Daughter of St. Paul–our Constitutions (aka our Rule of Life as Daughters of St. Paul) clearly lay out the content, motivation, and purpose of our writing. But as I delved into the unfamiliar area of feature films, I realized that these clear guidelines could be applied in many ways. I started to realize I needed to think about how am called to write. How should I discern between the numerous good projects that I’m asked to write, or the ideas that I come up with? Writing my own credo has been invaluable in articulating my vision of what I write and how I want to grow as a writer–both in nonfiction and as a screenwriter. In addition, having a writing credo has helped me me keep my focus and make the tough choices between projects.

The very helpful book Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark offers the additional suggestion to write a “mission statement” for every writing project. I have found that when I’m blocked or hesitant, this is extremely helpful. It forces me to go back to my motivation, to connect this project to my overall vision for my writing, and to set out particular goals for the piece that I can use to evaluate when I’m in the revision stage. It can even encourage me to recognize the risks or obstacles that I face in writing the piece. The mission statements help me focus on the needs of the particular audience I want to reach in each project. They rekindle my original inspiration and re-motivate me to work past whatever difficulties I come up against. It’s one of the most effective ways I have found to overcome writer’s block.

The Writing Credo guides my overall choices, growth, and direction as a writer; the individual mission statements are a guide for me as I work on each individual piece. Usually, I write a mission statement only for longer projects, but I have also written them for shorter projects that have proven to be more challenging.

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