Those of us who’ve spent time honing our language use and craft have inevitably stumbled across the occasional comment or question about whether we could donate our skills to writing something for them or someone they know. A newsletter needs one last article, or someone read a call for essays on fishing, or have we ever thought about ghostwriting, because it seems like there’s always work for ghostwriters. (Hint: ask an actual ghostwriter and one may receive a different impression.) It’s as if any writer can write about any subject, in any form, and within any genre. We practically poop letters.
Gratefully, it does not work that way.
Writers have preferences, tendencies, and interests. We’re better at tackling some forms over others. I am not a poet. I appreciate poets, and I swoon over very good poetry, sure. But my best poem was a mandatory sestina assigned in a workshop. The world is a better place for my adherence to prose forms.
Beyond our interest in form and genre, however, is a mission. We may not have thought of it as such, but it’s there. Writers write for a reason, after all. I know all about the “writers just write” concept that oozes out of the Internet like garlic through one’s pores after an evening of eating too much of the bulb. I hate next-morning garlic smell. And I hate the idea that we write only or primarily as compulsion. Of course people who are serious about this field do it often, but I don’t need to get all religulous about it. Besides, I already have a mission.
I’m writing for young LGB and especially T youth. I’m writing for the terrified person I once was and who I see out there today, in a vastly different world than I grew up in, but one still rife with hatred towards difference of all levels. I’m writing for readers who crave a more nuanced take on gender and how it intersects with race, class standing, and direction of transition. I would love to come anywhere near the universe of deconstruction that Octavia Butler wrote in. (I like to aim high.) My mission is to create books with characters with which youth can identify, rather than needing to wrap themselves into contorted positions before giving up because they don’t see their lives reflected in a text.
I want to write the books that LGBT youth (and heck, adults, too) will exhale through reading, the characters they’ll cheer on, the moments on a page to which they’ll respond viscerally and with some degree of relief. I want to share from my own experience, but in a way that allows the readers theirs, too.
I may write about popular culture, politics, and baking, but when it comes to the books I’m looking to produce, I am clear on my mission. It’s not for everyone; certainly, it seems to be a mission only a scant few people have interest, but I want to be one of its champions.
I would love to hear more about what centralizing mission other writers have, so feel free to stock them up in the comment thread.