I have a weakness for how to improve your writing books.1 Lately, I’ve been reading Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark. Writing Tools is full of useful advice that I will make efforts to heed. Clark’s Tool 40 motivated this post.
Tool 40 advises writers to craft short mission statements2 for their compositions. He provides an example from his writing about AIDS.
- I want to portray my protagonist as a fully human character — and not some kind of cardboard saint.
- I want to do this so people can identify with and care for her and her family…
- I want to help illuminate AIDS, and help educate the public about key aspects of the disease.
He then relates how this helped him write a series of newspaper articles.
I cannot overstate the value of this exercise. It gave me a view over the horizon as I drafted the story. This 250-word mission statement, which took about ten minutes to write, helped create a 25,000-word series.
This got me thinking, “What would a mission statement for this blog look like?”
My first take:
- I want to write a blog that lets me vent and rage about whatever bug is up my arse.
Yes, I’ve written lots of bug-up-my-arse posts but Analyze the Data not the Drivel (ADND) aspires to more than castrated whining. I like to think that it lets me try out ideas and refine fuzzy notions. So perhaps this should be added:
- In this blog I will speculate, explore and develop ideas that range over my peculiar interests.
You’ll find many explore-ideas posts, most of them dealing with aspects of programming, but this doesn’t fully represent this blog. I also write a lot of diary entries. Hence,
- In this blog I will write sporadic diary entries.
There’s more; ADND contains book, movie, TV, and software reviews.
- In this blog I will sometimes review cultural artifacts that get my attention.
We’re not done. ADND has obituaries, snarky listicles, outright trolling, and dismissive sarcasm.
- This blog will showcase the unrepentant dickishness of its author.
Clark’s mission statement makes sense when you want your writing to achieve goals. I have no goals for this blog. I am not writing for you; I am writing for myself, not because I want to hear myself think, or feel that anything I might say, do, suggest or note, is of any interest or importance. I blog for the same reason smokers smoke, and gamblers gamble and drug addicts keep taking drugs; I cannot help myself. Compulsions often precipitate therapy and ADND reeks of it.
- This blog will provide cheap self-administered therapy and remind the author that he lives.
My living is a temporary state of being. Soon the silence will take me, as it will take you, and you, and you. Maybe this sad little blog will form the residue of my existence. We all labor consciously or subconsciously erecting our own memorials. Certainly, the taint of memorialization stains this blog.
- This blog will memorialize its author.
Of course, monument erection is futile. Camus once moaned that all creation is self-consciously ephemeral. All our monuments will, in his words, “weather to mud.”
This blog has no mission. It wanders at will. Some posts have goals but overall, the best mission statement for this blog is a riff on Douglas Adams:
This blog is about life, the universe, and everything.
This blog clearly shows I need all the help I can get.↩︎
Corporate mission statements were all the rage not long ago. Every two-bit company chimed in with vacuous twaddle about creating excellent products and exemplary customer experiences. Predictably, this drivel degraded the value of mission statements, so nowadays we don’t endure them anymore.↩︎