I was in a mom situation about a week or two ago and ended up defending my children during a play date. Later, I had conflicting emotions about the episode. Sadness. Anger. Frustration. Guilt. Eventually, my husband came to me and said I should never feel guilty for being the champion our children need at times. Shortly before this play date, I ran across an article, or maybe it was just a paragraph or two in a book, about mission statements. I think the idea was successful people lived by mission statements and these feelings prompted me to think about creating a mission statement for myself. I spent two days writing down what I believed and my mission as a mom, a wife, a sister, and a friend. Defending my children, even in difficult situations or against friends, was in there. When I finished, I felt much better.
Some people might say I have the order backwards, but it was only after I wrote a personal mission statement that I turned to my professional life. The more I thought about it, the more appealing this idea became to me. I’ve written 50-word bios, author tags, and 100-word bios, but I’d never taken the time to sit down and write out my mission as an author. If you asked me on the street, or at some gathering, “So tell me, Cas, what is your mission as an author?” Assuming I didn’t choke on my latte, I might stutter out a few words to buy time to mask how off-guard the question caught me. Words like entertain, speculative fiction, and stories might pop up, but I’d just be throwing them out there. True buzz words, yet they don’t reveal much about my passion or goals. And that vague indecision about what I’m trying to accomplish made me feel bad so I decided it was time to do something about it.
Fueled by a cauldron of emotions, the personal mission statement was easy. My professional mission statement was proving far tougher. Questions like: What do you do? Who do you do it for? What makes it special? all ran through my head. I decided to start with my strengths. The things I know I keep coming back to in my writing. Strong female characters. Strange environments. A blending of surrealism / sci-fi / fantasy / horror.
I write horror? Looking back over the past few stories I’ve written, I can see the creepy elements sticking their heads up, poking out here and there. And then I freaked out some more, because I had this strange idea horror writers were tough, a little scary themselves, living by the seat of their pants, embracing-the-fear kind of people. I’m calm and avoid scary environments, movies, places, amusement park rides, and people. I am the opposite of fearless. I am a coward. I don’t even curse when I speak. Ever. I cry at almost every movie and after most books I read. I cried during Arrow. Who cries during a superhero tv show?? How could I write even on the edge of horror? I don’t like scary things. What did all this darkness say about my faith? How did I feel about people who judged my faith based on what I wrote? It was a tough, soul-searching night, and it revealed more about me and what I write than I could have imagined. I also learned this blending of horror and sci-fi, or creepy elements has a name, New Weird Fiction.
In the end, I came up with something I’m proud of, that covers almost everything I write. I have written one or two literary pieces that fall between the cracks, and while some of my poetry falls under speculative or new weird, other poetry could best be described as general poetry, and I think that’s important, too. To stretch the boundaries and write outside of the edges I’ve painted around myself.
My mission might change in five years, or ten as I continue to grow, or it might stay the same. What matters is now, and for this stage in my life, my author mission statement is:
My mission is to write speculative fiction/new weird fiction typically set in fantastical settings like postcyberpunk, biopunk, fantasy realms, or near-future environments because I believe anything is possible. My mission is to explore the darkness and the light in my stories because the only way to be whole is to face my demons. My mission is to create strong female characters, place them in impossible worlds and follow them as they tackle life, relationships, hopes and fears. But mostly, my mission is to write about people we want to become, people we’re afraid of becoming, and people we already are, but perhaps have forgotten and hidden away deep inside.