Several years ago, I found my enjoyment of writing for magazines fading. At that time, most of my writing revolved around my previous career as a small animal veterinarian, but writing about animal health issues lost my interest.
So, I invented a writing project, but not just any project. One of my favorite vet-related assignments had been to interview Bill Irwin and his dog, Orient. Irwin was the first blind man to walk the entire Appalachian Trail, and Orient led the way. I loved working on the piece and craved similar articles that might give me a greater sense of purpose.
So, I created Project Purpose:
To write and publish articles about people and institutions whose lives and missions are dedicated to a bold and inspired purpose or vision.
I focused my efforts on assignments that might fit Project Purpose by mentioning it in my query letters. Three months after my first query, I received my first Project Purpose assignment from New Age Journal (since renamed Body and Soul) to write a profile of Bo Lozoff of The Human Kindness Foundation in Carrboro, North Carolina. My largest assignment ever, both in prestige and paycheck. In fact, the check was twice what I’d ever received as a writer.
I thoroughly enjoyed the assignment, from the research to writing the piece. I even enjoyed the revision process, because I worked on something close to my heart. When the check arrived, I knew I had hit upon something really important. As Greg Braendel of Career Dreams, Inc., another of my Project Purpose profile subjects says, “Passion always sells; obsession never does.”
Create Your Own Revitalizing Project
The energizing power of this project reconnected me to a sense of purpose. Ask yourself: What stirs your passion? Take the question seriously. Many people have lost touch with their passion, the inner spark that ignites them to inspired action. The following exercise will help you down this path. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed as you go through this five-minute exercise.
Identify the Passion
Let’s say investigators (think IRS) are on the way to your home with a mission to take away everything you’re passionate about. Your only hope is to write down those things in life that are really important to you. If it’s not written down, the investigators will take it away, never to be in your world again.
Be as precise as possible. For instance, if relationships are important to you, write down which relationships are important. If you love animals, which ones do you love the most and why? Describe specific details of your passion. What do you want left in your world after the investigators leave? Take five minutes to record this information in your notebook, then set the list aside for a day or two. When you return, analyze the list and keep in mind the various markets that might be interested in those subjects. Boil your mission down to a simple statement and include it in future queries.
Here’s an example:
This article is part of a long-term writing project — Project Purpose: to write and publish articles about people whose lives are dedicated to a bold and inspiring purpose or vision. This project eventually led me to co-found Life On Purpose Institute after writing about dozens of purposeful people (samples at http://www.lifeonpurpose.com/projectpurpose ).
I found that including a clear statement like this helped me stay focused on the type of writing I most enjoyed. It also added credibility to queries as my list of Project Purpose articles increased. Over the years, I profiled several dozen people like John Robbins, author of Diet for a New Planet in Reclaiming Your Health which appeared in Yoga Journal. One of my favorite interviews that appeared in The Sun was with Daniel Quinn, shortly after he won the $500,000 Turner Tomorrow Award for Ishmael.
Just be forewarned. It’s impossible to predict where a purposeful, passion-filled writing project might lead you, but I can promise that you won’t be disappointed by the final destination.
Besides his extensive magazine writing experience, W. Bradford Swift is also the author of From Spark to Flame: Fanning Your Passion & Ideas into Money-making Magazine Articles that Make a Difference, and Life On Purpose: Six Passages to an Inspired Life – an award-winning finalist in the Self-Help: Motivational division of the Best Books 2007 Awards sponsored by USA New. Swift is also the author of 11 books of speculative fiction, including the Kindred Series and the FreeForm series under the pen name of Orrin Jason Bradford. His website is www.wbradfordswift.com.