Which causes me to question: Why do we write? Why do we want to write? Do we have any obligations to readers? Are we obliged to be entertaining? Educational or informational? Uplifting? Empowering? Inspiring? Truthful?
Is our writing life divorced from our human life? Do we have obligations (practical or moral) as human beings who are interdependent with other human beings, and how do those obligations or responsibilities inform our writing? Do we have a "job" as humans and as writers?
I don't presume to know (without doubt and for all time) the answer to these questions, and I assume they will be different for different individuals. For myself, the answer is I do have obligations and responsibilities as a member of the human race and as a writer.
I don't mean, for example, that everything written must have rosy and happy topics that make people feel good--that wouldn't be true to the human experience of life (and maybe being true to life is a responsibility, to some degree).
We can be snarly people--always negative, always looking for something to argue over, or for someone to denigrate, or to discount someone else's contributions or knowledge or experience (or in today's online parlance: always looking for something to "H8 on" others about), or we can be honorable, empowering of others, compassionate, edifying, supportive. This is as true of writing as it is of living.
In essence, I am talking about having guiding principles or values for our lives and work.
I like the idea of guiding one's living by adhering to values and principles. Some of mine are loyalty, courage, honor, duty, service, reliability, integrity, perseverance, dedication, and excellence. For many years I have had a personal mission statement based on my fave five most important guiding values and principles. It guides the purpose, execution, and choices I make in life, much the same way as corporate mission statements guide companies' activities.
To narrow these guiding principles and "mission statements" down to one central "signature" sentence (much like the mini descriptions of books) seems both overly simplistic and helpful. Helpful because it puts a focus to everything one says and does for every area of one's life. It's simple to remember and to apply when making decisions and choices. One short sentence acts as a descriptor that encompasses several values and principles, and acts as a mission statement.
I can even imagine substituting words or phrases for a sentence. I have often borrowed inspiration from marketing campaigns: Nike's "Just Do It", "No Fear", "Aim High" from the U.S. Air Force, and "Where's the beef?"....
Is it useful to guide one's writing by adhering to values and principles? What about signatures?
Gauging everything I write, or want to write, or may someday teach about writing, by whether it meets the standard of (for instance) "awakening possibility in other people" seems a difficult and restrictive thing to do. On the other hand, maybe the world would be a better place if we all did this.
In the interest of experimentation, for now I am going to borrow Zander's "signature."
What are your thoughts on this? Have you consciously chosen guiding values or principles for your life? Your writing? Your business? Have you worked out any kind of mission statement? If you were to create a "signature" for your life or work, what would it be?