At a recent conference on business for authors, several panelists talked about figuring out the one word that gets across what you want from your business/writing life.
The word doesn't need to be specifically about writing or business. Instead, it sums up what you want from life.
The idea is to ask yourself what will make you happy and what word expresses that and build your business around it.
One Word Matters
When I started my law firm, I never thought about choosing a word or exactly why I wanted to run my own firm.
I knew I wanted to work for myself, as that was one of the reasons I became a lawyer. I also wanted more control over my schedule and more time to write, but I didn't specifically set out to create that. I more or less assumed it would happen when I became my own boss. (Anyone who worked for themselves probably could have told me that wouldn't happen. Quite possibly someone did tell me and it didn't sink in.)
Because of that, my firm grew in ways I didn't expect. Other attorneys congratulated me on my success, and I was happy to have a lot of business.
But because I hadn't figured out what type of life I wanted, I rapidly recreated exactly what I'd left–more work than I wanted and little time for the rest of my life.
I don't want to do the same thing with my writing business. There are only so many career changes I want to make in my life.
That's why the one word concept drew me it.
Examples Of One Words
Author Joanna (J.F.) Penn has said her word is Freedom.
When she set out to create her online business, she knew she wanted the freedom to live wherever she chose and travel wherever and whenever she wanted.
With Freedom as her word, she realized she needed a business that allowed her to work from anywhere, one she could run from her laptop. That word also told her what she didn't want–a business that required separate physical space, lots of equipment, and on-site employees she'd need to manage.
The authors at Sterling & Stone, in contrast, seem to expand the size of their company constantly.
They are three authors co-authoring books, but they also employ multiple people, develop software and services for writers, and host a yearly conference. Their one word probably wasn't Freedom, or if it was, it meant something different to them than to Joanna Penn.
As another example, if your word is Security, you probably don't want to throw caution to the wind and quit your current position the first time you make a hundred or even a thousand dollars in a month from your writing.
If your word is Exploration, you might try playwriting, screenwriting, poetry writing, and novel writing all within a few years or maybe a few months. You also might write in multiple genres or explore other types of creative projects.
Choosing Your Word
Do any of these words express what you want most from life?
Think about how you feel about these words (or others you come up with) and what they mean to you.
How might your choices be different depending on the word you choose?
My own word (I'm pretty sure) is Creativity.
For decades Security actually was most important to me, as I had a rough time in my late twenties when I was unable to work due to a repetitive stress injury and moved home with my parents.
After that, for a long time I felt driven to achieve as much financial success as possible for fear of hitting a serious stumbling block again. I always wrote on the side, but it was very hard for me to turn down better-paying work whenever it was offered.
Also, if I spent too much time on “non-productive” (meaning non-paying) activities, I worried that I ought to be focused on earning enough to pay off debts or fund my retirement.
Now, though, I'm happiest when I have time not only for my own writing, but to engage in the storytelling of others. I love to read books, see plays, watch movies, and watch television series that tell long form stories.
The more I do all of that, the happier I feel.
What Creativity means to me going forward is that each project or task I do needs to either (a) generate money while still allowing me a lot of time for creativity or (b) be something creative I enjoy for its own sake.
In my perfect world, every activity I do will fit both.
So what's your word?
P.S. Choosing a single concept or focus can also help when setting goals.