Monday, March 31, 2014

Mission Statement Impossible

I was just applying to be a roster artist for a particular city when I came to a box that asked for my Mission Statement.

I clicked over to my business plan, copied my mission statement, and pasted it in the little box. 

It occurred to me that in all the time I have been a storyteller nobody has ever asked me for my Mission Statement.

It also occurred to me that I actually have a Mission Statement.  

I have no idea if most storytellers have one or not.  I have one because a long, long time ago, back when I was a new storyteller, I took a workshop with some really, really famous storyteller, whose name escapes me at the moment, who told me that if I really wanted to focus my efforts in the business I should write a mission statement. 

Back in those days, I said ‘yes’ to just about anything really, really famous storytellers said because I was hoping that someday, if I worked really hard, and crossed all of my ‘t’s’ and dotted all of the ‘I’s’ I would become a really, really famous storyteller.   ('Famous' is a great deal to shoot for, especially if you're not even sure what it means to be a 'famous' storyteller.  Well, you live, you learn!)

It took me a really, really long time to realize that just because a really, really famous storyteller tells you to do something, it doesn’t mean it is some sort of magic bullet that will make you a really, really famous storyteller.

Why am I even brining this up? 

That really, really famous storyteller was right.  My Mission Statement has been an essential part of honing my repertoire, choosing stories, and figuring out what jobs I take and which ones I pass on to others.

So, because I try to pass on information that has actually helped me over the last twenty-six years, here is a short list of questions to ask yourself if you have ever thought about sitting down and composing a Mission Statement.

Why a Mission Statement?  It might help you answer these questions.

1.     How do you market yourself to potential clients?
2.     What do you want people to think about when they think about your work?
3.     How do you decide which stories to add to your repertoire?
4.     Why are you drawn to some stories, but not to others?
5.     Do you have a purpose for doing this beyond ‘just because it is fun?’

Why a Mission Statement?  It might help you clarify some stuff.

1.     Why are you a storyteller?
2.     What are you trying to accomplish as a storyteller?
3.     Why do you choose certain stories over others
4.     If you could describe yourself as a storyteller, what are the most important aspects of your work?
5.     Why are there stories that you love, but can’t figure out a place, or situation in which it feels right to tell them?
6.     Why are there stories that you really, really, hate and can’t figure out what it is about them that gets your goat?
7.     What kinds of stories speak to you?  Why?

I don’t remember all the questions the really, really famous storyteller asked me.  In fact, I didn’t write a Mission Statement that night.  I didn’t write it until almost three years later when I’d gone down a one way street into a blind alley, and realized I was sort of drifting around in my work.

Having a Mission Statement has made all the difference.  I know why I do what I do.  I know what sorts of things spark my work.  I know what I am seeking when I approach new material. 

DLW Storyteller Inc. strives to present performances, residencies, workshops and written materials that strengthen communication, uplift the human spirit, engage the imagination, promote literacy and uphold the values of Unitarian Universalism.

Though, sometimes, I have to admit, I still do stuff ‘just because its fun!’

Happy Telling!

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