Chip MacGregor

October 29, 2012

How can a writer create a purpose statement?


Someone wrote and asked, “Chip, can you help me create a purpose statement for me as a writer? I think I need to clarify my purpose statement. I’m a literary novelist… can you assist me in moving forward?” 

If you’re thinking about creating a mission statement or a life purpose statement, here are some questions to think through:

1. If I could sum up the purpose of my life in one word, what word would I choose? 

2. What if I were to sum it up in three words? 

3. How would I want my epitaph to read? If I were to live to be 100, what would I want people to say about me at my 100th birthday party? [And kudos to Bobb Biehl for these questions. Bobb is the president of Masterplanning Group International, and was thinking and writing on these topics long before anyone else in the business. You can find him at –and yes, he spells it “Bobb.”]

You may also find it helpful to ask yourself some questions like these:

4. Over the course of my life, what do I want to do? 

5. What do I really want to be? How do I want to describe myself? 

6. Who are the people or groups I most want to help? 

7. What sort of things would I like to accomplish in my writing over the next three to ten years?

8. As you look back over your writing career, what are the themes that are evident? Who have you written to? What have you written about? What are the timeless questions you continue to speak to? 

As you look at your answers, you’ll start to see some themes. Once you have a feel for those, consider creating one non-technical sentence that can be sort of umbrella statement for your work life. Don’t think of this as art, even though you’re a writer – think of it as a crappy, temporary statement that is probably awful but will do until you can spend the time to craft a full-blown, fabulous one. [Hint: Crappy is better than none.] Then you can tell yourself that, one day, you’ll go back and spend hours, and craft a great purpose statement.  

Last thing: You are not your business. In other words, a life mission statement is probably going to be broader than your professional or job mission statement. So, if you want, go back over your answers and apply them just to writing and editing. Now you’re on track to creating a business plan—which is something most freelance writers will find helpful. 

I used to do this for a living, remember. Feel free to email me with questions. Happy to help.

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  • Peter DeHaan says:

    Chip, this is a good reminder for me to revisit this.

    The first time I created a life mission statement, I thought it was perfect and would guide the rest of my life.

    Then five years later, I completely redid it.

    Things have changed a great deal in the seven years since then, so I think another new mission statement is in my future.


    • chipmacgregor says:

      We’ve all done that, Peter — created a purpose statement, then revised it a few years later. I think that just shows we’re growing.

  • Wow, you really simplified this whole, “Find Your Purpose,” thing, thanks! After completing mine, I was relieved. My one word was Hope, sum it up, Always have hope, my sentence, Help others to never stop hoping, ever.

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