Chip MacGregor

March 20, 2013

Why did you become a writer?


Someone wrote to say, “I’ve never seen you answer this question… What moved you to begin writing?”

I’ve always been a words guy — I started writing as a child and never stopped. My mom said that, when I was in first grade, I came home and announced, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a book guy.” So I guess I had to live up to that promise. I’ve been writing ever since. My life has been intertwined with words. My first real job in college was as a copyeditor for a junior high science teacher’s magazine. I later worked for newspapers, then back to magazines, and eventually to books. I can’t not write. There are stories inside me, or stories I see, and they simply must be told. I love working with authors to help them tell their stories. Words are what move me. Thanks for asking. 

On a related note, someone asked, “As a writer, what keeps you going through the setbacks and disappointments?”

I suppose a lot of writers will tell you that writing is therapy – and I suppose it is for me, in a way. But I’ve kept writing because I still have stories to tell, I still have things to say. I rarely feel the setbacks I’ve faced were because of my writing. Rather, they were in spite of my writing, or maybe they were at odds with my writing. So I kept writing until I could convince the people who made the mistake of saying “no” in the first place.

And let’s face it – most “disappointment” authors face is really the simple act of rejection. Writers hate to hear the word “no.” But I’ve never been one who allowed “no” to get in the way of accomplishing what I wanted. So while I’ve had more than my shares of “no” as both writer and agent, I’ve continued writing because that’s what I do. The fact that some publisher doesn’t want to purchase my words doesn’t mean those words lack value – I don’t expect the act of publishing to somehow validate my life. My words are meaningful. They are my message, part of some bigger life purpose, I suppose, even if they are only meant as a message to myself, or my family, or the authors I represent. I continue writing in the face of rejection simply because that’s who I am.  I must continue writing. Most writers will probably agree with that statement.

And one writing friend asked, “If you were beginning your career today, what would you hope to accomplish?”

I’d like the world to be different because of my words, of course. I like to educate, to assist, to enlighten, to entertain. The body of my words is meant to take people a bit further along the path, so that they better understand who they are, who we are as people, how we are to live in light of truth, I suppose. (And yes, I realize I’m beginning to sound like a windbag. Sorry. Maybe taking a bunch of personal questions on the day before leaving on a trip is a bad idea…)

Hey, writers, I’d love to hear you answer these questions. Why did you start writing? What keeps you going at it? And what do you hope to accomplish?

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  • Chip, I’m so glad you became a writer, and have stuck with it. We’ve been friends now for some time and it’s a friendship I value greatly. “I’d like the world to be different because of my words”…wow, i like that. I concur. I guess I write because I’m a dead-burned introverted loud mouth…and it just comes a gushin’ out hillbilly and all!!! Whatever the reason. It’s what I do…and I love to do it. Maybe (LORD HELP!) I can make a living at it someday.

  • Robin Mooneyham Archibald says:

    I’ve struggled with the “I write because I can’t not write” assertion many writers make. I’m all too content to stretch my legs on the ottoman, pot of Ti Quan Yin at my elbow, and pass the evening reading an engaging, delightful, or riveting novel.

    When that novel is finished I open the next, anticipating.
    And the next novel is . . . disappointing! “I can do better than that,” I think, and go back to work on my own wannabe novelist wip.

    What frightens me is that I’m driven to create what I deeply
    admire. And I’m not at all sure I can. Nabokov wrote this about his own writing: “The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” In response I wrote, “Will I ever feel the words are already on the page? Right now, that page is BLANK, and it terrifies me. I am not up to the task of
    filling it like Wendell Berry, like Wallace Stegner, like Marilynne Robinson. God help me.”

    But in recent years I’ve dedicated myself to the writing task
    and grown in a way I’m happy with, though it surprises me to realize that. I’ve made strides at weaving words and story, at acquiring a strong voice, and at solidifying the novel’s themes for my intended audience. Recently, I referred to myself as “a
    writer” without feeling silly. I’ve never been comfortable referring to myself as a writer simply because I like to write or have a talent. I guess now I feel like I’m earning the right. What do I want to accomplish? I want to engage readers, to delight them, to reach them—what the very best novels, the novels I
    admire, do.

  • Kathy M. Storrie says:

    I became a writer not by choice at age 57 when my 80 year old
    mother-in-law moved in with us. She wasn’t all that bad but I needed a
    quick fix to settle my nerves after substitute teaching all day. All the
    TVs were blasting so I sneaked upstairs to the quiet room and
    discovered the magic of Windows. My son’s piano teacher inspired me with
    her dreadful, family Hatfield/McCoy story so I thought about starting a
    happy, humorous Appalachian love story. Scenes spilled out of my past I
    never knew existed and I began to fall in love with the grandfather I
    had never met; writing about frisky Grandma Fannie was easy and she
    helped introduced me to my gentle Grandpa Wilke. Everyday I looked
    forward to peeking into a window of time where miracles, humorous ghost
    stories, shaking hands on a deal and killing mountain lions in
    self-defense .

    I am enjoying your daily blog so much!! Thank you. 🙂

  • Julie Surface Johnson says:

    Like you, I’ve always written. Rejection prompts me to make the necessary improvements to change that “no” to a “yes.” I believe in my words and want to educate, enlighten, and make the world a better place . . . without sounding like a preacher.

  • Tim Osner says:

    “What moved you to begin writing?”
    The best I can describe it is that it was a creative surge sometime around the sixth grade. I hated school and the
    pressures of performance (I was basically a slug) and found it was something I could do that I could call my own. It was also the first thing that a teacher ever praised me for (at least this is what I thought at the time). Writing was also a way I could deal with angst, a way of boxing it in. Being a believer and a person of faith, faith has always informed my writing, but I can’t say I’ve been called to do it. Then again, I can’t say that I’ve ever felt “called” to do anything. The best I can describe it is a compulsion of self expression – part vanity and part surrender.

    “As a writer, what keeps you going through the setbacks and disappointments?”
    My writing keeps getting better. As I mature, it matures.

    “If you were beginning your career today, what would you hope to accomplish?”
    That what I have to say might matter. That the work, a part from me, has a life of its own.

  • Ron Estrada says:

    I’ve been writing fiction for over ten years now. I haven’t been published with the exception of a few magazine articles and a regular column. I have a good career as an engineer and have a good life, so there is no pressing need to earn more money or seek status. However, I never really felt that I was living life to the fullest until I began writing. I’ve been rejected and have even tried to quit, but it always felt as if part of me was cut off. I simply must write. I hope that my kids understand that true success is to pursue your dream, not by some worldly measure of wealth or fame.

  • Cheryl Russell says:

    I kinda fell into writing and discovered I enjoyed it. Eventually it led me back to school. What I hope to accomplish-I’ve applied for adjunct work (which pays more than some conferences it seems 😉 at my undergrad school & I’ve just finished a novel-a fairly large chunk was my thesis in grad school. I’m starting the revision process and I’ll see how far the novel goes, once it’s done. After that, I’m not sure. I have ideas that are off-shoots of my current WIP and ideas that I worked on before I went back to school, but haven’t worked on since. I do know that a mix of writing & teaching is what I’m hoping for, but only time will tell.

  • Meghan Carver says:

    I started writing just because it was fun. It was a sixth-grade essay contest, and I can remember exactly where I was sitting in the cafeteria. Heat blew on my feet from the radiator, and cold blew on my face from the poorly-insulated window. But I realized then just how much I enjoyed putting the words together. As I discovered that the teachers liked my writing, that just fueled me. Add an obsession with reading, and I was soon dreaming of publishing novels when I grew up.

    I keep going because I can’t quit. I homeschool my six children. That’s plenty of reason to stop. But every time I even think of quitting, I get that empty gnawing deep inside. It’s scary to think of not writing and missing all the opportunity to connect with others through the written word. Just like every day is better with Bible reading and prayer, every day is better with writing.

    Thanks for asking, Chip, and thanks for the encouragement. Hope you have a terrific trip!

  • Robin Patchen says:

    I write because I love it. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it, because it’s hard. The rejections and disappointments are hard.

    Yesterday, I was talking to my son about tennis. He’d just played a couple of matches for fun against a kid who’s younger, smaller, and much better than he. He lost 6-1, 6-2. When we’d dropped the kid off, I asked my son why he did it when he knew he was going to lose. He said, “Because it’s fun. We had a blast.”

    That’s what writing is to me. I’m not the best at it, and there’ll always be someone better or more successful or both. But I find joy in it. When I write well, I see God’s hand in it. (It certainly isn’t me!) What could be better than that?

  • Lisa Van Engen says:

    Writing has just always been me, since I was very young. It’s like breathing. I can’t not write. If my words offer hope to others, I feel like I have accomplished what God desires of me in writing.

  • :Donna Marie says:

    Chip, this may sound like the “easy way out” for a response, but truth be told…my motivations are pretty much like yours. I LOVE words, love expressing, and hope what I express with my words will make a difference in a positive way 🙂

    Have a safe, enjoyable trip! 🙂

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