As an often-blocked writer and writing teacher, I think a great deal about process and the conditions required for us to write, keep writing, and write well. So much of writing (or perhaps any creative endeavor) is about ignoring, overcoming, or otherwise harnessing one’s basic personality flaws and/or neuroses.
For me, like many writers, it’s a fear of my stuff never being as good as I want it to be that sometimes stops me not long after I’ve begun. But as the inimitable Katherine Paterson said in her keynote address at the SCBWI winter conference a few years ago:
"I knew that if I didn't dare failure, or worse, mediocrity, I would never be a writer at all."
These words will stay with me always. But becoming a writer is not just about daring mediocrity. And it’s not just about hard work.
What it might really all boil down to is permission, the permission we give ourselves to:
- Make a space (physical, emotional, time) that is reserved for writing and creating.
- Request our loved ones respect that space.
- Ignore the growing pile of dishes in the sink and the dusky hue of the usually pale kitchen floor.
- Spend the money on the tools/equipment/memberships/conferences needed.
- Pull over on the road when our characters begin to whisper, pull out our notebooks in the supermarket’s dairy aisle, stop and listen and take notes.
- Go for a run or a walk or a drive or a shower if that’s what it takes to get them whispering.
- Unplug the router, to turn off the phone/TV, give the social media a rest.
- Put the eternal research aside in favor of the writing.
- Go to crit group and share.
- March to the beat of your own drum.
- Try again and again and again.
- Enjoy it all.
At some point in a writing career, the permission of others (agents, publishers, buying audience, etc.) becomes important too, but well before that it’s our own permission that matters. When you’re a person with a career and family responsibilities and all the things a modern person has to deal with, giving oneself permission can be extremely difficult. But really, aren’t we the only ones accountable to ourselves for the choices we make?
So if we don’t give ourselves full permission to be happy, successful writers and to undertake all that journey entails, it’s unlikely we’ll ever get anywhere.
How do you give yourself permission to write/create? How do you deny yourself permission?