Thursday, September 2, 2010

Give Yourself Permission

This was a brilliant post, simply because I have a hard time really giving myself the permission I know I need as a writer.

Associate Editor Molly O'Neil, funny, witty, and concise blogger at WriteOnCon, had this to say on the subject.

First, being a writer is a solitary act of the will. Where your writing goes, or doesn't go, depends solely on you. If you become a writer, a really fabulous selling author, it's because you willed yourself to keep going on the journey even when the journey felt impossible. If you are a writer who has remained in the same rut year after year after year with no intention of ever struggling free, it's because you allowed yourself to give up, to stop running after that dream of really becoming the writer that's sleeping inside you.

There are a list of permissions that Molly O'Neil gave us. I encourage all serious writers to take this list and pin it somewhere in your home, or in your head, or on your desktop. It's gold.

Permission to call yourself a writer. (I do)
Permission to collect sparks of inspiration from even the unlikeliest of encounters. (Definitely do!)
Permission to wander your way into telling stories completely unlike those you perhaps once thought you would write. (All the time!)
Permission to start writing something new—totally, gloriously new—even if the thought terrifies you. Especially if the thought terrifies you. (I'm still scared.)
Permission to admit that a story you’ve been trying to write isn’t working, or isn’t actually something that you love writing anymore, and to liberate yourself from it. And then, to start something new. (See above!)
Permission to stray from your outline. (ALL the time.)
Permission to keep writing, even if it feels like you may never “get there.”(**sigh** I do. It's hard.)
Permission to steal the parts of a story that ARE working out of a story that mostly isn’t, and to use those parts to make something fresh. (Working on this one.)
Permission to change your manuscript from first-person to third (and possibly back again). Or to change tenses, or settings, or main characters, or any other part of your story, once you see a way to make it better.
Permission to let a character become someone totally different than you originally expected him/her to be. (Characters have a disconcerting habit to become real people, and abandoning the characters I've written for them.)
Permission to kill a character. (And to cry a little when you do so.) (I've killed them. I've cried.)
Permission to hire a babysitter, or to blow off some homework, or to order dinner in, or whatever it takes, to give yourself a little more space in your life for writing.
Permission to write a scene or story that might make certain people who love you shocked and surprised. (Still scared about this one. :-)
Permission to submit something. (Done. But ooh, it's scary!)
Permission to fail, maybe more than once. (Because you can’t fail unless you’ve tried.) (Feels like I fail all the time. **sigh** I give myself permission to accept it.)
Permission to feel things deeply as a writer—disappointment, grief, doubt, jealousy. But then to balance those negative emotions with more positive ones: ambition, determination, persistence, hope. (WIP)
Permission to be where you are in your path as a writer. Right now. Even if you think you should be farther along.
Permission to write in the oddest of places—on the back of kleenex boxes and receipts; at ballet lessons or soccer practice or with a car full of groceries going warm; on napkins in restaurants; in the bathroom of a friend or relative’s house when you’ve gone to visit—in order to capture an idea, or images, or words that flash into your mind, already strung perfectly together. (On a post-it in between visual fields. :-)
Permission to ignore all the conflicting pieces of advice, and simply to write the story within you that wants to be told. (Yay!)
Permission to step away from measuring yourself against other writers.
Permission to be inspired by EVERYTHING. (Always!)
Permission to be uninspired…but to try to write through it anyway. (SO HARD!)
Permission to mess up. Possibly many times. Every day. (Thank you. I have.)
Permission to do what you need to protect yourself as a writer—to turn off the internet, or to stop reading blogs for awhile, or to avoid Twitter—and enable yourself to do that thing which writers must do—TO WRITE. (Yes. Very hard to do, too.)
Permission to think of your characters as real people (and to perhaps actually like them better than some real-life people you know). (You mean they're NOT real? Confession: I really do like most of them better than real people, too.)
Permission to delete. (Hard, hard, hard. But I do.)
Permission to write things that perhaps no one but you will ever see. (All the time.)
Permission to write things that perhaps many people will see. (Scary.)
Permission to…Write On! (Insert cheer.)

Molly O’Neill is an Associate Editor at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsChildren’s Books
Read her blog at:, and follow her on Twitter @molly_oneill.

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