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Permission to Write

July 1, 2010

It’s a weekday evening. Maybe you’ve just put in your eight hours at work. Maybe you’ve been home taking care of kids all day. Laundry, dishes, housework. Making appointments for dental checkups, grocery shopping, weeding the garden, mowing the lawn, mopping the floors, volunteering at a school function.

Any combination of these gives you a sense of pride, garners appreciation from your family (even if not vocalized), and, in general, validates your role as a major contributor to the household and/or bank account.

But what if you’ve spent four hours at your keyboard today? Cultivating an idea, getting to know a new character, tightening up a 500-word picture book, creating ten lines of meaningful, story-advancing, sing-songy, perfect rhyme (no near rhyme or forced rhyme, no siree!), or outlining your next mid-grade novel?

Does that count for anything? Depends on who you ask.  Writing is not a real job, is it? There’s a huge learning curve, fierce competition, and, some would say, a dishearteningly small chance of ever earning a solid, bill paying income as a writer. So no, unless and until you become that kind of writer, maybe it’s not a “real job”, by most standards. But it is really hard work, and for those who persevere, it can be dream fulfilling. I’ve struggled with giving myself permission to write for years, and I finally have my own blessing to go forth and compose. Maybe some words of encouragement will cut your struggle short and help you boost your writing career.  Consider the following:

  1. Success should not be measured with dollar signs. Yes, we all need to make a living; so we might have to put in 40 hours a week doing something we don’t love, and only ten hours a week writing. But those ten hours are so important. There are scads of economically advantaged folks out there who have major regret over not pursuing something they were passionate about. Don’t let yourself look back someday and wonder where your writing could have taken you. Or taken your readers.
  2. Okay, it’s not all about the money. It’s not even mostly about the money. But being paid for your writing would be nice at some point, right? The rich and famous authors, by and large, did not start out that way. They had to carve out time to write, and they had to give themselves permission to do so. Sometimes for many, many years before they ever had anything published. Don’t expect your first publishing contract to happen on a certain timeline. Just keep at it, and believe in yourself. Why can’t that rich and famous author be you someday? Well?
  3. This one is important. People who do not have a passion for writing don’t get it. They don’t get it the same way I don’t get why someone would spend hours studying the stock market or watching NASCAR or talking about the intricacies of wiring a house for surround sound. I don’t care about that stuff. It doesn’t interest me in the least. Even though I know and love some people who do care about those things, I still don’t understand their interest in them. And I accept that people who know and love me might not understand why I would want to spend so much time writing. Let them not get it. It’s okay. As long as they respect your choice to devote your time to it!
  4. Don’t feel guilty about the time you spend writing. Easier said than done, you say? Here’s the key: schedule it. The same way you schedule the other things you have to get done each day. Be prepared to give up 30 minutes of something else to fit it in.  You don’t have to have a three hour block of time, but it needs to be consistent; not a two hour stretch every two weeks. If you’re a daily list-maker, don’t put writing at the bottom of your list. You won’t get to it very often, which will make you grumpy and resentful (trust me). Give it a higher-ranking slot on your list. And when it’s your writing time of day, don’t have any qualms about asking members of the household not to disturb you for the next ______ minutes!

Here’s to your next session of guilt-free writing!


From → On Writing

One Comment
  1. Jessica speaks the truth. Scheduling works.

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