I had a really bad day of writing on Tuesday. My muse was off in his own little world. I was frustrated about getting further behind on…well, everything. And the words I did write felt like crap.
(I know, I know. It’s my own fault my muse was distracted, because in my last post I wondered how to include the phrase “a low-class hornet’s snuggery” in a story. And yes, if I ever have time, I now have a short story in mind for that phrase. So once again, my muse wins. *sigh*)
I should have given up trying to write and instead found something else to do. Reading, tweeting, even paying bills. Something. But I didn’t because a) I’m stubborn (*insert your sarcastic shocked face here*) and b) I want to be a professional writer.
We’ve probably all seen the advice:
“If you want to be a professional writer, you can’t wait around for the mood to strike.”
So gosh darn it, I was going to write. No matter what.
Yep, that worked out as well as you’d expect. Where did I go wrong?
Give Yourself Permission
I hadn’t given myself permission to not write. After all, I’d written each day of the long holiday weekend here in the U.S. and every day since returning from my trip, despite picking up a nasty cold during my travels. A day off wouldn’t have been out of line. Yet I didn’t do it.
In retrospect, almost everything in writing comes down to permission.
- We must give ourselves permission to “waste” time on a dream.
Writing, like many activities, has more opportunities to fail than to succeed. So when we commit to writing despite those odds, we have to give ourselves permission to fail—at least temporarily.
- We must give ourselves permission to slack off in other areas.
Time spent writing means we’re not spending that time cleaning our house, making perfect meals, cleaning out the garage, being there 100% of the time for our family, etc. Life is about choices and trade-offs, and to write, other things must be sacrificed.
- We must give ourselves permission to listen to the voices in our head.
Most people consider hearing voices in their head to be a bad thing. They ignore the voices, hoping they’ll go away before someone notices. Not writers. We worry when the voices of our muse and our characters go silent.
- We must give ourselves permission to hit dead ends.
We might have to explore different genres, point-of view styles, and tones before we find the outlet that works for us. Sometimes we have to discover what we don’t like to know what we do.
- We must give ourselves permission to write crap.
A draft isn’t supposed to be perfect, or anywhere close to perfect. In many cases, a first draft is like a glorified story outline, getting the gist of the scene down for us to work on later.
- We must give ourselves permission to have off days.
Writers, especially those of us with day jobs, tend to consider every minute that isn’t scheduled for something else “writing time.” This helps us squeeze every bit of writing into our day. But that doesn’t allow for vacations or sick days from our writing job. We have to balance writing with life-in-general.
- We must give ourselves permission to not be perfect.
Yes, we’re writers, but that doesn’t mean our blog posts, tweets, status updates, or even our stories are free from errors. If we let it, the need to be perfect would paralyze us from finishing anything. We must accept that no matter how many editing passes we make, our work won’t be perfect.
- We must give ourselves permission to let our “babies” go.
Sometimes, we have to give up on a project that isn’t going anywhere. And when we finish a piece of writing, it must succeed or fail on its own. Whether a blog post or a story resonates with others is beyond our control.
I’m still working on many of these obviously. But maybe recognizing the problem is the first step. *smile*
Have you given yourself permission? Are you able to accept failure and imperfection and move forward? Do you struggle with any of these? Can you think of any other ways we have to give ourselves permission?
Photo Credit: marganz