I have led numerous writers’ workshops and retreats over the past several years, and one issue surfaces consistently. Many people are waiting for someone to give them permission to write. Something prevents their free engagement in the simple act of putting words together.
My answer to this simple: Give yourself permission to write. And while you’re at it, give yourself permission to—
- write just because you want to. No glorious purpose is necessary. No practical purpose, either.
- write whatever you want to write. Write about your kids or pets. Write poetry. Write a screenplay. Write your grandfather’s life story. Write a sloppy romance. Write a memoir.
- write without expectations. You don’t need to accomplish anything. And, unless you are in fact a trained and persistent writer, you’re wise to write without expectation of getting published—because professional writing is a craft and it usually takes much experience and hard work.
- write freely and wastefully. Any artistic endeavor involves waste. You’ll write stuff and delete it. You may write entire scenes and stories and pitch them later. You’ll probably go off in the wrong direction and have to start all over. If you can’t waste time, energy, and paper/computer memory, then please, don’t write.
- call yourself a writer—or not. Because we’ve overly romanticized writers, then often when you identify yourself as such, people think you’re being pretentious. I’ve been a writer for years, but when a new acquaintance asks what I do, I defer to my other identity and say I’m an editor. That’s easier and less painful than enduring the awkward silence or the, “I see . . .” or having to answer the next ten questions, such as, “Really, what have you published?” or, if you have published, then, “Have I seen that in Borders?” Like me, you may want to call yourself a writer privately and to a few trusted friends and leave it at that.
- embrace the gifts you have. You may have a talent for writing, but the talent won’t develop by itself. At some point you have to own up to being talented and get on with it.
- make writing a bigger priority. If this is a gift, or a desire, or just the thing you need to do now, then honor this urge and make space and time for writing. Do it without apology.
- write without explaining it to anyone. People either get artistic urges or they don’t. Please don’t waste energy on the people who don’t get you. And to those who do, be gracious and appreciative.
- write in obscurity. The celebrity culture we live in pressures us to be outstanding and famous in all we do. You don’t have to make a name for yourself or win any awards.
- write badly. If you can’t allow yourself to write badly, you’ll never get any better at it. This gets in the way of so many people who might otherwise develop their gifts. Even good writers do bad writing. Sometimes we write pages and pages of mediocrity in order to arrive at that one paragraph of miraculous beauty.
- write yourself. You may as well give yourself permission to write yourself, because you’ll end up writing yourself anyway. Your particular mixture of history, neuroses, nagging personal issues, and so on, will pop up in your work all the time. You have to let that happen. You can always edit out what’s useless to the work itself. But one thing art forces you to do is to face yourself.
- enjoy the act for itself alone. We were created to take joy in creating. When you finish a poem, rejoice and be happy. Don’t worry about its quality—that’s not the point for now. Take joy in the fact that you have engaged in something you love.
Copyright © Vinita Hampton Wright, 2009