Ask anyone on the street and I guarantee most of them will say they’ve always wanted to write a book. They have this great idea spinning around in their head that they think would be a great story. Maybe that someone is you.
So why haven’t you done it?
Most often, the response is that you don’t have the time. Life happens, I get it, and writing a novel is not an easy task. Hell, maybe you don’t even want to write a whole book. Maybe you just want to start writing something.
I was one of those people on the street, playing with ideas in my head but had no place to put them. I had all the time in the world (I say as I juggled a full time job, grad school for two master’s degrees, and trying to find a future job). Why wasn’t I writing?
I’d think about opening a Word document or a blank notebook page, sometimes actually doing that, but still never wrote anything. I procrastinated by researching how to write books, how to start writing, what to write about… everything except actually writing.
You aren’t a writer, my inner perfectionist dialogue would go. You have no background, no skills… you aren’t good enough to do this.
But then I came across the word that changed my life.
There it is. Look at it in all caps.
Do you need it again?
Now you can see it in bold and italic.
How about like this?
I found the best writing advice I’d ever need. Permission — a simple word that gave me the freedom to be okay to not get it right the first time. Permission to write garbage and understand that no first draft is ever perfect. I had permission to write a story that had been in my head for years — permission to show it to the world or hide it away for the rest of my life (I chose the latter).
Giving myself permission to accept something less than perfect was my ticket to writing.
As a softball pitcher, I learned this too. My best pitch was a curve (some would argue my change, some would argue my rise, etc.). When I was healthy, I could put that pitch anywhere I wanted. Up, down, in, out, or with some rise to it. When I tore my labrum, I lost a lot of that control. I would throw in the bullpen for longer than I needed to be out there, trying to gain some of my control back. It was heartbreaking, but I learned that I didn’t have to be perfect to get something to work in my favor. Sometimes the unpredictability made a better pitch, sometimes it didn’t, but I gave myself permission to work with the skills I had at that time. The longer I learned what I could and couldn’t do, the more I found my new strengths and worked with the other ‘best’ pitches that I had to offer.
When I finally gave myself permission to write the story, I did so with gusto. In ten days (like I said, I had time), I churned out 50,000 words of complete and utter trash. I learned how to type dialogue, a skill I’d never done before in my academic writing. I discovered how awful I was at writing out settings and description. I had a storyline, but it was a contorted mess.
And I was okay with that.
Because I had given myself permission to write those words, I had a story. It was awful, but it was finally in physical form. A physical form that could be rewritten now that I had learned about writing by actually writing. I turned that garbage into many different rewrites and finally self-published my first novel.
So, give yourself permission to throw out your perfectionist self. Give it a much needed vacation. Write something for the first time. Who cares if it’s good or bad? You went from zero words to something, and that’s something to be proud of.
If you can’t give yourself permission for whatever reason, I’ll do it for you.
I hereby declare that you have permission to write anything you want, however you want, whether it is good, bad, ugly, or beautiful.
Go forth and write, my friends. I believe in you.