One of the best skills you can foster as a writer is that of self-permission. I’m not talking about rationalizing destructive behavior or justifying crappy choices. Instead, you need to learn how to stop looking toward society, your friends and family, etc for permission to follow your instincts.
The greatest gift I gave myself as a new writer was permission to be a novice. After beating myself up for not writing brilliant prose and force-feeding myself every nugget of advice I could find from the experts, I finally threw up my hands and admitted that I wasn’t supposed to be good yet. I’d never written a book before, so how could I expect to be good at it?
Giving myself permission to be a beginner opened a door inside of me. Suddenly, I was free to play and experiment. To laugh at myself and let myself grow. More importantly, it allowed me to complete my first novel. I told myself I just needed to get it down. It didn’t have to be good–it just had to be done.
Since then, I’ve had to give myself permission to do lots of other things I found scary. I gave myself permission to go back to grad school even though everyone thought it was crazy. I gave myself permission to write a new genre. I even gave myself permission to take a break when I felt burned out.
The point is that your creative life is your responsibility. There is no fairy craft mother who’s going to point you on the right path or look out for you. More likely, you will run into lots of people with their own agenda or products to sell who are great at pretending to be looking out for you. Long-term happiness in the creative entrepreneurial life requires that you get good at becoming your own advocate. It requires the courage to give yourself permission to make choices that go against conventional wisdom and to ignore the voices of people who are terrified you’ll be the crab to escape the pot.
It also requires that you get very honest about why you’re doing this. Are you writing because you want to be a millionaire (best of luck with that, friend) or are you writing because telling your story is as critical to your existence as oxygen? Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle (most of us do), and you need to decide where your hard lines exist and where you’re willing to compromise. If you’re in this for money, give yourself permission to ignore the people who are in it for art, and vice versa. Repeat after me: The existence of a different approach is not an indictment of your approach.
So, my friends, tell me: What scary writing thing did you have to give yourself permission to do?