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Are you allowed to be a writer?

Woman typing, trapped in box by monstrous drawings
Written by M. Amelia Eikli

Do you want to write but find yourself overcome with guilt every time you try to pin down some time for it? Or have you written something – a drawer full of short stories or the first draft of a novel  but hide it away? Perhaps you tell yourself that you’re not an artist, that there is no quality to this, no spark, no originality.

In short: is your guilt and insecurity holding your writing hostage? Then the question you might need to ask yourself is: am I allowed to do this?

Ask yourself if you are allowed to prioritise time for writing. Above sorting out your family’s laundry this weekend, or that friend who wants you to meet up for a coffee tonight since you “don’t have any plans”. And are you allowed to put your writing out there? Are you allowed to ask people to read it, and take up their time with your stories?

If your answer is “Of course I am!”, this article is not for you, and you should just get back to work. (We can’t wait to see what you produce!) But if guilt is washing over you at the mere thought of prioritising your own ambitions, it’s time for you to pull out the old permission slip.

There is no governing board

Although we don’t judge people who golf or bake cupcakes for not being able to support themselves through the activity they love, we judge ourselves – and let others judge us – for exactly the same thing. Writing feels like an indulgence. Something that has to lead somewhere, or else it’s a waste of time. And so, we are caught in a catch 22: we have to write to become good writers. But we can’t write until we’re good enough.

But folks, there is no governing board of writer legitimisation. Every published writer was once a novice: at some point in time, they were terrible. You become a writer the second you start stringing your words together on paper or screen. How good a writer you are is determined by how long you keep doing it.

So, how do you become the writer you long to be if you can’t give yourself half an hour to write after the kids have gone to bed? How do you say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have time for a coffee, I need to write tonight,” to your judgemental friend?

Become your own committee

You already have the perfect solution: the governing committee called You. It consists of at least three people: the version of you that you hope to be in 5 years, the version that has just published your first novel, and the version that is happiest when writing. You can also include the version of you that is a parent, a partner and a great friend, but it only gets one vote.

Call your committee to a meeting to discuss your dream of writing. They should consider what would make you the best and most content version of yourself, and what would be best for you as a whole. Let them hold a vote. Of course, they will tell you to write, and put your writing out into the world! This is what makes you happy, isn’t it?

Allow them to write you out a permission slip. It might look something like this:

I hereby give myself permission to pursue an ever-growing talent in writing and to put my writing into the world. This permission is not dependent on success, publishing or quality of work, and it cannot be revoked. With it comes with the obligation to keep writing.

Sign it. Put it on the wall. Surround it with quotes and ideas to keep you on track. Remind yourself that there are authors out there that are published and popular, whose writing  you don’t like! Maybe make a list of novels you feel you could have written better*, a list of writers who always inspire you or an emergency plan for what to do if you stop writing.

If you don’t want to make your own, we made one for you. You can print it out from our free resource library and just fill it in.

You now have permission to write. It is given to you by versions of yourself that have your very best interests at heart. It’s time to get out of your own way.

Now, get to work.

Storywelling's Writing Permission slip

*Obviously, you cannot actually write someone else’s novel better, as it wouldn’t be the same novel. They probably had good reasons for writing it the way they did. But it’s okay to think that you would have enjoyed your own version more, or that you are better at parts of the craft.

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