Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Give Yourself Permission

I've been talking with a writer friend recently about fears - fears that we don't know what we're doing. Fears that we'll never get that scene, that character, that BOOK right. Fears that despite all the time and energy, we'll never reach our goals.

After sobbing on each other's shoulders for a while, we've come to the following conclusion: There isn't a lot of point at looking ahead in the process. That's just scary. Wherever we are the journey from WIP to book, what we need to do is give ourselves permission to keep going, even when we're scared.

In light of that, I've written my ten rules for Permission. I'm going to keep these close at hand to remind myself exactly what I have permission to do at each stage:

1. When you're drafting, give yourself permission to get lost on a tangent for a couple thousand words. Who knows where it will end up?

2. When you're reading for the first time, give yourself permission to focus on the story. Only tick the typos when you notice them.

3. When you're revising, give yourself permission to get that scene on paper - even if it isn't perfect. Consider this a skeleton draft. If you get the bones in place, you can make the flesh look pretty later.

4. When you're reading / revising again, give yourself permission to like something.

5. When you're reading critique notes, give yourself permission to hate them - just as long as you don't throw them (or the very generous reader) into the proverbial fire.

6. When you're reading through your critique notes again, give yourself permission to cry and admit they might be right - but it still sucks.

7. When you're revising again, give yourself permission to try out some of the stuff you've been thinking about, but not sure you can pull off.

8. Give yourself permission to repeat steps 4-7 as many times as necessary.

9. When you're re-reading, give yourself permission to take the time it takes to knock out all those favorite words, overused metaphors, misspellings, etc, etc, etc.

10. When you're getting ready to submit, DON'T give yourself permission for anything except perfection. You won't attain it, but you have my permission to try.

Your Turn: Those are my permissions. What are yours?


  1. Love it! Gotta save this one. :)

  2. I give myself permission to experiment.
    I give myself time to think about what's to come next.
    I give myself permission to change anything, or rewrite, or delete anything that isn't working toward the goal of the piece.
    I give myself permission to go for a walk and let my mind relax so that ideas might spring to mind of their own volition. (which is always the magic part of writing)
    I give myself permission to have fun. I've got the keys... let's go for a ride!

  3. I'm sharing this one! Love it. Only thing missing is the fun. I do give myself permission to have all the fun I want no matter how many rules I break. Heck yeah!

    I tagged ya if you're up for the challenge.

  4. I give myself permission to dive into the M&Ms on occasion.

  5. This is a great post! I think all of us can benefit from rules like this! I have to give myself permission, once in awhile, to "try" for perfect on the first go around. Even though I know I'll revise it later anyway. I'm not a fast drafter, and I've had to accept that.

  6. My first rule is: everything is subject to change. It's a good list of rules.

  7. Many thanks Aimee - another useful addition to my wall of prompts, encouragements, thoughts, ideas and motivations!

  8. This. Is. Awesome. I really need to remember these permissions, not just now, but all the time. I'm drafting right now, and it's harder than I ever imagined it could be to get out of editing/this-must-be-perfect-and-make-sense-lest-I-die mode.

    I think one of my biggest permissions--and probably the one that's gotten me into the most trouble--is the permission to be myself and write what I want to read. :)

  9. Awesome list. The one I need to take on board the most is permission to try something even if you're not sure you can pull it off. I find that quite tricky. :-)