You Have Permission To Be You
Last week I wrote this article (Should You Stop Writing Because You’re A Bit Too Weird?) and gave you a long list of permissions to encourage you to write as your true self.
I hope you found something that resonated with you.
However, I bet that alongside your soul going “Yes!”, the voice of the inner gremlin also kicked off with a “yes, but…”.
This week I want to address some of those buts.
But #1 – It’s frivolous to be creative
It can feel frivolous to indulge in our writing or creative pursuits. After all, we have family, bills to pay, a rising cost of living. But allowing ourselves some time to be who we really are puts us in a better mental state to attend to those other realities too.
I love this observation from Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic:
“The earliest evidence of recognizable human art is forty thousand years old. The earliest evidence of human agriculture, by contrast, is only ten thousand years old. Which means that somewhere in our collective evolutionary story, we decided it was way more important to make attractive, superfluous items than it was to learn how regularly feed ourselves.”
Until the latter half of the twentieth century everybody made stuff. It’s what you did. You want apple pie for dinner – you made it. You need a new chicken coop and run – you made it. You want a pretty new dress – you made it. It was no big deal. It was life. People took pleasure in doing that, alongside their other responsibilities.
Then we started buying everything, convenience foods became available and women had less time for craft because they chose to get a job instead. We lost this link with creating just for the sheer joy or necessity of it.
Now we put a huge capital C on the front of Creativity and attach more meaning to it. The more meaning we attach, the more fear, vulnerability and doubt arise – and we wonder if we ought to be doing it.
If you need more reassurance on this topic then check out this blog post which I wrote in 2016:
But #2 – You aren’t signing your life away
You don’t have to give up your job to be a writer. You aren’t making an irreversible commitment when you decide to take up a creative pursuit.
A creative life doesn’t have to be either/or.
You can be a lawyer and write.
You can be a journalist where you get paid for your work and write a novel where payment is less certain.
You can write and undertake other forms of art such as photography or graphic design.
But #3 – It’s been done before
Yes, it might have been done before, but it hasn’t been done by you. The love story, the betrayal, the crime or the farce – they’ve all been done thousands of times but not in the way you can do them. Even Shakespeare rehashed popular stories of his day.
Yes, books already exist about self-improvement or bereavement or overcoming depression, but your take on those topics could be just the words that change someone else’s life. The act of writing the book will fundamentally change yours too.
You have a unique view on life. You have unique circumstances. Only you can bring your worldview into your writing. No one else can do that.
But #4 – I’m not qualified
You don’t need an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in creative writing to write a novel. You just have to write your story. You can be an eternal student just as you are. You can read and learn from the classics, from trash fiction, from TV. You can take shorter writing courses and read books about story structure. But the main thing is to write, experiment and put in to practice what you are learning.
I’m not saying don’t do a formal qualification in writing. If you have the time and money then do it. But remember, having an MFA doesn’t make you a writer – writing makes you a writer.
In terms of non-fiction, if you are an expert in your field and/or you’ve worked with clients for years and/or you know how to research, then you can write about your topic. Yes, it might benefit your career to seek a further qualification or it might be necessary in your professional circle. But don’t let the need for yet another piece of paper stop you from moving forward with your writing.
If you can find a way to take care of your responsibilities, not be a burden on anyone else and do your writing – isn’t that okay? I give you permission to do that.
Your writing doesn’t have to win a Pulitzer prize. It doesn’t have to be serious. It doesn’t have to be published. It just has to be written in a way that is truly you.
Keep being you
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