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Monday, June 7, 2010

Giving Yourself Permission

I used to be a freak. (Okay, "used to" might be a stretch. *grin*) I sort of have a personality like a pit bull. When I grab onto something (publishing a book), I grab onto it. And nothing short of well, I don't even know what, will make me let go.

Sometimes this is a good personality trait, one I like about myself. Sometimes it's so not. I've read a lot of blogs over the past few years. One thing I see a lot is the advice to write every day.

Well, I thought this was good advice, and it was something I had time to do, so I set the goal. The words flowed for a while. And then...they didn't. And sometimes life was such that I couldn't write every single day. And, being me, I freaked a little. And by "freaked" I mean I was beating myself up for not being able to do what all the blogs said to do.

And Carolyn came to the rescue and said something like, "Give yourself permission NOT to write." Which sounded weird to me. I mean, we're writers, right?

But I did it. I've been doing it for over a year and a half. I'm so much happier. I don't have to write every single day to be successful. I can go to soccer games without guilt now. I can enjoy a lazy afternoon at the pool. My story will still be there tomorrow.

Now, of course I still have to buckle down and get off Twitter in order to get some writing done. But I've managed to find that happy medium between Obsessive and Normal. Well, as normal as writers can be, right? Right.

So today, I challenge you to give yourself permission. For whatever you need to. Eat a twinkie. Watch a movie with a friend. DON'T write if it's stressing you out. Stop beating yourself up, and simply give yourself permission to just be today. You can always work on whatever whatever tomorrow. Because success is achievable in small steps.

So, what are you going to give yourself permission to do?

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40 comments:

Cheree said...

I think I'll give myself permission to go out and relax (it's been a while)... watching a movie sounds great (or watching Glee repeats)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Oh, great post! It's true, that 'I have to write everyday' feeling can be a slave-driver. I'm glad you've found the line, I'm still working on it. But I will give myself permission to go on non-writing vacations (Rome's up next- yippee!!!) and to go out with friends more. Like you said, the writing will still be there. :)

Aubrie said...

Great advice, Elana!

Rubi Jayne said...

I love what you said. It applies to so many areas of our lives. As a writer who's also a stay-at-home-mom/wife, I'm always putting off the writing because something needs to be cleaned/done for my family. It's gotten to the point where I rarely write anymore.

Today, instead of giving myself permission to not write, I'm giving myself permission to write. The household isn't going to crumble down around me if I stop focusing on everyone else's needs/wants and do something for me (like write) for an hour or so today.

<3<3

JustineDell said...

Oh *sigh*. It took me awhile to learn this lesson, but I give myself persmission not to write. I mean, I was going crazy writing everyday at every spare moment I had. It wasn't good for me. Or my hungry dogs or my bored daughter. LoL. Seriously though, I had to learn that it was OK not to write all the time.

And thank goodness too, I'd be crazy right now if I hadn't figured that one out!

So, I give myself permission to take a break and enjoy the stuff I enjoyed before I started writing!

~JD

Matthew Rush said...

I've never written everyday even when I was in the midst of inspiration for my novel, but this is still great advice, thanks Elana!

I think I'll give myself permission to go eat some bacon.

Buffy Andrews said...

I'm going to give myself permission to eat a huge piece of strawberry pie with whipped topping and NOT feel guilty about it. (Smiles)

Kris said...

Great post, Elana. I've also heard that advice, and for me it's been a good kick in the pants to write write write. Now, I give myself permission to take a break from writing (for a bit) after finishing my WIP and query. But then I have to start something new -- I'll use my "break" to brainstorm.

Piedmont Writer said...

That's so funny you should say this today -- I just finished reading Stephen King's ON WRITING and he says to write every day. LOL. I kept thinking how as I don't write everyday, I really should start. Even if it's crappy crap. (Still LOL) Now I'm just confused. Not really, I do have to spend time with Monster Baby, I think what I need is a schedule.

salarsenッ said...

That is so important, and just what I needed to hear today. I'm feeling a bit under the weather and stressing that I should take a nap and not write. I think I'll take your advice...at least for today. Thanks, E.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Great advice- and I found it useful to kind of shift gears in order to make a place for different kinds of writing. When I have a wip, I'll make it a priority. Once it's finished, it goes on the backburner and blogging/critiquing/editing my other ms move upwards on the priority list, etc...

Candyland said...

Yep. Same here, E. I can't follow other people's writing guidelines. It's better for me to *not* write at times, for sure.

Elena said...

I give myself permission to sleep late now that the kids are finished with school!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

A year ago, I would have laughed at such an absurd piece of advice. Not write every day. No way.

Now my opinion has changed. I'm not going to be able to write much once the kids are out for the summer (three more weeks). I'll blog and work on the revisions of my novel as my crit partners/beta readers send them to me, but I'm spending my summer catching up on my reading. Especially since there's a flock of new books coming out in the fall that I want to read.

Great advice!

Tiffany Neal said...

Best. Advice. Ever.

After just coming off a Writing/Blogging hiatus, I'm excited to start up again, but I don't want myself to get burned out. So I will take your advice, most definitely!

Kristi Helvig said...

Today I'm giving myself permission to have a 'me' day. I'm drinking coffee, doing yoga, and working on a shiny new book idea - all without the kiddos!

Angela Ackerman said...

This is definitely something I still struggle with. I find that even if it isn't writing, I still feel locked to my computer for my blog, critiques, research, and social networking. I have trouble unplugging. Thanks for the encouragement and reminder of how important this is. :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Eric W. Trant said...

The advice WRITE EVERY DAY is taken too literally.

Rather, we read those words and see this: Peck your keyboard until you reach 1,500 words, good or bad -- only quantity matters, forget quality -- and then stop. Do this everyday whether you find the mood or the time. Only by doing this can you become a writer.

BAH!

I write every day, but not like that!

So do you. All writers write every day.

I may not force myself to peck out 1,500 words -- good or bad, forget quality! Forget quality! Peck you knucker peck peck PECK! -- but I rarely let my story drift too far from the forefront of my thoughts.

Everything is tied securely where I can get at it in one or two mental steps. I plot and dream up my future scenes and revise my old scenes and plan and scheme and speak with my characters.

Now pecking the keyboard is another thing altogether. I may not get to that every day, but when I do get to it, I'll have no problem peck-peck-pecking out those arbitrary and artificial word count goals...

And with much better quality and in a shorter timespan, because the mental revisions are already complete.

- Eric

Jess of All Trades said...

This is the second thing of this nature I've seen in the space of a couple of weeks, and very Timely. One of my gurus, Natalie Goldberg, writes about being wary of your daily writing just becoming Rote.

So I think, if I'm not There this week, I'll give myself permission to take a writing timeslot and work on a drawing...

Thanks :D

Aimee said...

Excellent advice as always. We are our own worst enemies, and we can beat ourselves up for so many things--it is nice to take a break sometimes.

Krista V. said...

Lately, I've been giving myself permission not to write according to any set timetable. I haven't been setting deadlines (what's the point of being an unagented/unpublished writer if you can't give yourself a little leeway, right?), and the one I just set isn't one of those set-in-blood, meet-it-or-feel-like-a-failure deadlines - it's just a projection:) And that's working for me.

Thanks for this reminder.

Crystal Cook said...

You have just lifted a whole lotta guilt off my shoulders :)

I now give myself permission to do lots of things, but first on the list is to eat that cupcake I've been eyeing :)

Patti said...

I give myself permission to not beat myself up over everything I'm not doing.

C. K. Bryant said...

*sigh* I need to follow this advice. I beat myself up all the time and make myself sit at my computer as much as I can. I quit working in our family owned restaurant so I could write full time, so I feel like I HAVE to put in the hours every day. Problem is, I'm usually here first thing in the morning and still her burning the midnight oil. I'm working so hard to be published, to prove to the world that I'm "worth" something, that I've lost sight of the craft that I love. I'm not sure how to find that again.

Thanks for this post, Elana. I think it will help.

Lisa K. said...

I'm a write-every-day kind of gal, but for me, I know that if I take a day off then it's just easier to take off another and another, so I try to keep up that discipline.

The thing I have to remember to give myself permission for is to just write and not worry about whether it's good or bad and sometimes, intentionally, to just write something that's just flat-out awful to remind myself that sometimes it's the act of writing and not what you produce that particular day that matters.

Great post, Elana.

Angie said...

Thanks, Elana.

Sliding on the Edge said...

I'm giving myself permission to say, no once in a while. No, I can't proof your letter to the governor. No, I can't drive you to the dentist today. No, I can't make dinner for four extra people tonight. That's a beginning, but I think I'll work on finding a few more things to say no to now that I've given myself permission.

Nichole Giles said...

I gave myself permission to go to the pool on Saturday. Got a tiny bit burned, but it was so worth it.

Today, I'm going to work my tail off so that on Wednesday when I don't have lots on my schedule, I can go to the pool again--maybe even drag my honey.

Debra L. Schubert said...

I couldn't agree more. Writing isn't a "regular" 9-5 job. Creativity isn't something that can be conjured up on a schedule. The more relaxed you are as a person, the happier you'll be - same goes for writing. There are no "have to's" or "shoulds" except for the ones we make up. If they're bringing us down, what's the point? Make sure you get the work done AND enjoy your life. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Julie Musil said...

Yesterday was my birthday, and I gave myself permission to sit by the pool and read a book and be lazy all day. I loved it. Plus, reading is part of the writing career, right?

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, thanks everyone. Such inspiration you all are. I appreciate the comments and the validation.

Off to eat queso! YUM.

AchingHope said...

*lets out long sigh*

Good advice. Stressing out is not going to help one write. Thanks :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

That's so true. Though I'm finding with working you have to chip a bit off most days. And not spend too much time on the Internet.

Angela M. said...

I love that you brought this up. It's great to try to write often, but every day is a stretch for me (well, at least writing for fun). I'm just too BUSY. My job takes too much of my time and sometimes I like to sleep. Because of this, I've given myself permission to not impose a blog schedule. I know it's important to build a platform, but I'm going to just say stuff when I have something to say and internet available to post. My schedule's too crazy to demand too much of this from myself. Plus I'd never get any writing done. I love blogging, but I'm going to make sure I keep it that way and not make it into a job. Thanks for the post!

Carolyn Kaufman said...

*wise nod* I know of what I speak... ;)

Becca said...

But what if you're stressed because you can't write, but you can't keep going not writing? That's my dilema.

Lori Nawyn said...

I just returned from the no-writing zone, a place it was difficult for me to journey to. I thrive on being in the thick of things, but for me it can lead to fast burnout. Giving myself permission to take time off, and permission to enjoy it, helped me grow in many ways. Now I'm enjoying more writing productivity than I have in years.

GalaktioNova said...

Great advice! I'm discovering it right now these days. The feeling is unbelievable. I always used to be an overachiever, with writing as my top priority. But in the last few weeks, reality has caught up with me -- I had friends to support, my family to look after and I realized that all those years I had been a lousy friend and wife, I'd lived in a sheltered dream. For my family's sake, I told my writing to take a running jump. And it worked! I still write but I'm much happier because getting published is not a top priority for me any more.

Thank you so very much!

Vatche said...

Cool post, Elana, I'm a new follower. (I don't know if you can tell with 1000+ followers, but I'm in there somewhere.)

Really, I love to write, but some days just aren't working for me, so I write for my blog always on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday and I do my fiction writing on the side when I can.

I used to be obsessive too and it ended up being that days I wouldn't write that I would also bash on myself.

So, I took the same advice that Carolyn offered you, but from a different friend.

My permission this week is to have nothing but non-stop fun at Six Flags Magic Mountain!

Once again, awesome post and write on!

Shannon said...

Good advice! I've been lucky in that my obsessions seem to wax and wave regularly enough to give me a holiday regularly. It's like one of those jobs where you work four weeks on, one (or sometimes two) weeks off. Those breaks are normally just in time to take a breath, sit back, and re-evaluate where I'm going with the story.