Welcome, Writer: Your Permission Slip Is Here
This piece is excerpted from Stop Worrying; Start Writing: How To Overcome Fear, Self-Doubt and Procrastination by Sarah Painter
You Can Do This
I am going to give you a permission slip. It reads: ‘You are a writer.’
So many of us are waiting to be ‘allowed’ to call ourselves writers or to put pen to paper. If we already write, we are waiting to be ‘proper writers’ or to be good enough to enter competitions or submit to agents or join that fancy writing class. I’m going to cut through all of that right here, right now.
You are allowed.
You are worthy.
You are a writer.
There is no special gated community where everything is easy and the money pours from the sky and the floor is littered with awards and film deals.
There is no place at which you feel you have ‘made it’.
There is no point at which you stop worrying about the current book you are working on and exactly what happens next or whether it is any good or good enough.
Every single finished book is a struggle and a triumph and is merely abandoned (the knowledge that it could be better haunts every writer, every time).
But, and here is the good news; if there is no shining ‘after’ to counteract the wasteland of ‘before’, that means all there is is the writing. The daily work. The being a writer. The thinking up stories. The day dreaming. The delicious research. The learning.
That is all there is for any of us and you are invited to join in.
So, take a piece of paper. If you prefer your invitation to come from me, consider it extended (with my warm wishes and a free hug if we ever meet in person!).
But you can put whatever you like on your paper:
‘I am an author’
‘I am creative’
‘I am a writer’
Whatever resonates with you. Now put that paper somewhere you won’t lose it, but will see it regularly. In your wallet or on your desk or bedside table.
You have chosen. Right here and right now, you have chosen.
I remember my dear friend Keris stopping me when I was mid-whine with the words, ‘at some point, you just have to decide you are good enough.’.
I had been moaning, not for the first time, that I was worried that my writing wasn’t literary enough for my professors (I was doing my masters in Creative Writing at the time, striving for the validation I craved), I was frightened my agent wouldn’t like my latest book or that I should try to write in this way or this way…
Her words hit me like a ten-ton truck. Like a bolt from the blue. Like a sock full of pennies.
At some point, if I ever wanted to be free of this continual self-doubt and second-guessing and terrible neediness, I was going to have to decide that I was good enough. That I deserved to be a writer. Not that I was instantly amazing and deserved success, not that I deserved to be universally adored, but that my words, my writing, my voice, my stories were worth creating. For myself.
And that, my friends, is the moment I began to choose myself. To write for myself. From that point on, while not always easy, I knew that I was going to stick at this writing thing, that I was willing and able to write about the worlds in my head, and that the tools I already had would just have to be enough.
I humbly suggest you do the same.
Sarah Painter is an author and podcaster. Each month she interviews a fellow writer about their writing process, productivity, and tips for overcoming fear and self-doubt in order to get the work done. You can check out Sarah’s podcast at The Worried Writer.