Books on Writing · Journal · Resources

Here’s Your Permission

About a week ago I wrote a post about how Stephen King Changed My Perspectives on Book Reviews, which came from reading his book On Writing. It took me a long time to want to read the book. By long time, I really do mean years. The books was first introduced to me in high school by my creative writing teacher, 11 years ago. We read some snippets of it in class and then I probably didn’t think about it until a college creative class. While it wasn’t a required text for the class, I think it was a recommended text. I’m sure it was also referenced. That was 6 years ago.

Over the last couple of years, I have been getting a bit more serious about writing. I’ve picked up some other books on the topic. Some of them breaking down scene structures, character development, story arc, etc., and even a couple “write your book in 30 days” types. But Stephen King’s book never made it very high on my list, and there are couple of reasons for that.

First of all, I’ve never been a Stephen King fan. I don’t even know if that’s fair to say because I have never read one of his fiction novels. The genre just never appealed to me. But the second reason, that’s the heart of the issue of why I kept putting of reading On Writing. I think the book seemed intimidating. There is no argument that Stephen King is one of the most successful authors out there. Whether you are a fan or not, you’ve probably heard his name and can name at least one, if not a handful, of titles that he’s written. Maybe you even know that there are movies and tv mini-series adaptations of his work. You really can’t argue with success. For me, when I saw a book written by an author with that much success and experience behind him, I kind of figured that whatever he had to say would probably discourage me from writing.

I know what you are probably thinking. I should want to get all the advice I can from those who have been successful. In my head, I agree with that statement. But my heart worries about getting crushed. Writing is putting your heart out there, especially in the fiction world.

I was shocked when I was reading along in the book and Stephen King gave me (and anyone else who reads the book) permission to write. When I actually started reading the book, I never thought that I would read that. In a couple of times, he explicitly gives permission to write. Of course I realize that I don’t technically need someone allowing me to spend my time writing if that is what I so choose, but it does something to your mind to read something like that.

I loved my creative writing classes in high school and college. I wonder how much of it stemmed from the fact that they allowed me to write. They allowed a direction for me to pour my creative thoughts. And outlet for all those times I would think, “that would make a great story.” I had the permission of my teachers and professors to write. In an essence, I had the world’s permission. Afterall, I was only working on my assignment.

But now, as a wife, as an adult, I have responsibilities–ones that surely are more important than writing. Sure my husband encourages me to write, and I’ve been fortunate that no one has told me it would be a waste of my time, but something still feels wrong about it at times, as if there is always something more important I should be doing. So that book, the one that I avoided for years, gave me permission. Someone I have never met and probably never will, gave me, and anyone else who reads it, permission. For me, that is what I needed to ignite a spark to want to keep writing.

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6 thoughts on “Here’s Your Permission

  1. I love this! I can relate to many of the things you said about the emotional struggle and needing to hear someone else tell you it was okay to write. I often avoid professional books on writing too! Why is that? I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: I don’t want to be discouraged and told that I can’t do this. I remember reading a well meaning (and successful) author’s post on “how to start a writing career”. She meant well, and the things she listed was likely good advice, but I left the screen feeling oppressed. “I can’t do all of that! It’s going to take even more years than I’ve already put in?! I’ll never make it.” I left feeling like I didn’t have “her permission”. The Spirit quickly reminded me that I had HIS!! A day or two later I came across a quote from an author. It was something to the effect of “There is only 1 right way to write and no one knows what it is”. I understood then that I would get tons of advice and while none of it is technically wrong, not all of it would be beneficial to me. This isn’t like becoming a Christian where there is only One way!! This was writing and there were thousands of acceptable and successful ways to write a story, get published, and gain fans for your work. I also find comfort in picking up a book by a beloved author and not liking it. It gives me “permission” to write something that someone else wouldn’t like. Since our reading tastes are so vastly different, writing techniques will have to be different too 🙂
    I’m glad you found your permission. Thanks for sharing this. It helped me round off some thoughts I had on the subject too. You’ve got me curious, now that you have permission, will you start writing soon? Really writing? What type of story is already brewing in the back of your mind?

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    1. Thanks so much for the thoughts!

      To answer your questions, I am planning on making writing a bit more of a regular routine. I have a number of ideas floating around in my mind. My first project is to go through a novella a wrote that I had lost some excitement over. But the thoughts I wrote about in this post have helped build up some excitement again. I also have an outline I’ve started for a mail-order bride story as well as one for a story that would take place in the Michigan lumber camps that is loosely based on my grandmother’s life (some of the stories about her, that we don’t even know are true or not, are the inspiration behind some of the scenes I have in mind).

      I definitely have the ideas. I just needed the motivation (or perhaps permission?) and that excitement again to get me going.
      I’ve often felt that writing would be a wonderful way to share God’s love so when I struggle with a willingness to write, it goes a lot deeper.

      Your advice about writing something that a reader doesn’t like is great as well. Of course I want whatever I write to be well-received, but that fact of the matter is that not everyone will like it.

      Thanks again!

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      1. You’re welcome! And you’re right, we WANT our work to be well received, but knowing that it won’t be for everyone helps save your feelings. My prayer was for anyone that is prone to liking a story like the one I wrote, I pray that they’ll really love it. I’m not trying to gain fans that don’t normally like this type of story, I only want to captivate those that do! I want to write something really well for them and for me. I joke around saying, “Some people don’t like their own mothers, so I can’t expect to be loved by all” 😉
        While we’re on the subject of permission, I started writing a series years ago, but when I started the series that I’m currently working to publish I left behind the other. I felt guilty since then…until someone gave me permission to leave it behind. Another author mentioned writing some early stories that were never published. She said she is often asked about whether she would ever go back and work on them to see them published. She answered honestly and said, no. She said there was so many other stories to write and the other ones weren’t worth going back to. She mentioned that she was given permission to leave them there. She explained that some stories were meant only for that stage in your life. Some are meant to be stepping stones only. So now, dear friend, you have permission to leave your story behind and work on something new if you feel led to. God bless! I look forward to reading something from you in the future. I’m intrigued by the ideas you shared, especially the lumber camp idea!! Hint hint 😉 I hope to read it someday!

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      2. Thanks again… Your comments are so encouraging!

        The project I’m going back to is one that after I finished writing I put it on the shelf. Hopefully I’m coming back to it with fresh eyes and can be objective towards figuring out how to polish it up. But it is good to know that I have permission to just leave it alone if that is what I need to do :).

        The lumber camp story is one that is dear to my heart. I hope one day I will be able to write the whole story. There are just a lot of aspects to figure out with that one yet, but it is there floating around in my mind.

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