OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
You can't write that.
You can't think that.
You can't imagine those things.
You don't have permission to be that person, to think like that, to write like that, to publish that.
You're a nice girl. What will people think of you?
That's my inner critic speaking, but I've also heard those words echoed from people close to me over the years. I think it's only been in the last six months that I have given myself permission to let the raw side of me loose on the page. I'm finally finding my voice.
It's scary as hell because it turns out my stories are dark and twisty, but it's also empowering and liberating to let my mind have a free rein.
But I have to keep reminding myself that I have permission to write. Or I would stay safe in the shallows.
A friend told me the other day that I've changed since I became a full time writer. But I think it's just that the inner me is finally making it to the surface after years of suppression and doing what I was supposed to do.
And how has this change in me come about?
I've been writing journals for 20 years but blogging here for nearly 5 years has changed me far more. Because clicking the Publish button has made me think more deeply about what I want to say.
Because these words are going into the world, and people may well read them.
Because I have met writers who have challenged me to go deeper.
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time have witnessed the change as I've shared the journey with all its ups and downs.
Clicking the Publish button on Amazon or the other distributors has the same effect. It makes us braver over time, because we have to keep bringing our best to the page and we get almost instant feedback from readers.
This is the beauty of self publishing, because we don't need permission anymore.
If I hadn't self published Pentecost four years ago, or clicked Publish on this blog, I would still be a miserable IT consultant, talking about writing but not doing it.
If I hadn't persisted through three novels, I would not be finding my voice in the fourth.
If I had asked permission, or if I had waited to be picked, I would still be dreaming of what might have been.
Of course, permission to write and self-publish doesn't mean you'll get it right the first time.
It doesn't guarantee Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking type success.
But it shifts you inside, it forces you to go further creatively. It enables you to clear the way for the next step, and after all, the writer's life is a journey of discovery, not a destination.
So you have permission. You are empowered.
To connect with readers and writers all over the globe.
I'm done with taming the crazy. I'm giving myself permission. How about you?
Please do leave a comment below if this resonates with you. This is our community, and I sincerely thank you for sharing it with me.
This post was inspired by an article on agent Rachelle Gardner's blog entitled ‘Will My Publisher Let Me Self-Publish Too?” which sparked a lot of passionate comment and offended me over the aspect of permission. Rachelle has since published a Mea Culpa article.
Genedel Getuiza says
I’m not good at writing. I don’t know what to write or how will I start a story. My mind is full of imagination and ideas, they are flowing like a frantic river or a tidal wave that fills my boring life, alive. For a moment, the idea will slowly stop and new set of plot will be created. I wanted to express them, to feel their adventure and misery and read them again but I can’t, I’m afraid to hold a pen and write them freely. I doubt my skill, if ever I have one, I don’t have any answer but I wanted, needed to write at least one of my ideas nor imaginations. But this article gives me hope….. Thanks for that…
Joseph Devon says
This is one of the reasons I started to use a pen name. Sitting down to write my first short stories was very scary, but if I had another persona…well then it was THAT guy who was being all crazy. 🙂
I have found this inspiring. I am just setting out on my first book, about something that happened to me and changed my life, using the journal I kept at the time as part of the story. It’s interes to see that others feel the same urge to share, and hopefully connect and help others.
I have set up a blog already, and yes I get a buzz when I click on that publish button, and even more of a buzz when I get positive feedback from my followers. The most inspiring? Someone said they loved reading my blog, and although not a book reader, they hoped I was writing a book, as they would buy it because they loved my style of writing. Now I really got a buzz from that!
I love it that you read these comments and respond Joanna, it shows that you really care about inspiring others. I am inspired, and I’m off to write!
A. Fae says
Thank you so much for sharing this. It really makes sense to me and made me think about my own writing more closely.
Tahir Ahad says
I am an inpatient minded person due to some personal reasons. Although I want to write a novel but poor over English language is freaking me out.
Joanna Penn says
You can always work with an editor – http://www.thecreativepenn.com/editors/
But why not write in your own language first and then look at translation later?
Sondra Turnbull says
Today I blogged about the fear, tomorrow I write the stuff I’m afraid to. Thanks for continuing to be open and share the real stuff, Joanna.
i have a full first manuscript but have been told i need to cut it tighten it and that its slow in areas. i have no idea how to implement thes changes or to know if what i do with them is improving the book in the way that is suggesgted. i need help. who helps with these issues?
Joanna Penn says
A professional editor should have told you which bits are slow and how to improve it. You can find some here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/editors/
I write books with quilting patterns, therefore, they are nonfiction. Are there editors for this type of publication? I have had the patterns tested by quilters, so I know my instructions are correct. My grammar and sentence structure probably need a good bit of help.
Joanna Penn says
If you just want grammar and sentence structure checked, then use a proofreader – lots of options for all types of editors here: http://thecreativepenn.com/editors/
Charles Robinson says
Over the years Ihave wrote many sermons,yes I’m a pastor who knows he must share what so freely have been given him,but where to start is the problem.I have tablets of nothing but writing,any suggestion,family?
Peter Blyth says
This resonated with me – my first book, After the Wave, which is currently resting at first draft complete (105k words) has a swear word in the first paragraph, and a blow job interrupted by rocket fire at the end of the first chapter.
My second, The Darkest Storm, which is currently at about 12.5k words 6 chapters in, has even more sex and violence (not to an obscene degree, these are thrillers, not porn)
Neither of these are something I’d give my mother to read, and I can already hear in my head the cry of “why can’t you write something nice and peaceful like James Herriot” which will doubtless echo when I self publish.
But whatever, I have ‘permission’ to be me, not the person anyone else would like me to be.