Sarah's Scribbles

The Year of Months

Giving Myself Permission or “How someone I’ve never met is responsible for me finishing my planned revisions months earlier than I thought I could”

For the few of you who aren’t aware, WriteOnCon was a totally free, totally online, totally awesome writer’s conference held two weeks ago. (If you missed it, get to the website quick – all the content is still up and there are some great posts!) On August 10th, editor Molly O’Neill had a post called “Give Yourself Permission” that basically said the following: 

What do you need to do to further your writing? Give yourself permission to do that.

Even as I went on in the conference, this post stayed in the back of my mind. Before I write about how the post affected me, I’m going to take a little time talking about how it might affect you, and other writers. Molly (I feel weird calling her that, but weirder typing “Ms. O’Neill.”) wrote a list of things you might need to give yourself permission to do. Here are some of my favorites: 

Permission to call yourself a writer

I think almost all of us have a problem with this – at least before publication. We call ourselves aspiring or pre-published. There’s always some kind of qualifier.

Here’s what I think: If you write with a certain level of dedication and an end goal in mind, you’re a writer. It’s OK to say: “I’m a writer.” And don’t worry about all those people who think you’re not a writer until they can buy your book (though most of them will ask for a free copy first) at Barnes & Noble – they just don’t get it.

Roni Griffin wrote about this not too long ago, too.

Permission to collect sparks of inspiration from even the unlikeliest of encounters.

Yes, people think we’re crazy when we see a butterfly land on a watermelon and blurt out that our male main character would be so much more memorable if we made him shorter than the heroine – but who cares?

If it inspires you, embrace it.

Permission to think of your characters as real people (and to perhaps actually like them better than some real-life people you know).

I once posted something on Twitter like: “I think I’m love with my MMC.” And you would not believe how many people responded in-kind.

The truth is: If they’re real to you, they’ll be real to the readers. If you don’t love (or love to hate) them, the reader won’t either.

Permission to hire a babysitter, or to blow off some homework, or to order dinner in, or whatever it takes, to give yourself a little more space in your life for writing.

This is something I’d been struggling with for a long time. Due to the crappy economy, I have to work a full-time job and a part-time to job to make ends meet. I also have a dog to take care of (though my sister helps a lot with that, and now my roommate does too. Hi K and Chels!) and some semblance of a social life (SO important for writers – but that’s another blog post entirely) to maintain. I was running all income-generating activities for a $25,000 a year non-profit – as a volunteer. Toss in two writers groups (one of which I run), reading (it’s market research!) and trying to keep my apartment from looking like a pig sty – and you have a packed schedule.

Every time I sat down without work in front of me or slept more than six hours, I would feel guilty because I knew how much work I had to do. I gained weight because I didn’t have time to cook decent food or work out. It wasn’t maintainable.

So I made a few little changes. And a big one.

First, I gave myself permission to turn down social invitations. For example, two weekends ago my sister and some friends we had in town all went to the beach. I stayed home and revised all day. Things like this are sometimes tough because most non-writers don’t understand how important finishing the damn novel – and fast – is to you. Lucky for me, I think my sister and roommate do.

I can’t really help you if the people who surround you aren’t as supportive. Just keep telling yourself how it will pay off one day – and then they will realize this isn’t just a ‘little hobby.’

Then, I pulled out the big guns; I resigned my position as a Director and VP of Development for the Phi Sigma Rho Foundation. This was a very tough decision for me, as I really believe in the mission of the Foundation but resigning was something I wanted to do for a long while. 

I spent three years in this position and it has morphed into a HUGE responsibility. In two years, in a failing economy, I increased the income of the Foundation by more than ten times what it was the year before I came on. You don’t accomplish this without spending A LOT of time on it – a lot of unpaid time, mind you. Ask anyone I’ve lived with over the past two years: My Foundation work caused me more stress than any other single thing in my life. Something had to give.

And giving myself permission has paid off, in a big way.

Since allowing myself to resign, I have completed all my planned revisions for Miranda’s Fire. This is something I thought I might complete by the end of September – if I was lucky. This doesn’t include the additional revisions I’m sure I’ll have once my Beta readers get back to me, but it’s a tremendous milestone. (Go me!)

So, Dear Readers, go read Molly’s post and then tell me: What do you need to give yourself permission to do? Even if you’re not a writer, I know there’s a passion inside of you itching to get out. What do you need to do in order to follow your dreams?

Think about it. Then give yourself permission.


I'm inwardly cheering for you right now. It's so great that you've been kicking so much writing butt (and, it seems, making yourself much happier in the process). Write on!


Awesome advice! And thanks for linking to me. :)


Thanks ladies! It's really been a great thing for me and I'm SO glad I finally gathered up the conviction :-)