The Right to Write

by limebirdkate

This is a follow-up to a post I wrote about getting back into your writing groove. There were several comments regarding the difficulty writers face in giving themselves permission to write. Much of it centers around guilt.

Stephen King, in his book, On Writing, states, “The sort of strenuous reading and writing program I advocate-four to six hours a day, every day-will not seem strenuous if you really enjoy doing these things…If you feel you need permission to do all the reading and writing your little heart desires, however, consider it granted by yours truly.”

Well! If Stephen King says it’s okay, then that’s all I need!

But this is only part of the big picture in unleashing that guilt. Don’t be self-defeatist once you grant yourself permission.

Number one, don’t allow interruptions. The permission must be implemented by you. But it must be respected by anyone who lives with you or by anyone who might call or visit you during your writing time. You have to express to them that this is your time to work.

Number two, be savvy with time management. You’ll say you’re writing every day and you wonder why you haven’t actually written anything. Then it comes to light that you’re writing during your 20-minute lunch hour or right before the kids go to bed or in a high traffic area like the kitchen.

Some people can write under stressful, chaotic conditions and actually produce quality material of which they’re proud. Other writers, like me, cannot write with distractions. The only time I can be productive in a busy atmosphere is if I’m researching a project—like fieldwork. Going to a café to help craft setting of a café in my project makes sense to me, but that’s different than actively writing a scene when I have to pay attention to character motivation or bridging conflict.

Number three, be realistic in your aspirations. If you raise the bar too high no one but an Olympic pole vaulter could possibly clear it, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. If it helps, start out small. Set aside a reasonable block of time that you can have all to yourself. Even if you have to write in the bathroom because it’s the only room with a door that locks. Fifteen minutes is all you need to get something written. If you keep this up, fifteen minutes will grow into thirty minutes, an hour, two hours. Eventually you will find the block of time every day where your writing comes smoothly, where you aren’t interrupted, where you don’t think twice about giving yourself the permission to write.

While you want to write to your heart’s content, you don’t want to push yourself to the impossible place. You’ll only get frustrated and your writing (and you) will suffer.

The big idea here is to free the harness of guilt, and write with abandon. To help you along a little bit, we limebirds put together a permission slip for you to use at your whim.

Now go write!

( Editor’s note – If you would like a personalised permission slip, just email me through our contact form. B )

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30 Comments to “The Right to Write”

  1. Ohhhh I love it!! And you know I’m a big advocate of doing things that Stephen King tells me to do! I actually try that in conversations with my husband – “But Stephen King says…. *insert some saying here*” 😀

    • I thought of you when I wrote this, Laura, figuring you could probably tell me the entire passage where that quote came from, lol! Thanks for commenting.

  2. Brilliant! Time management is definitely my biggest problem lol

    Xx

  3. Yes. Permission is a difficult one. There are so many other things I’m “supposed” to be doing. Great post. Also makes me want to go back and read “On Writing” again.

    • Hi Anne,

      I probably read SK’s book at least once a year, or whenever I need a ‘pick-me-up’. It’s a great book to hang onto for writing emergencies, lol. It really is hard to justify writing over the backed-up laundry room, but I think we can still fit it all in if we try hard enough.

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. For me, number 3 is the biggest help. Realizing that 10 minutes with a locked door counts as writing really opens up new chunks of time can seriously improve productivity for those of us that do things other than write as well, the rest of the day.

    • Hello,

      Absolutely! 10 minutes a day of writing still counts as writing. No matter what. Eventually, it does grow into larger frames of time. Personally, I think it is because we love to write so much that it’s difficult to stop once we get going. You’ll ultimately try harder to find more time in your day to satisfy that ‘urge’.

      I’m glad this post helped inspire you a little bit, and I hope you can take advantage of your first free 10 minutes as soon as you can! 🙂

  5. Love this! I also can’t write with distractions, even the smallest thing will get me off track. Like my dogs barking at the birds in the backyard, or the phone ringing. It’s such a delicate, fragile thing, this creative process!

    • Hi Nancy,

      It’s very difficult, especially when you’re struggling to find the time in the first place. Writing in the early AM saves me in that regard, otherwise I don’t know how I’d do it.

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. I can’t even write with the radio on, unless it’s very low or I’m trying to set a mood. I do best when it’s just me alone, at the kitchen table after lunchtime. I can blow an entire afternoon that way, I just don’t get the chance to do it very often! Loved your reference to “On Writing” too, one of my favorite books!

    • Hey Neeks,

      I know exactly what you mean. Many times, once I’m in the zone, I have gone hours upon hours of just pure writing nectar and that is because there are no distractions around me.

      Yes, ‘On Writing’ is a fantabulous book!

  7. Great insight all around. I especially like Number Three – that’s so important, to find that place of solitude and concentration, and to not push yourself too hard. I had a student complain to me, once, that her brother was always taking over her room. I told her, “Kick him out! Your writing time is just that – your time.” It’s such a little thing on the outside, but it’s extraordinary what that private time and place can do for creating (visual artists need the same thing). I used to need the same thing for homework, when I was in school. Writing is much more fun for me (even when it’s difficult), but the principle applies.

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Hey Mayumi,

      Oh my gosh, I would have told your student the same thing. “Kick him out!” It’s a shame how us creative types have such difficulty standing up for our art. It’s too bad, but that’s why it’s even more important to get a grip on the process so that we don’t get pushed around so easily.

      Yes, writing is always fun–even when it’s difficult. I can’t stay away from it.

      Thanks for commenting.

  8. Brillant advice! Never feel guilty about something you love!

  9. Excellent advice—and now we all have to be sure to implement it! 🙂 I could see some non-supportive types replying with “Stephen King can —insert expletive here—for all I care.” Thank heaven no one around me would do that! 🙂

    (I can’t handle distractions, either, so no TV, radrio, iPod, or webstreaming while I’m writing.)

    • Hey JM,
      haha, yes. I bet there are a few grumbling King non-fans who would be stupefied by the idea of writing 4-6 hours a day. To me, that sounds like absolute heaven! And I’d only take that much time if I had it available. Full-time writers who don’t rake in the bucks like King probably can’t spend that much time writing, but the principle remains the same. Give yourself permission to write for as long you can, every day.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  10. I find that I can categorise writing tasks into those that I can do with distractions and those that I can’t. If I need to be creative then I can’t have distractions, however if I am writing something up that I have already created previously (in my mind or on paper), then I can cope with some distractions. I can also handle other writing related tasks such as factual research with distractions. Ideally I would do all of these things without distractions, however, I just don’t get enough alone time, so I have to fit some of the writing related tasks into times when my kids are around, or while I’m cooking dinner or whatever. It’s not ideal, but I feel I make the best of what I can with what I have!

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Good point. Like research. I can do research in the midst of other things going on. But I hear what you’re saying–if you’ve moved from that initial planning stage and know where you’re at in your project, then a distraction or two won’t hurt.

      Yup, us writing moms can only do the best with what we’ve got, and we are forced to get ‘creative’ with our time management. That’s where daydreaming comes in handy. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting.

  11. Great post with some great advice.

    I’m a bit like Neeks, I can’t write with songs playing, as I find myself singing along; but instrumental music is really good to loosen me up.

    On the ‘not setting too high a target’ after NaNoWriMo 2010 I decided to continue pushing myself. Rather than 50,000 words per month I went for 1,000 a day (including NaNoWriMo). I didn’t manage 365,000 from 1st November 2010 to 31st October 2011, but did manage 233,899! Now I’m more relaxed about it and don’t have a formal target (or spreadsheets!)

    • Hi Dennis, good job on realizing your goal was a bit high for you right now and adjusting accordingly. I think it also goes along with where you’re at in other areas of your life. If things are low-stress, then maybe raising the writing bar would be a good decision and vice versa. I think 233,000 + words is amazing! Haha, spreadsheets. Now that’s something I can’t do, makes it too much like a formula for me. But I know some writers swear by them!

      Thanks for chiming in.

  12. Excellent post! I imagine writing would have been easier before Facebook and Twitter existed. I don’t need people distracting me to get distracted, I have a short attention span at times. I’ll write a paragraph then wonder what generic status a friend has written in the last five minutes, so sometimes when I sit down to write for a couple of hours, it actually takes four =/.

    • Hi Pete,

      Oh, don’t I know it. My writing time has taken a beating from social media pressures. I remember writing before Twitter et all were even in existence andI didn’t have to worry about how many views my post got, or if I’ve reached 500 followers yet. Somehow we have to keep them separated so that writing is just that.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  13. At my new job, I have a co-worker who does not seem to understand that if I am typing on my personal laptop with a salad and softdrink next to me, that I am on my lunch hour and should not be disturbed. I will be using the permission slip and posting it at the entrance to my cubicle. If necessary I will draft a contract and make him sign it. I’ll let you know how it goes. Great post.

    • Hi Dennis,

      Yup, some people just don’t get it, so I hope the permission slip works wonders on him, lol. Yes, please, definitely let me know how it goes 🙂

      Good luck!

  14. Hehee, I can see myself writing in the bathroom right now. I never thought it would be so hard to carve some writing time into my day.
    Hopefully it will be easier as the twins get older. *fingers crossed*

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