Give yourself permission to write
It’s Good Friday. We are faffing around the house. Folding laundry. Painting wooden eggs. Washing up. Putting away. Washing the car. The to-do list is endless. At some point, I might sit down to write, and my husband will start on his new painting. But that will probably come last.
When I mentor new or aspiring writers, there is always a common theme. When do you make time to write? First, I have to pay bills, finish work, play with kids… and then when every obligation is attended to, I will sit down and write. The problem is, our obligations consume the whole day. We prioritise all this life work. And the fun of writing falls to the bottom of the list, never to be done, because basically, we never get to the bottom of the list.
But what if it moved up the list? What if, you got to write before everything else? Or at least, before folding laundry?
When you have young kids, as I do, their basic needs are prioritised. As is work, that I am being paid for. But writing isn’t that far down the list. Even if it’s a little blog post, or a scribble in the notebook, I prioritise it, because for me, writing is pretty important. I see myself at the very beginning of a writing career; a career that will ultimately pay my bills and consume most of my time. I also prioritise it because I need to express myself, and writing is my preferred form of expression. I feel better after sitting down to write, and the longer I sit down and write, the better I feel.
Why prioritise writing?
If you struggle to prioritise writing, here are a few things you can try asking yourself:
1. Do I want to write?
If the answer is yes, then try these:
2. Why do I want to write?
3. How do I feel when I write?
4. What happens if I don’t write?
5. What happens if I do write?
When I answer these questions, I discover that writing makes me happy, and if I don’t write, I feel frustrated. The same is true for exercise. Exercise makes me happy, and if I don’t exercise, I get frustrated. So I exercise a few times a week. I know I have to prioritise exercise, and I know I have to prioritise writing, for my mental health, if nothing else.
My husband and I have an ongoing glitch in our relationship. Basically, he says he’s going for a run, and I roll my eyes, and complain about it, and he says, ‘But I need to exercise, for my health and for my happiness,’ and I apologise and he goes for a run.
He gives himself permission to run. In the same way, I give myself permission to write. I write instead of looking at Facebook, or before doing the dishes. I leave the beds unmade sometimes, just so I can squeeze in a page or two. An unmade bed doesn’t frustrate me in the same way as a blank page does.
Permission to write
If you do decide to prioritise writing, then here’s a few things you can try:
1. Give yourself permission to write. Tell yourself. Tell your loved ones.
2. Seek support from your loved ones. Explain why you need to write, and how much time you need to do this each week.
3. Scratch out moments in your week. They needn’t be long. Five minutes is better than none.
4. Make a contract with yourself. Write it down: I will write every week. Signed ….. Stick your contract on the fridge.
5. Invest in a course. Paying money psychologically makes you more committed. By doing a course, you are making a formal commitment.
6. Join a writing group or incentive, like NANOWRIMO
7. Say ‘no’ to things you don’t think will enhance your life, like scrolling through social media, or starting a new series on Netflix. Although, a bit of fluff is definitely important to your overall wellbeing!
8. Set yourself a goal. Maybe it’s a competition entry, or an arbitrary goal, like completing 5,000 words by the end of the month.
If you want to be an engineer, you study engineering. During your first gruelling lessons, you may ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ and you reply, ‘Because I want to be an engineer.’ So you keep on going. The study is legitimate, because you know it’s part of a bigger picture. The same is true for a daily or weekly writing practice. Every word is another step towards your book, or your successful blog, or whatever it is you are developing.
And even if you don’t aspire to write a book, or make a career out of writing, there’s enough evidence to suggest that having hobbies and side projects makes us happier and healthier. So at the very least, you can tell yourself, ‘I need to write because it’s good for my health. So yep, I’ll make the beds in a half an hour.’
Do you give yourself permission to write? What are your tricks?
I share weekly blog posts about children’s writing here. If you’d like to stay in touch, subscribe to my newsletter, and I’ll inbox you the posts from the month.