Deb Kelly Digresses…

One thing I think a lot of people get mixed up when talking about writing is the difference–there is one, and it’s big–between Motivation and Permission.

I was one of those people when I first graduated from college. Whenever I would read a successful book that I didn’t love as much as the general reading public, I was outraged. “Who,” I would wonder, “gave this yahoo permission to write a book?” What an incredibly backwards question–the sort of thing only a 21 year old can think. What I probably should have been asking was not “Who gave them permission,” but “how were they brave enough to permit themselves? And how do I do the same?”

Because, in my somewhat limited experience, I have learned that though plenty of people out there might help you get motivated to live your dreams–good, cool people that you should make every effort to surround yourself with whenever possible–absolutely no one will EVER be able to give you permission to write a book. Someone might say you could do it, or that if you want to it’s worth a try. But if someone comes up to you while you are toiling in a straight-out-of-college coffee-fetching job, or a super-successful highly compensated job, or a thriving career as a SAHM, or a devoted life of volunteerism, or just a particularly good game of golf and tells you you have their permission to quit all that business and go write a novel in a world where paying for content is growing as outdated as watching broadcast TV, do not trust that person. They are funning you. They will go home and tell their spouse what they said and the two of them will have a good laugh at your expense.

So yeah, how do you permit yourself, when you know that no one will do it for you? How do you let yourself spend all that time, concentration, money, heartache and karmic energy on writing a book?

No really, how do you?

When I wrote THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS etc, I had worked for years and years just to give myself permission to write and then life and supporters and space and inspiration all seemed to line up and I finally just let myself do it. But apparently, I only wrote myself one permission slip:

Kelly has my permission to spend a ton of time on something that might come to naught. She has permission to risk her ego and her dreams and her wishes on writing something straight from her heart without thought to marketability or viability. But only on one such something, and then she has to get serious and write something she might actually get paid for.



That limited-time-only permission was a huge source of motivation. Writing this book was a treat–a break from real life, real work–profitable work. (I’ve noticed a few other Debs who have this mindset and manage to keep it even after writing has become a legitimate job. Yet another reason I admire my fellow Debs.) I was motivated by the feeling of indulgence. One doesn’t need much motivation to go to a spa, and for me, writing this book was a trip to the Word Spa. One of those spas with the tiny dejected lunchtime salads and work-you-to-the-bone-before-your-steam trainers, but still, a spa.

The writing that has come since that book has been more slog than spa. Often when I ask myself for permission to write instead of spending more time with the BLB or doing freelancing or washing diapers or inflating balloons for a 2 year old’s epic birthday bash (in my home–why did I invite 15 toddlers into my home?!?) this “myself” person seems to say no. This despite having inspiring friends cheering me own, the validation of a book coming out, and the motivation of knowing a deadline looms.

I won’t feel that way forever. I won’t have a 2 year old growing up before my eyes who consumes my every brain cell forever. I won’t have a launch to prep for or a brand new life to adjust to or a broken water heater (or is it the softener–I haven’t diagnosed which yet–all I know is that there is water involved) to pay for forever. I’ll give myself permission again. Of this I am sure.

But until I do, yeah, I’m in for a slog.

4 Replies to “Deb Kelly Digresses…”

  1. What a fabulous distinction! I think I have to give myself permission to enjoy what’s next for me—and that’s adjusting to a new life as well. I’ll have two kids in college. I’ll be living alone with my dogs. (Please don’t think parenting ends when kids go to college, it doesn’t end at all, though it does change.) I have been trying to give myself permission to embrace the fact that for the first time ever I’ll be able to put myself first (on occasion). Never done it before. I’m hoping my new book will benefit!! xo

  2. I think the 21-year-old you and the 21-year-old me had a lot in common. I had so much of being an adult backward — whether it was about writing a book or having a child! I’ll have to remember all of this when my BLB is 21 and says something colossally stupid. I’ll have to remind myself that I’ve been there, too…

  3. Hang in there Kelly! You’ll get through the toddler days, and the writing slog, and come out the other side wondering how the time went by so fast. Trust me. When I started this crazy journey my son was teensy too – and he’s heading to college this year, right after my novel debuts. Looks like I’m sending a pair of babies out into the world – and I’m bursting proud of them both.

    Embrace the slog when you can – it’s a gift to write well, and a blessing to have a deadline looming, even if from moment to moment it seems perhaps less than a dream come true 🙂

  4. This post really struck a chord with me. I gave myself permission to write after my husband died. It took me ten years to write my first novel, while putting everything and everybody else first. And then, when my safe and carefully planned and structured little world broke into smithereens I asked myself – If I don’t do it now, when will I?’ What if I’m next and I never wrote all those books I wanted to write? And that was when I started to give myself permission to sometimes put myself first, and to prioritize the writing over a lot of things I’d once thought I could never let slide. Fact – the kids have turned out independent and capable and well adjusted. And I’m still writing.

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