The Importance of Writing Your Own Permission Slips
Written By Regular Contributor, Douglas Humphries
When starting a creative project, there are a lot of questions that we need to ask ourselves.
What do I expect this to look like? How much time/effort can I realistically devote to it? Why am I doing this, in the first place?
It’s important to ask these kinds of questions, especially in collaborations, so we can get an idea of what we need to accomplish and in what order, before we start. But there’s another question that, regardless of what the project is, we tend to come across sooner or later, and, I’ve found, it also tends to be the one that keeps us from creating to begin with.
Am I allowed to do this?
Of course, we rarely ask it out loud.
Instead, the question shows up in other, subtler ways. When we make excuses. When we say we don’t have the time or the skill set. When we find some reason why we can’t even start.
Often times, we don’t even bother asking the question, because we already know the answer. We know it’s “no”. It’s not so much that we feel we have to prove ourselves. Rather, we feel we have already tried and failed.
Am I really the best person to do this project? Aren’t there other people doing the same thing and so much better than me? Couldn’t I find something more useful to do with my time? Am I even allowed to create?
I’m not sure exactly where we got this idea that the Creativity Police are going to show up and knock down our door the moment we decide to write that novel or take up that passion project, but I know from personal experience how powerful this sense of inadequacy can be.
It’s what stops the words before they even reach the page. What keeps me chasing perfection, even though I know that’s impossible. What constantly tells me that it is pointless to try; it’ll never make a difference because I was never supposed to be doing it to begin with.
For you, maybe it’s not even the voice in your head. Maybe it’s the world you live in constantly throwing comparisons in your face. Maybe it’s a toxic relationship that doesn’t support your efforts and tells you that you will never be good enough.
But whatever it is, whether your internal critic or the external ones, the good news is that they are wrong.
We don’t need anyone’s permission to create.
This might sound unbelievable to you. I know there are days it doesn’t seem true to me. Because it feels like it shouldn’t. It feels like there needs to be some requirement, a permission slip, something.
I’ve found it very common among writers, and other creatives, that we are always looking for something else to tell us that we are writers. It’s not enough that we write; we’re sure that there’s some other milestone we have to pass, some achievement we have to gain, and then are allowed to call ourselves “writers”.
But if you write, you are a writer.
If you paint, you’re a painter.
If you create, you are a creative.
You don’t have to do anything to prove that you are, except the thing itself. And you don’t have to have anyone’s permission to do it, except your own.
Creativity does not have a gatekeeper.
No one is allowed to tell you that you can’t create. Not even you. You will always be allowed.
And it’s important to understand that because the question will not go away. Trust me. In all the #NaNoWriMo’s I’ve done, all the novels I’ve written, all the blog posts, all the voiceover recordings, every creative project I’ve ever started and every one I’ve never finished, I’ve always had to answer this question.
Some days are harder than others. I still let toxic voices tell me that I don’t have permission. But, in response to those voices, I remind myself that I don’t need permission.
And you can remind yourself too. You will never need permission to pick up the pen, to dream and plan, to raise your voice, to do what makes you feel alive, to put something into the world that wasn’t there before.
But, just in case, here is your permission slip. Print it out and pin up, if you need to. Because you are allowed to create, and we need you to.
You are allowed.
You have the drive to create.
You have an idea that the world needs.
And no one can do it like you.
No one can tell you that you can’t.
You are allowed.
Now, go do it.
Douglas Humphries is a full-time creative, part-time vagabond. Words have always been his primary creative interest, but, in large part thanks to #createlounge, he's learning to pursue the multifaceted nature of his own creativity and help others pursue their own. He's a NaNoWriMo enthusiast and recently self-published a memoir about the Book of Jeremiah called Fire In My Bones. But, if you’re really good, he might tell you more about his Harry Potter fan-fiction novel.