It feels amazing when you start your first book. Whether you plot things out or you fly by the seat of your pants, those first few writing sessions feel electric. But the electric feeling doesn't always last. Maybe you hit a difficult week or a plot point you can't quite figure out. The excitement turns to fear. The project goes on the shelf and a new one takes its place. Once that happens a few times, you can't help but feel like a wannabe and a fraud. While you want to be a writer, you look at your failures and assume it wasn't meant to be.
But what if there was an amazing writer by your side who was ready to give you permission to write? What if a teacher or the author of a New York Times bestseller was there beside you when you hit that tough plot point or difficult week and what if this person gave you permission to write your way through the struggle and keep pushing until you get to the other side? Would you have three finished novels right now if you had this writing guardian angel by your side?
This weekend, I went skiing for the first time. The trip was a wedding present for my wife and I from my best man and he included a one-hour private lesson as part of the gift. My wife and I spent the first 45 minutes on the bunny slope going over the basics of stopping, turning and falling. The last 15 minutes of the lesson, the instructor took us to the top of our first green circle. I was nervous. Here I was, on skis for less than an hour and I was about to ski around people who actually knew what they were doing. Our instructor, Jenny, said that we could handle it and that we'd be fine. She told us to turn our skis and head down the hill and before I knew it, I went zipping past Jenny and my wife and reached a speed far beyond what we'd practiced on the bunny slope.
I tried using the techniques Jenny had taught me to put on the brakes, but I was already going too fast for them to work. I felt like I was going to crash and it was going to be a spectacular disaster. I considered trying to fall the right way before I hurt myself. Instead, I let myself ski. I trusted that things would work out for the best. Soon enough, the hill gave way to a flatter patch and my stopping methods began to work. I got back to a comfortable speed and reached the end of the hill in one piece.
Jenny gave me permission to go down that hill. She had more faith in me than I had in my own abilities, and seeing as I didn't impale myself on a tree, she was right in doing so. The whole experience made me wonder how many people never go to the top of that green circle of writing and trust themselves to reach the bottom.
When I wrote my first book, nobody said that it was OK. I didn't get permission to write from my potential readers, from the writing police or from Amazon. There was no form to fill out. I didn't have to pass a test. I was scared as hell when I wrote my first book, but whenever I reached a difficult part, I acted as my own instructor and egged myself on. When I reached the bottom of the writing hill, I felt accomplished.
Was my technique perfect? No. Did it need work before I went for another run on the hill (like a re-write, an edit or a second book)? Yes. That being said, there's nothing like letting yourself tumble down that hill out of control and barreling to the conclusion to make you feel like you can accomplish anything. Sure, you aren't going to be able to take on that black diamond right away, but you don't have to. Finish the hill you're on, do it as best as you can and don't bail when you have a chance to get to the bottom.
You can get permission to write from the best instructors in the world. You can read all the books and learn all the techniques. At the end of the day, however, you need to give yourself permission to write and permission to finish your book. Don't make it perfect, just make it. And if you stumble and don't quite reach the end, never fear. There's a lift going 24/7 right back to the top of the mountain. Hop on and try it all over again. You have my permission.
Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.