Maybe you know this voice in your head.
- You can’t write that.
- You can’t think that.
- You can’t imagine those things.
- You don’t have permission to be that person, to think like that, to write like that, to publish that.
- You’re a nice girl. What will people think of you?
All writers have an inner critic that tends to stop us from writing what we want to write. I recently went 10 rounds with mine over writing a literary fiction. I actually wrote the basics of the story a long time ago before I embraced speculative fiction. There’s a lot more of “write what you know” in it than in my other books and so that inner critic really reared her bossy little head.
And with every point of struggle came the process of giving myself permission to ignore my inner critic … or even the real critics in my life who might not like that I’ve written what I’ve written. The inner me is working herself to the surface and I’m likely to put anything on the page these days.
Which isn’t to say I’m abandoning all principles and rules that I’ve established for myself. I still don’t write smut. No erotica for me. I reference sex, but you don’t need details. Most adults who live in the world today know what sex is. My descriptions will add nothing to their education and I choose not to entertain in that fashion. If you want to read that kind of book, there are plenty of authors out there to choose from.
My characters don’t spout gratuitous swearing. Yeah, I know that people nowadays do, but they shouldn’t, so my characters only swear when they have an appropriate reason to swear … although I recently changed a couple of Shane Delaney’s near-swears into full swears because it was appropriate. But you’re unlikely to ever find the f-word in my books because I really think it’s overused into today’s literature and movies. It’s lost its meaning. If I use it, it will be for something very dramatic and very needful. I can’t make everyone else in the writing world adhere to that rule, but I can set a personal standard.
My words are going out into the world and it’s possible that actual people right read them. Hitting that Publish button has some consequences. Not having a gatekeeper means I have to act as my own gatekeeper. I have to decide what my audience might want to read. More, I have to decide when to give myself permission to push limits … and when not to.
Giving myself permission does not always mean I am right in what I publish. Only the readers can determine that. But it does empower me to be more creative and more daring in my creativity. It’s interesting to go back to old projects … like What If … Wasn’t … and realize that a story I wrote off as not worth exploring further actually had a great story within it. It’s not a story I would share with my Sunday School class … although perhaps I SHOULD share it. I’m now nosing around an old YA that was relegated to the same dustbin. What’s there needs a major rewrite and what will emerge, based on my preliminary draft, may well permanent end any mention of me as a “Christian” author, but I wasn’t really seeking that title anyway, so ….