Anyone Can Write — But You Don’t Have To

You don’t HAVE to. Really.

Anyone who wants to write can write.

Anyone who feels the itch, the pull, the drive, can pick up a pen or place their hands on a keyboard and give their ideas a place to become things.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what you hope to accomplish when you sit down to create a story out of nothing. If you want to give the words a purpose, you can.

But that doesn’t mean you have to. Or that once you start, you can never walk away.

Growing up, I couldn’t have escaped the art of storytelling if I’d tried. My parents read to me until I could do it for myself, and once that happened, I found it difficult if not impossible to stop. I don’t remember the first writing assignment I was ever given in school, but I’m confident that after doing it just once, I was hooked.

As I got older, people started calling me a writer. I thought nothing of it at first — it was cool, putting a name to a thing I liked to do in my spare time.

But then people began calling me a “good” writer. Often followed by phrases like, “You could make a career out of this. You should keep doing this. You will be known for this one day.”

That became too much, after a while.

I do understand how privileged I was to be told these things enough times to become sick of the compliments. There are a lot of aspiring writers who are told they are not good at what they do and that their dreams are not possible. I was very fortunate to be encouraged. I will admit that. And I wish that telling you everyone who’s said discouraging things to you has been wrong would make it better. I know it doesn’t.

But by the time I was a sophomore in college, I had been told so many times that I could/should/would become a writer that I no longer wanted to be one. It was my choice. I came to it of my own accord. Whether you’re forced to believe writing is not your destiny or you come to that realization all on your own, all of us end up in the same place: We believed we could write, once. We don’t anymore.

I still wrote things here and there after that — I couldn’t help it. But I stopped pushing myself. I stopped caring about whether or not what I wrote was worthy of an audience. I tried giving my attention to other things. I tried to be someone else.

Eventually I found my way back to storytelling the same way I shied away from it: I gave it thought and realized the decision I had made was not the right one for that time. I needed to walk away, and once I did, I realized that if writing was what I wanted, I could do it — as long as it was what I wanted and not what someone else wanted for me.

Many people feel pressured to write. Some because it’s the only thing they feel they are “good at.” Others because they grew up only being told they should. All the positive messages successful writers send about their path of choice — “Writing is essential, telling stories change the world, the world needs more writers — are true but can also be taken the wrong way.

Today, I want to give you permission to stop writing.

No, seriously. Stop. If you’re miserable and don’t want to do it anymore, don’t.

Coming from me, this might seem shocking. That’s because I am here for one purpose: To encourage writers to give their ideas space to grow. Normally that means I sit here and (as kindly yet firmly as possible) tell you that you should write all the things because you’re capable and your stories deserve to be told.

But technically, it also means that I’m allowed to tell you that if you want to quit … I’m not going to stop you.

Will I continue to push you to write, assuming you’ve found this blog because writing is something you want to make a significant part of your life? I absolutely will. But it never hurts to remind you — and myself — that we are not obligated to do anything we don’t want to do.

If you look at your current work in progress and decide you have no interest in it whatsoever anymore, close it out and don’t open it again. If you’ve been trying to sell a story over and over and no one wants it, give yourself permission to work on something else instead.

If you take a long, hard look at your life and realize you no longer care whether writing is a part of it or not, there’s not a person or thing that can stop you from walking away.

But I’ll say what I always say in moments like these: Never give up out of fear. Never quit because of frustration. Don’t make creative choices based on the bad things that have happened to you. If you don’t want to write anymore because you want to be better and aren’t, then take a step back, figure out how to get better, and return. If you want to quit working on your book because you’re too overwhelmed, set it aside, get your affairs to a manageable level of chaos, and open your book again.

Don’t give up because you’re afraid to fail. Walk away only when you’ve decided your ideal scenario of success has changed, and writing no longer serves your narrative.

And if you want to write — if you feel that somehow your soul could not go on existing if it weren’t for your freedom to produce words — then you should write. Not because someone has told you that you should or because it’s something you think you’re good at, but because you aren’t you without it.

If that is the case for you, then do anything and everything you can to make writing a part of your life. Whatever it takes. If you’re not as good as you want to be, get better. If you’re not writing what you wish you could be writing, write it. Even if you’re not good at it right now or you never will be, does it matter? Sometimes people do constructive things that make them happy and that’s the only thing they care about. They are writers, they belong here, because they are writing.

Anyone can do this. You don’t have to be a certain type of person or from a certain background or family or place. If it’s what you want to do, do it — and give it all you’ve got.

And if you don’t want to, don’t. Find the thing that does enrich your life, and don’t worry about the efforts you have left behind. They were not all for nothing. Eventually they will lead you to where you were always supposed to end up, and really, that’s the magic of it all.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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