Motivation for writers who need more permission to love their work

written by john c ashworth

Here’s some quick writer motivation for you. Motivation for writers can come in many different forms. Originally, I found my own with just the right amount of empathy and unconditional permission from a true angle early in my career as a college student.

You have my permission to write…

I can still remember clearly the first day of my English class on my first day of junior college. The experience changed me forever. It gave me permission to be a writer.

The feeling was liberating. Yes. There was assigned reading from books of fiction, which I had never found an interesting exercise. I was too busy chasing girls, playing soccer and goofing off. Reading fiction did little to excite me. Sure, I read some classic stories in high school that were formative in my thinking and evolution as a human being, but I did very little reading when it was not required.

In an instant of pure ecstasy on that first day of college, my life and my career as a writer changed forever.

“You don’t have to write about the text. You don’t have to analyze the work for meaning. You don’t have to adhere to a hidden set of rules that you will find impossible to understand. You simply have to pick something from the text that sparks an idea in you and stirs your spirit in a way that will motivate you to write about something that truly interests you.”

Wow. I was hooked forever from that moment forward.

Lots of people don’t write more, if at all, because they think they don’t have permission. Feeling they have to measure-up to an invisible standard that they would likely have a hard time defining if pressed. I think this dark and unfortunate inhibition starts early in our lives and takes hold in a way that makes it very difficult to escape unless you are lucky enough to have an English teacher like I did in that first semester of junior college.

Though liberating, I faced a harsh truth once I got going. I couldn’t write for shit. Fragment sentences. Broken ideas. Disorganized paragraphs. It was embarrassing for both of us. I could do amazing things on the soccer pitch. I was an All-American that year. I broke a state scoring record. But I could do very little with my words and ideas. Yet somehow, my teacher made this OK and we went to work day after day, spending almost every class period reading, writing and sharing our ideas and emotions.

This was only the beginning for me but literally everything I am able to do now as a writer stems from the permission and guidance I got from that teacher. That angel.

Stop judging your work and just keep writing. As William Zinsser has so eloquently put it in his beautiful book ‘On Writing Well’…

Today there’s no area of life—present or past—that isn’t being made accessible to ordinary readers by men and women writing with high seriousness and grace.

Go get em’

-John


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