Deep Sixing Permission
How much time do you spend at the beach?
a) Five Minutes
b) One Hour
c) One Day
The question above was on a test my first grader took last week. She came home, saying that she would have picked “one hour” because she doesn’t like the beach, but that her teacher had “gone over this one a bunch because it was a hard one” and the correct answer is “one day.”
Let’s just skip over the ridiculousness of this question being on a test framed to gauge a child’s understanding of time (and the fact that the answer was coached).
There is no correct answer. It’s up to the individual answering the question.
Of all the e-mails that Steve and Black Irish Books receive each week, the most common e-mail includes life-changing questions. The writers want to change directions, to try something new. What should he or she do? Is it a good idea for him to quit his job? Should she go back to school? Will she succeed at some point even though she feels like a failure? Keep going or give it up?
Steve could share what he might do, but it isn’t what will necessarily work for someone else. That person writing to him might not like the beach as much as Steve, hence “five minutes” is a better answer than “one hour” or “one day.”
There’s also the permission piece to this. What these individuals really want is permission to move forward.
He wants to quit his job and go back to school, and wants someone to say “go for it” to him. She wants to bus tables to free up time to work on her art — and wants a stamp of approval from someone, validating her choice. They don’t want to take responsibility for steering their own course. Better to let someone else send them into uncharted waters.
I feel like a hypocrite typing these words because I do the same thing, whether it’s not being able to commit to a color of paint for a bedroom without first asking everyone I know, or bigger decisions, such as cutting loose a difficult client even though I like her work, or whether I should move my kids to a different school. What to do? “What would you do?” I’ve asked before, polling until I’ve received enough answers to validate my choice.”
So… From one person who struggles with getting that stamp of approval herself… Stop it. Stop asking for permission. Just make a decision.
Now, if your question is advice on nuts & bolts of writing or editing, rather than whether you should or shouldn’t make a change in your life… You’ve come to the right place. That’s doable. Shawn went above and beyond answering everything I think a writer could possibly ask about Story via The Story Grid and both Steve and Shawn address the craft of writing on Wednesdays and every other Friday (and a few days in between). We’ve got an answer for that one. For the rest, though…
Make the decision and then do everything in your power to make sure the only outcome possible is that it turns out to be the “right” one (says the gal who still knows this is easier said than done…).