Wednesday, September 21, 2011

9 WOW Wednesday: Jackson Pearce on Permission to Be a Writer

We're honored to  have a guest post today from Jackson Pearce, the best-selling author of SWEETLY, SISTERS RED, and AS YOU WISH. Jackson is twenty-six years old and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with a slightly cross-eyed cat and a lot of secondhand furniture. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in English and a minor in Philosophy. She auditioned for the circus once, but didn’t make it; other jobs she’s had include obituaries writer, biker bar waitress, and receptionist. In addition, Jackson coaches both colorguard and winterguard at a local high school.

You can find her on her website, her blog, or on twitter.

Permission to be a Writer

by Jackson Pearce

“What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?”
Chart by I Love Charts

Add caption
I get asked that a lot. A whole lot. In fact, for a while it was a standard part of my school visit talk—I’d talk about inspiration, my writing schedule, and close with advice for young writers.

The thing is, the advice is the same thing your mom or dad or grandma told you when you were little. The thing you’ve forgotten, and maybe they’ve forgotten, the thing that’s been smashed a little bit by years of standardized tests or college admissions essays or fallback careers.

You can be anything you want to be.

(Well, except a bird, dinosaur or robot. Actually, that robot thing might be possible now. I’m pretty sure the bird and dinosaur still aren’t though.)
(But anything else. You can be.)

We’ve increasingly become a world obsessed with the bottom dollar—and that makes sense, of course, since being broke is no fun. But because of that bottom dollar obsession, we’ve started going to school to get degrees in fields we don’t even care about, just because “the pay is great.” Or “companies NEED people with this degree.” Or “I’ll be able to be fast-tracked into management with this degree.”

We’ve started taking sucky jobs just for the benefits package, or the security. We’ve started giving up more and more of our dreams, our goals, our souls, in order to find the bottom dollar and hold onto it with everything we’ve got.

And in doing so, we’ve forgotten that we can be anything.

People are paid to be authors. They’re paid to be circus performers and motorcycle repairmen and horse trainers and aerobics instructors. They may not get an awesome benefits package. They may have to eat ramen noodles for a while, waiting for the first book to sell or their aerobics studio to really take off or Cirque du Soleil to need more people who can bend their body in unsettling ways. They may have to live in a studio apartment, pinch pennies. They may even have to have a fallback career for a little while. But they're still doing exactly what they want to do, being exactly what and who they want to be. They aren't special, they aren't unique, they aren't better than you—they're just people who didn't give in to the bottom line.

Don’t misinterpret this as permission to live in your mom’s basement till you’re thirty, slaving away at the Great American Novel you’ll never send out to agents because “it still isn’t ready.” You can be anything you want to be—but only if you’ve got guts, determination, and are willing to work for it. People aren’t handing out dreams right and left, and no one will ever be as invested in your dream coming true as you are—so don’t expect them to be. The rejections or industry or economy aren’t what’s holding you back—you are. Change yourself, change your outlook, change your work ethic, change your perception of time and effort and maybe even of what the real end goal is.

But don’t fall for the bottom line. Especially if it isn’t the anything you want to be.


  1. This is great advice and I wish I had followed it sooner in life, but at least I got there before it was too late! I feel blessed to have figured it out, and I'm passing it on to my kids. Heck, I'll tell anyone who will listen! Yes, we all have to eat and keep a roof over our heads, but if the dream is big enough to keep a fire burning in our bellies we find a way to make it happen.

  2. Thanks for sharig this. I'm glad so much of writing involves effort and writing which I can control.

  3. For me I think staying off the internet has to take up a little bit bigger piece of the pie. : )

  4. Great reminders! Hehe, and I love your 5% as "staying off the internet for consecutive 90 minutes." Spot on. :)

    And hey--we can experience being birds, dinosaurs, and robots in our novels! Rah!

  5. Exactly! People can be writers, but they must manage their expectations and live accordingly. And if you tough it out, put in the time, and be ready for your lucky day, there's no reason why you can't be successful. Thanks so much for sharing, Jackson.

  6. Great post Jackson! I always love hearing what you have to say. I know that sounds stalkerish.... but you always say exactly what you mean with humor - it is entertaining (as my English teach would say "great appeals to Ethos and Pathos").

  7. This really is a WOW Wednesday post! Great advice, Jackson! I definitely fell into the trap of getting a degree I didn't care about followed by a job I hated. Lucky for me, the economy affected our organization enough that they had to let someone go--me. At first I was devastated, but then I had a chance to ask myself what I really wanted, and then it hit me. I wanted to follow my dream of being a writer. So, here I am! Making a go of it!

  8. Awesome. I loved this post. I needed some reenergizing, and this post reminded me that sometimes you just need to reframe things in your mind. Plus, I've always harbored a secret hope to be a robot when I grow up.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)