When to feel guilty about not writing.
The honest answer is never, but that doesn’t stop us from feeling immense guilt over the entire process. I see it in some of the writers I follow. People feel bad for not writing, or feel bad for “letting their fandoms down.” There are also people who guilt themselves because they write so much they feel disconnected from the people around them.
I feel it myself, especially when I should be working on something but also need to step away from the current project and come back with fresh eyes. Or maybe I’m between books and need to pay some attention to my spouse.
All of this is normal.
In fact, I think the guilt stems from the constant assault of information from on all sides from fellow writers, articles, and books we assume hold the holy grail of authorly advice. We’re bombarded with bullet points and memes telling us to write every day, that it’s the only way to get better, that it’s the Jedi path of an author. So we write every day, diligent in our tasks.
That is, until we don’t.
One day turns into three, then seven, and before you know it, your would be manuscript is lounging about on your desktop with a margarita in hand and a tan the Baywatch crew would be proud of.
And during the entire time we aren’t writing, a fog made of gloom and guilt follows us around, berating us for not picking up that pencil, for not opening that program on the computer.
But you know what? Here’s the kicker. Not everyone has a schedule which permits them to write every day. To some, even a goal of 400 daily words seems an impossibility, an exuberant amount of typing that may take hours to complete. To others, 400 words is half an hour of work. And that’s alright. Honestly. Stop making yourself feel bad. Stop those Facebook posts about feeling guilty just so others can soothe your soul about missing a day or a week. Now, if you need a kick-in-the ass to get back to your writing, than I’m sure you know someone willing to provide such. Otherwise, every time someone responds to your post, you’ll be reminded of your supposed inadequacies and this will actually have the opposite effect you originally intended.
Those sayings you live by are meant to inspire, meant to awaken the words within our souls so we can plop them down on paper as fast and furiously as they appear in our minds. Not become the Rosetta stone of writing.
Consider this instead: set weekly goals.
You want to write one chapter a week. Guess what? That’s one chapter further along in your novel.
You want to write every second day and average, say, 800 words during that time. Perfect!
You have a busy schedule and can only set aside three hours a week to dedicate to your writing, then that’s what you do.
And guess what? All of those goals will eventually lead to a finished manuscript.
It isn’t enough to just set a goal, though it’s a good start. You need to have the support of those around you – your spouse, your children, whomever. They need to understand that it’s important for you to set aside this time undisturbed. If you can write in a busy room, go to a café. If you need complete silence, get comfortable in a space and let your spouse/kids/family know that unless someone’s finger fell off or there’s a couple of squirrels in armor riding bears in a jousting match outside, not to bother you.
It’s the hardest thing in the world asking for time to ourselves in a society that expects you to devote your every waking moment to your family. But if you aren’t sane, happy, balanced, whatever, then they won’t be either.
Me, I write every day when I’m writing, this includes editing, with the exception of Saturday, which is often devoted to shopping and family. This works for me, this is my routine.
Now, will this work forever?
Likely not. I have a demanding bundle on the way and he will take up more of my time. But you know what? My spouse understands how important writing is to me, especially now that I’ve found a subject to be passionate about. He will give me the alone time I need, he will allow me to find my muse, of this I have no doubt. Not once has he ever complained about the amount of time I spend with my laptop, not once has he berated me for the moneys that every self-published author must invest to get their work published.
And it should be the same for everyone.
It’s hard, I know. You don’t yield immediate results the way scrapbooking or drawing does. You might not want anyone to read this monster until it’s complete and edited a few dozen times. They don’t see the gradual progression of a novel, they see words on the screen. The sentences and paragraphs. Not the project as a whole.
But the end result is something you created yourself for yourself, and if you chose to share this with a close friend, or family, or the entire world, or nobody at all, no one can take away that feeling of accomplishment.
So, see? No reason to feel bad about wanting time to yourself for something that’s important to you. Do it because you love it, don’t do it out of guilt. Don’t force yourself to sit and write, but do set aside the time. I know this sounds like a contradiction, but in forcing yourself, you’ll miss ideas and inspirations that setting aside the time in a relatively more relaxed state of mind might give you.
In the end, don’t give up! My first book was two years in the making with breaks of months in between for other writings. Keep up the good words, my friends!