Hi, friend! It's been a while. My blogging used to be consistent, every other Wednesday without fail. Likewise, I used to do a better job of scheduling time for my novel writing. If my hiatus was just a matter of neglect towards my writing life, then I would feel like a total failure right now. But that isn't the case.
I kicked off my freelance copywriting career earlier this year, and though I currently only have one client, the workload has taken on the intensity of a second full-time job. No complaints here! Us writers take a lot of pride in calling ourselves writers. If our writing brings in any income, then whoop-whoop break out the champagne! It's what we live for and what we strive for.
Today I hit my editing goal in my work-in-progress novel and I brought you this blog post. It's a big deal for me because over the last several weeks I have been knee deep in my copywriting, and of course there's the day job. All the while I've had this aching, nagging voice in my head screaming at me to fit in time for my book-baby. That nagging voice is called writer's guilt.
Despite the fear, angst, and dread that follows the pangs of writer's guilt; it is good for you. First, let's acknowledge that all writers will be hit by writer's guilt, even if you work on your writing everyday. Even as you hand in your manuscript. It may hit you when you read a tweet that celebrates someone else's book-baby debut or while you're sleeping. Be honest, the only thing that would permanently rid writers of their guilt is having access to Hermione's time-turner.
All that being said, here's why writer's guilt benefits you:
It keeps you on task. Writer's guilt is so hard to ignore. The more you try, the louder it gets. Creative people are highly sensitive and unfortunately are often prone to depression. I am not a medical expert, but I would bet to say that a lack of creative expression may be one of the reasons creative people fall into depression. It's not good to bottle up creative goodness; pressure builds up inside of you looking to uncork and explode. Think of writer's guilt as a friend who wants to give you a loving nudge to get your ass back to work.
It keeps you in search of more opportunities to express your creativity. Whenever you feel like you're about to burn out, step away. You may still have the urge to write, but maybe just not on your current project. Dabbling and experimenting in other mediums is good for you. In Jane Friedman's book, The Business of Being a Writer, she explains that it's important to find multiple avenues to spread your words. It is very difficult to build a sustainable income just off of novels alone. Don't ignore that itch to strike the keyboard. Playing around in other genres open you up to growth.
Writer's guilt gets those juices flowing. Remember when I mentioned that the guilt you get can feel like it's about to uncork and explode? When you're nearing that moment of explosion, and you get in front of your laptop (or journal), the flow can turn out to be ebbless. My favorite quote—which happens to be by The Great Stephen King—goes like this: "The hardest part is always just before you start." (I even put this quote on my homepage!) He couldn't be more right! All too often writer's guilt fights toe to toe against the fear of starting a new writing session. When this happens just rip the bandaid off! Flip open your laptop, open your writing software of choice (I have a post about writing software options here!) and type some words. Any words. Just let them flow. I have found that these are some of the best writing sessions I have. The energy from the guilt that has been pressure-cooking inside of you can transfer onto the page as energy-infused stories.
A couple things you can do to help you get through writer's guilt:
Come up with a short daily goal. Whether it's 50 words or ten minutes a day, you will feel accomplished as you are moving your work along. The increments, albeit slow, are still exactly what they are called—increments: 1. the action or process of increasing especially in quantity or value; 2a. something gained or added. (Merriam-Webster) My favorite part of my mini word count is that I hit my goal in no time at all, and once the valve is opened, the words seem to flow with ease. When this happens and I blow my word count out of the water, it quiets the guilt completely and puts me on cloud nine. (I think that's enough H2O references). I don't always pass my goal, and sometimes I don't hit it at all, but the days that I do feel so good. And that's all you need as a writer, several good days in between the bad ones.
Join fellow writer's-guilt sufferers. A writer's group is an immensely helpful community to join. Our industry is so kind to one another, especially those that have banned together into writer's groups. Everyone knows why you've decided to join them. For the same reasons they've decided to join. Encouragement, tips, to laugh and to vent. You can find them online, in your local library, or social media. Twitter is full of great ones like #storysocial by @storysocial. Lot's of writers are introverts, but what makes us writers is often our love for the observation of life. Join a group if only to observe and learn. It'll be great for your #amwriting life.
Have you ever procrastinated on your writing by reading a good book or watching a great movie, and then fed yourself the same story I have about how it's part of the #writinglife because it's a form of inspiration? We all do this, and in fact it's true. So many great ideas are inspired by seeing other people's great ideas. Writer's guilt is full-on during these times. You are sitting back and enjoying someone else's work when you could be working on your own. But, "it's research", you say. As long as you don't let procrastination get the best of you, new ideas can spawn from taking part in other art forms. And, seeing someone else's art in tangible form often gives you that push to get back to your own.
Most importantly, appreciate your writer's guilt. Without it we'd give up. I mentioned above to think of it as a friend, maybe it's better to think of it as a really good secretary constantly reminding you of your to-do list to the point that you finally get to work. Your creative genius wants out, so let it!
Next post: How I Turned My Experiences Into a Happy Writing Life.