Are writers forever riddled with guilt?

Whether it's not writing at all or writing too much, many writers end up feeling guilty as a direct result of their scribbling (or lack of). Does that sound like you and what can we do about it?

I think that guilt is a really interesting and relevant topic for writers.
Let’s face it, most of us face a constant battle between our writing and real life. It can feel like a never ending shift from one to the other with sacrifices constantly being made. Inevitably, we end up feeling guilty.

In this clip I talk about writer’s guilt and look at how I tackle the problem in my own work. I’ve used the title above for a reason too – I’d really like to know if your writing is affected by guilt. And, of course, what you do about it.

Watch this episode on Vimeo

4 Comments

msalisbury@bellsouth.net 15 April 2011 Reply

I was raised by very conservative parents in a rural small town in the Midwest United States, so the installation and maintenance of guilt was a given. I rarely feel guilt for writing, but do sometimes feel it for not writing, especially when I flushed the time down the toilet of television. I have these stories in me that seem to want to be told, and if I don’t tell them, who will? I’m learning through practice and from visits to encouraging websites like Write For Your Life to dedicate more time to writing, and to develop it into a habit.

iain@writeforyourlife.net 17 April 2011 Reply

Habits are definitely good, but they’re not always easy to form. It’s also about finding a balance, I think. There’s nothing wrong with watching television from time to time, so long as you feel like you’re getting work done too. It’s tough though, it really is. Good luck!

sommer.tilda@gmail.com 5 June 2011 Reply

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I agree very much that the psychological
aspect of being a writer should be discussed more often. I knew that I wanted
to be an artist when I was a teenager, but never allowed myself to take that
desire seriously. Even now, fifteen years later, after having finished a degree
in literature and having attended writing classes of various kinds, I cannot
admit to myself that writing is what I really want. I am also a singer who
cannot get up on stage anymore, so I have the same crippling fear about my
music. Obviously I came to a point where I understood that if I don’t write and
make music, I’m miserable. I just couldn’t go on like that anymore.

 

For the last year or so, after having left
a job I hated, and living abroad like some kind of bohemian (no money, no job),
I have tried to start writing more seriously. I get up at 8 am. No one is
allowed to talk to me. I make a cup of tea, and I sit down to write. My goal is
1000 words every day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

 

I have tried to maintain this routine
several times, but something always happens and I fall out of the rhythm. Then,
after not having been able to write for a week or so, I start getting down on
myself about it. The guilt is mixed with thoughts like « why do I even
bother trying », « I have no talent », « I don’t want it
enough, so I don’t deserve to make it » etc etc. I’m sure a lot of people
recognize these thought patterns. It’s very very unconstructive to think that
way, and I’m constantly battling with myself to get rid of these thoughts.

 

My approach to deal with the guilt (and the
shame, if you will) of not working enough is simply to start the process of
getting into a routine all over again. I set the alarm clock at eight, get up,
write and then go on with my day. I do it every day. And then, when I fail, I
just say: « Too bad, I’ll just try again ».

 

I must say it really helps living with
another writer/musician who knows what I’m dealing with. He takes my writing
very seriously, and leaves me alone when I need it. We also have an extra
writing room/studio in our apartment, and that helps as well. 

 

Sorry about the long post, but this is a
very important question to me. More than one time I have thought that I wish
the music teachers I had when I was younger were more intelligent when it comes
to the mental process of being creative. They had no idea how to deal with my
oversensibility, fear and guilt. If they did, I’m sure I’d be in a quite
different place today.

 

I still feel guilt for not writing enough,
guilt for being thirty and not having gotten anywhere as an artist, and guilt
for feeling guilty about it. Yes, it’s complicated, but it’s getting easier and
easier to cope with.

 

This site is very nice, thanks a lot. One
can never have enough encouragement and good advice. I’ll keep reading/listening!

 

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