I spent a fair chunk of last Sunday editing a few short pieces and submitting them. Once I’d finished, I realised – again – how much I actually enjoy writing. It makes me happy. And the reason I forgot that? I was too busy feeling guilty about not getting more writing done.
Setting yourself writing targets and completion deadlines is a great idea and can be very helpful for those of us who otherwise lack motivation. However, if these deadlines do nothing other than make you feel anxious about the fact you’re not going to meet them, perhaps you need a re-think.
I’ve recently started a new job. I knew this would take some adjustment and that, being on a massive learning curve, I wouldn’t have as much energy left for writing in the evenings and weekends as usual. Even knowing that, I still managed to convince myself that I should try and do a complete edit of my work-in-progress between September, when the job began, and Christmas. Now I’m three months in I can see this was just silly, not to mention physically impossible without the aid of some sort of time travel machine and / or someone to cook, clean and socialise on my behalf. In spite of understanding how silly this deadline was, I still feel guilty – massively guilty – that I haven’t achieved more in the last few months.
This is because there is a tug of war going on in my head. Part of me wants to look after myself and keep me from working too hard and getting stressed out, and another part of me wants to JUST GET ON WITH THE WRITING. This tug of war makes me feel frustrated, resentful and grumpy as well as guilty. But actually it’s important that my ambition is tempered with self care.
I’ve just spent three and a half years completing a creative writing master’s degree and writing a book while working full-time. That was hard and I am tired. So maybe – and I’m doing my best to believe this – maybe it’s okay for me to take the writing at a gentler pace and allow myself a bit of fallow time. The problem is that when I give myself space to recharge, guilt creeps into it.
With this mental push-me-pull-you going on, it’s tricky to get the balance right between resting, writing, and all the everyday chores that need doing (yes, writing brain, you do have to go to work today. You like eating, right?). If anyone out there has any tips, I’d be glad to know them.
Oh, and I am certain there are many other types of writerly guilt. This is just mine.