‘I should be at home writing, but instead I am sat on an old fairground ride telling myself how much I need to experience sitting on a decorated plastic horse…’
This post is aimed at those writers who, like me, suffer with guilt from not writing.
This is how things go:
You set aside a morning or an afternoon to write. Everyone in your house agrees to go out so you can write in peace.
Prior to this great session you imagine yourself working through a couple of chapters of your draft novel and staggering away at the end feeling amazing.
Ten minutes into your writing time and you are distracted by a conversation about writer motivation on Twitter, quickly followed by a strong urge to search Amazon for a new pretty phone cover, a new notebook, a scented candle and some early Xmas gifts for distant relatives.
A few hours later and your writing time ends. Your scented candle is arriving in three days, your new phone cover is being shipped and your tweet about writing motivation has been re-tweeted over 20 times. You stare gloomily at your laptop – you haven’t written anything. You wasted your writing time. Cue a special form of guilt which is like no other!
Things to expect when you experience guilt from not doing any writing:
- You will feel ashamed and struggle to look your laptop in the eye.
- There will be no escape from this mental torture.
- You will grimace at Twitter when other writers are tweeting about how many words they wrote whilst you were….deliberating about the colour of your new notebook.
- Your writer demons will come out in force, telling you ‘real’ writers don’t waste valuable writing time buying scented candles online, whilst tweeting about how motivated they feel. No! They do the writing work. Therefore you cannot be a real writer.
- Loved ones will add to your misery by saying helpful stuff like “I guess you won’t be finishing your novel this year!” and “how hard can it be to just sit and write for a few hours?”
Before you know it you feel like crap.
When you start out as a fresh faced newbie writer wasting writing time is actually quite enjoyable. You happily lie on the sofa, working your way through a Netflix box set, shoving Oreos into your mouth and telling yourself that procrastinating is an important writer skill. Yes!
Things change when you make a serious commitment to your writing. You make a promise to yourself about chasing down those writing dreams. I don’t know why but once you make a commitment wasting your writing time becomes painful.
But here’s the thing – wasting writing time can feel so pleasurable and so naughty! Why do the fun things in life have to make you feel naughty eh? With wasting writing time, you STILL do it even if you know that come the evening you are going to be lying foetal on the carpet by your writing desk, sobbing. This writing lark can be so frustrating.
Here are some useful ways of surviving this horrid guilt trip:
- I know it sounds crazy but you might have needed some rest and relaxation. You might find you return to your writing firing on all four cylinders of Writer Fuel, sniffing the aroma of your scented candle and hammering out 3000 words. This has NEVER happened to me but I like to reassure myself with it.
- There is normally a writing related reason as to why you have not done any writing It’s normally a sign of Writer’s Block. Assess where you are with your draft and hunt out that reason why you chose to do anything but write today.
- It’s time to have a stern word with yourself. Face up to the fact you wasted valuable writing time and accept responsibility. You didn’t need a new phone case, those relatives who you hardly see did not need Xmas presents and you didn’t need a scented candle. A cheap can of air freshener with a floral scent will suffice.
- Write down how awful you feel and save it for when you next get the chance to write. If you find yourself casting an eye over Twitter or casually glancing at Amazon, whip out what you wrote. Relive the guilt. I guarantee you will be back to your writing in no time.
- Punish yourself by not going to the pub on Friday night. Instead stay in and write. Tell yourself you can only do nice stuff once your writing session has taken place.
- Remind yourself of your writing goals for the year.
- Promise yourself the next time you write all distractions are taken away. Turn off all social media distractions and tell yourself all distant relatives will be bought thought-provoking Christmas presents nearer the time.
To all those writers who are out there struggling with this – I feel your pain!
Have a great day!