Writing Guilt

I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing and committing to projects for a while now. When I was in high school it was easy to get stuff done. I had all the time in the world, and usually I ended up writing at least one huge magnum opus every summer. Then real life happened. Community college. My first adult relationship. A day job. Suddenly I didn’t have all the time in the world. Suddenly I had to make time for writing. And, more often than not, especially lately, I just haven’t been disciplined enough. I’ve watched that extra two hours of TV. I’ve stayed up to finish a novel. I’ve done “research” for character names or settings or something instead of actually sitting my butt down and writing and making forward momentum on my latest manuscript.

In consequence, for many, many months now I feel like the perpetual specter of guilt has been trailing after me. Every time I was watching TV or reading or something, my back-brain was poking at me with a sharp stick saying, “You should be writing! Why aren’t you writing?!” So, even as I’m enjoying myself, I feel like all my pleasure time has been slightly tainted with this patina of writerly guilt.

Finally, in the last week or so I’ve cracked down on myself. At 7pm I have to drop whatever I’m doing. I have to stop and I have to write. Every day until I get to at least 2000 new words written. I’m not letting myself edit or reread or futz with this new MS at all. I am just writing new stuff. So far it’s actually working pretty well on giving me forward momentum. I started the week with about 800 words and now I’m up to over 6000. I don’t think they’re particularly good, but that isn’t really what my first drafts are for. First drafts are rough drafts, just to sketch the basic shape of the story, and figure out who my characters are. Once I’ve done that, once I have that in place then I can go back and tweak and tighten to my little perfectionist heart’s content.

But so now, after a few days of this new regime, I not only am making good solid progress forward on the MS, I am also slowly but surely killing my writing guilt. Once I have met that 2000 word goal my time is mine and I am now allowed to do what I like with it. I don’t have to feel bad about watching that extra episode of Lie to Me, or ogling Adrien Brody in Predators, because I have met my writing goal and I have earned my free time.

I wish I’d figured this out a few months ago, not only could I have been making progress but I could have had a ten pound weight of unnecessary guilt taken off my shoulders. Sheesh.

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