Writer’s Guilt

I stole something last week.


Time to work on my own writing.

I have been ready to dive into my major revision on my MG novel for weeks now, and have been frustrated at every turn. Nothing tragic happened, no sicknesses to contend with, just busy with the 100 things on my To-Do list, and the 50 other things that popped up that weren’t even on the list. So finally, I said to myself, “That’s it. Today and tomorrow everyone else’s stuff can wait, and I am working on mine.”

And I did.

I flew through nearly a third of the “new rough” draft. Exhilarating! I confided to a writing pal that I had done this, and she said, “You say that as if you did something naughty – heck, it’s your work!”

Her comment got me thinking: Why do I always feel guilty when I put myself first?

I tend to take on too much because my brain still lives in the time before toddler. Before toddler, I really could do it all, never dropping any balls. Now balls are dropping, rolling away, and hiding under the sofa next to the dust groundhogs (they’re too big to be bunnies). The balls I tend to drop first are the ones that apply to me – my writing, my sleep, my free time. Not because I’m an incredibly selfless individual, but because they are the easiest to deal with dropping. No one is affected by the dropping except me.

I also take on too much because there’s so much I WANT to do. Do I want to read a friend’s manuscript? YES! Do I want to edit someone’s work? YES! Do I want to be actively involved in my daughter’s MOMS Club? YES! Do I want to be part of wonderful group blog? YES! Do I want to spend time with my husband? YES! Do I want to spend time with my daughter? YES! Do I want to clean the house? Well, not so much, but you get the point.

So many interesting and exciting things to do, it’s hard to say no! So I usually don’t. And I usually get them all done. But look at what’s not on that list above: my own writing. Do I want to get my own writing done? YES…but…but… There’s always a “but.”

Writer’s guilt.

As if taking the time to write is “naughty” or selfish. As if I have internalized the common notion that what we do isn’t “real.” That it isn’t “work” if I’m not getting paid.

Well, I don’t get paid to be a stay-at-home-mom, either, and that certainly is real work! So I think I will work harder at giving myself permission to write. Permission to put my work first.

Because it is work.

And it is real.

Do you suffer from writer’s guilt? How do you cope?


  1. Ruth Heil says

    My guilt comes when I am at home, at my desk, not having to raise a child, supposed to be writing yet not producing anything salable, like now. However, it’s the nature of the beast. A coach (http://connection-revolution.com/training-programs/) pointed out to me that we have been convinced that working should always be hard; leave the pleasurable for hobby time. It’s bull. But still, we judge our accomplishments by the difficulty of the task and regard that which comes easy as play.

    Meanwhile, your sentence, “No one is effected by the dropping except me,” really isn’t true. I suspect you know that. Deny ourselves and we become less successful, less happy. Fulfill ourselves and we shine. In that way, the dropping very much effects the people around you, it’s just not as directly obvious as, say, washing clothes or promptly returning a someone else’s manuscript.

    I know that you already know all these things, but we have to keep drilling them into each others’ heads. And your post is a great one for helping us support each other. May our guilt turn into sheer joy … and success.

    • Thanks, Ruth. This is exactly why we all need writing friends – they get it! Thanks for the support, and we all need to lift each other up, as you say.

  2. Oh, yeah. Writer’s guilt is my problem right now. I know I need to work on my WIP, but it’s easier to put it off than listen to my preschooler whine. Thanks for reminding me that what I do is real work and deserves my respect, too.

    • You’re welcome! When my soon-to-be-preschooler is wanting my attention and I am trying to finish ONE LITTLE THING and I tell her, “In a minute” that’s when my guilt really hammers me, too. I try really hard to write while she’s sleeping, but sometimes things leak over to when she’s awake. I am really looking forward to her going to school – 2 guilt-free hours 3xs a week sounds a little like heaven at the moment!

  3. My thing is, I want to do all the things you listed, plus a bucket list of my own, and there are only 24 hours a day, and 8 of them are needed for sleeping.
    I’ve been doing a LOT of budgeting of time – time for formatting books for NTD, time to the magazine, time to read submissions, time to visit Mike, time to work on my current WOP, time to revise Dark Side of the moon. Time to chat with friends and family and upgrade status on Twitter / Facebook I want the earth with the fence around it.
    I can feel you.
    Barbara of the Balloons

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