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Archived Author Help > Do you feel guilty about not writing?

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message 1: by Rachael (new)

Rachael Eyre (rachaeleyre) | 194 comments Something I've wondered for a while: do other people feel guilty when they're not writing, or is this my neurosis kicking in?

To put it in perspective: I have a nine to five job in an office, fitting in writing on my evenings and weekends. The trouble is, often I'm so exhausted after a day's work, I haven't the energy to write. Instead I end up reading or going online, telling myself it's research and/or promotion. I'm lucky if I manage one good writing day a week.

My experience seems in stark contrast to advice on creative writing courses, where they tell you to write a certain number of words per day, or other people's expectations of authors. I can remember a friend's surprise that I didn't do more writing when I was on holiday. Although he didn't mean anything by it, it had the effect of making me feel lazy and inadequate. I love writing, but it's still a job!

Is this normal? I'd love to hear from you guys.

message 2: by C.L. (new)

C.L. Lynch (cllynchauthor) | 316 comments It's not so much that I feel guilty about not writing as I feel frustrated. The same way I feel about the fact that I haven't been able to go see any of the movies that came out this year that I wanted to see.

I want to be doing it. I really want to. But life doesn't always let me. The only down time I get is in the evening after kids are in bed and by that time I'm too exhausted. I don't consider writing work, I consider it recreation, but it still takes energy and a certain head space. Like skiing or something.

message 3: by Emma (new)

Emma Mohr I believe it's normal. I don't write every day because there are days when I just can't bring myself to write. I have a regular job and I'm a full-time student. There are days when I don't want to do any kind of thinking of any kind. Sometimes even watching a mindless show/movie is too much. Those are my recoup days, and everyone needs them every once in a while.

message 4: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Why should you feel guilty? Is there some word count police that I'm not aware of? ;P

Honestly though, no. Writing is my real job, but there are days when other things that are out of my control pull me away. There are days when I'm just not feeling it. If I were to force myself to write when my brain was rebelling, I'd only be wasting my time.

Think of it as a job, but remember, jobs have time off for a reason.

message 5: by Riley, Viking Extraordinaire (new)

Riley Amos Westbrook (sonshinegreene) | 1510 comments Mod
Christina wrote: "Why should you feel guilty? Is there some word count police that I'm not aware of? ;P

Honestly though, no. Writing is my real job, but there are days when other things that are out of my control p..."

This is a great way to put how I feel as well. I'm sure if I still had a job, I would probably feel the close to the same way as you do though, Rachel. I'd feel antsy, and like i just had something I had to do. Hell, I get that way sometimes just sitting and relaxing with the wife.

message 6: by Joe (new)

Joe Jackson (shoelessauthor) To an extent, but I also don't force myself to write when I'm not feeling it.

message 7: by Morris (new)

Morris Graham (morris_g) Guilty? No. Deprived, yes.

message 8: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Bland (roxanne2) | 102 comments I have a full time job that often requires me to work on weekends. The only time I have for writing is in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I just can't do it. I refuse to feel guilty about this. There are only so many hours in a day, and limits on what my body and mind can take. Yes, it can be frustrating, not being able to write like I want, but this, right now, is my reality and I just have to suck it up and deal with it.

message 9: by Hákon (new)

Hákon Gunnarsson | 53 comments I don't feel guilty over not writing, but annoyed, yes. I'm just more at ease when I'm writing regularly, even if it is just a few sentences a day.

message 10: by Steve (new)

Steve Harrison (stormingtime) | 52 comments I blogged about this issue recently. The claim that writing every day and/or writing a certain number of words will make you a better writer is complete and utter nonsense. If that was all it took, there would be a lot more good writers than there are. Like a lot of other meaningless writing 'advice,' it is rarely challenged.

I try to have a few hours available for writing every weekend, but don't sweat it if that doesn't happen. The work gets done eventually and I spend a lot of time thinking about my writing, which, in my opinion, is just as important as sitting at a keyboard.

message 11: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Jensen (kdragon) | 468 comments For me, I wouldn't describe it as guilt but more as annoyance. But mind you I'm the kind of person who always needs to be working on something. It's kind of a family trait. I can't even watch TV without having some project to work on. So when I end up spending the day not doing something it tends to get under my skin.

That said, there's always going to be good writing days and bad writing days (or weeks, or months). Writing is an art, after all, and creativity can be incredibly fickle. Sometimes the motivation is there and sometimes it isn't, and if it isn't that's okay. I've learned the hard way that forcing myself to write when I'm not ready only leads to scrapping what I just wrote. because it wasn't working.

message 12: by Tim (new)

Tim Rees | 123 comments Yes I do. Especially when I start a novel and don't think I've done enough. I understand that period now as a time when the characters are evolving and coming to life, because, suddenly, wham we'll be off and I'll find myself in the zone and everything in the world is okay again. So now I embrace that guilty feeling at the start because it is like the birth of a child. The birth will happen. It'll just take time... Its own time...

message 13: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) I had a couple of years when I could hardly get anything written. My kiddo was very high needs, and any time I was not working (I worked full time), I was caregiving. He didn't sleep. Even my lunch hours, which I had previously used to write, were taken up with research and setting up therapy plans. I still tried to write every day, but sometimes it was only a paragraph, in the few minutes between when he finally fell asleep and when I went to bed (knowing he would be awake again another time or two during the night, and up again at dawn).

But the words that I wrote were part of one of my most popular books published at this point. Kiddo is now eighteen and I don't have to supervise his every minute or wait until he falls asleep to write (good thing, since one day this week he didn't go to bed until four, and I was up at five thirty). Now it is much easier to find time for my writing.

Seasons of life. Get in what you can when you can, and know that things change.

And fatigued words can still be good words! Sometimes the best words, because there is no 'gatekeeper' monitoring them...

message 14: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 787 comments I kind of do at times. I do get lazy at times or I get so busy promoting that I stop writing for a while. It's been happening for a little bit but I've picked up the pace and started writing again.

message 15: by David (new)

David Kimmel (dakimmel) | 28 comments It's definitely okay to NOT feel guilty. I tried a lot of different methods before stumbling on an approach that worked for me. My schedule rarely permits the setting aside of any real time to just focus on writing, so I decided I needed to start writing what I could when I could. That meant jotting down a few sentences here & there – while waiting for the coffee to brew, or waiting for something to print, etc. I recently finished my first full-length novel (105,000 word), most of which was written via notepad on my iPhone. Now that Word has an iPhone app and cloud storage, it's even easier and less of a hassle. In this busy world, you do the best you can, when you can!

message 16: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4353 comments Mod
Guilty? Somewhat. On days when I have plenty of time to write and then end up screwing around with meaningless stuff all day, yes. That doesn't happen often, but it does. If work, housework, etc. take me away from writing, I don't feel guilty. It's more a feeling of being anxious to get back to it.

message 17: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) I don't feel guilt when I cannot write, I feel compulsion. I want to be writing. I long to be writing. I wait for a break in my day when I can write.

And now... off to write.

message 18: by J.N. (new)

J.N. Bedout (jndebedout) | 115 comments When I can't write, I contemplate what I will write about once I get a chance to do so. Then, the writing part goes a lot easier and faster. I call it "premeditated writing".

message 19: by J. (new)

J. Madison (jrutgermadison) | 2 comments I wouldn't say I feel guilty. I haven't written in a few months. Part of the reason is work. The other is weather. My old routine was walk the dogs after dark, then write. Since the weather got hot, the walk has drained my energy instead of revitalizing it. (NOT walking the dogs isn't option. It's hard to write when two greyhounds are whining and barking for their walk. :) )

message 20: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Standafer | 60 comments Do I feel guilty when I don't write? Sometimes, sure. I'm writing a series, book three is taking a lot longer than one and two. I feel like I made a commitment to my readers and need to get it done. It's almost there.
But then, sometimes I feel guilty when I do write. There are times when I know I really should be doing something else.
I guess when you're raised Catholic, you just feel guilty.

message 21: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments Do I feel guilty when I don't write? Only when my fans ask me when is the next book coming out. I feel I've let then down. Although a few of them know how of a roller coaster my last two years have been and they seem to understand.

I'm a bit like Margaret. I feel guilty about everything. I even feel guilty for not reading books fast enough. So when I write I feel guilty for not reading that book I am beta reading, or the book I won on Goodreads giveaway and when I read, it's the same. Guilt about not reading the other book, or not writing. Oh and also guilt from having forgotten that someone asked me if I wanted to read their book as and ARC when I really wanted to but had to postpone.

Grrrrrrrrr Can never please my conscience.

message 22: by Kat (last edited Jul 29, 2016 12:42AM) (new)

Kat I do. I definitely do. I have a fulltime job during the day, and a part-time job on top of that. I can choose my own hours for the latter, but since I only have an hour or two in the evenings I end up working for that on the weekends. Then there's family, household, etc...

I haven't written anything in months, and it weighs on me. When I started writing for real (with the intent to actually publish it afterwards) I was between jobs and unemployed and had all the time I wanted. Writing was also a great distraction from having nothing to do all day, so I spent a few hours a day writing.

I'm not trying to squeeze the same amount of time into my writing these days, but I feel I should at least continue my work in progress a little bit, even if it's only baby steps. I don't want it to remain unfinished until the next time I find myself out of a job!

message 23: by T.L. (last edited Jul 29, 2016 12:51AM) (new)

T.L. Clark (tlcauthor) | 727 comments Sounds perfectly normal for us indies!

I haven't really written any of book 6 in 3 months!! :-(
This saddens and frustrates me.
But sometimes life comes first, and we have to prioritise.

I have a full time job too. It keeps the roof over my head, so a necessary evil right now. Hey ho.

Plus all the promotion time, and then my husband occasionally gets some of my attention, and then there's my holistic therapies. I need a nap!


message 24: by Eva (new)

Eva Pasco (evapasco) | 90 comments I'm also guilty of taking that guilt trip if I'm not writing. Believe me, there was a lot of guilt during the 8+ years it took me to finish my upcoming novel. Between not having the time, feeling exhausted from what the day wrought, or not sure if I should scrap the whole thing--it got done.

While I'd like to adhere to the ideal of writing daily, I couldn't and can't. It doesn't mean we're not good writers. Maybe, not as productive as we'd like to be.

Now, I'm in the process of reading and editing the 3rd proof, so to me that counts big time. Also, the time I spend researching on the topics of marketing and promoting fits the scheme of things.

I do write shorts every week: essays, memoirs, or blogs to keep myself on the author radar.

Life is too short to beat ourselves up.

message 25: by Jane (new)

Jane Blythe | 112 comments Yes, one of the many things I feel guilty about.

message 26: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Sharp (margaretlynettesharp) | 14 comments i don't feel guilty when I'm not writing. In my experience, writing is both tiring and draining. It wouldn't be helpful for me to slog on and on, writing book after book, risking my health in the process. I'm always very relieved to finish what I've started. Right now, I have a novella which will be released within days, and I have no plans to write any more unless or until the mood strikes me. I will still have to promote what I've done. There is no need to feel compelled to write. There is more to life...
I have several friends - writers- who are all verging on burn-out. Now and then, we all need to rest on our laurels and take stock of the real world.

message 27: by Jane (new)

Jane Jago | 888 comments Jane number two speaking.

No. No guilt. I've never really felt compelled to set aside any specific time for writing.

Sometimes when things aren't going well it is a good idea to just say sod it and walk away. Clear your mind however you do that and don't go back until the bug bites again.

It will

message 28: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Harrop | 7 comments All the time. Really, all the time. Right now, in fact, I was just thinking that I should get to work on, oh, I don't know, any of the manuscripts I've started recently. I'm afraid I've started so many that I'm starting to feel guilty when I work on one, because I'm not working on another (and that other one's finished, for god's sake; it needs a lot of rewriting and a lot more detail, but at least I can flip to the back and see "The End").

At least I'm not the only one. I won't let myself feel too okay with it though; I need a little self-loathing fire set under me if I'm going to get anything done.

message 29: by A.E. (new)

A.E. Hellstorm (aehellstorm) | 196 comments Yes, definitely. All my hours are scattered and to getting some writing in is essential for my well-being. If I don't write, I get edgy, and angry, and moody, and guilt-stricken... the list can go on. *lol*

message 30: by Sherri (new)

Sherri Moorer (sherrithewriter) | 82 comments I feel the pain. It takes mental discipline to come home and write when you've been at work all day. I don't feel guilty when I don't write, but I do miss it.
One thing I do is take my laptop to work and write on my lunch break. I can't do that every day, but two or three times a week can result in a lot of progress.

message 31: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Thomas | 7 comments I think Morris nailed it - not necessarily guilt, but deprivation. I often find myself thinking in terms of when I will have time for my writing that particular day or week (hopefully not 'month')... The answer is the same as it is with any passion - there's never enough time. Ergo, we just have to make the best of what we have and try not to waste those precious opportunities.

message 32: by Ian (new)

Ian Bott (iansbott) | 268 comments Christina wrote: "Why should you feel guilty? Is there some word count police that I'm not aware of? ;P"

Exactly that! No need for guilt because no-one else has any business holding you up to any yardstick for approval.

Of course, the slippery slope starts when one day becomes two becomes three ... The world is full of people who say "Yeah, I've thought about writing a novel one day" but of course they never do. What sets writers apart from them is that writers do actually write.

So, rather than feel guilty, ask yourself what you can do to arrange things in your life to get you writing. If you manage one good writing day a week, then celebrate that, and safeguard it. That one day a week is one day a week more than many people ever achieve.

Steve wrote: "The claim that writing every day and/or writing a certain number of words will make you a better writer is complete and utter nonsense."

On the other hand, the advice to write every day IMO is a useful tip under the right circumstances. I'm a great believer in understanding why I'm using a particular technique and not being ruled by advice just 'cos someone says so. If the problem is a tendency to procrastinate and end up doing nothing useful, then the advice to write every day can help develop a better habit. But if that's not the problem in the first place then the advice may not be so useful.

message 33: by Denae (new)

Denae Christine (denaechristine) | 167 comments I feel guilty when I go more than a week without writing. I feel like I'm letting my readers down. I feel like I'm not acting like a professional in this job, like I'm not prioritizing what I should.

Unlike some, I write more in the summer, but that's because I'm a teacher. I tell myself that writing IS my summer job, and I feel guilty for not getting in at least eight hours a day (I'm happy when I get four). I can do eight hours of teaching, why not eight hours of writing?

So, yes, there's guilt, but it isn't overwhelming. It's more of a nagging conscience in the back of my head.

message 34: by Missy (new)

Missy Sheldrake (missysheldrake) | 252 comments Not guilty, but grumpy. School is out, which means I'm in full-time Mommy mode. While I love my son and enjoy spending time with him, there's sadly no brain power left for writing. I have trouble getting into that creative space, and so my current book is on hold for a month, and I'm a little grumbly about it.

message 35: by Shari (new)

Shari Sakurai (shari_sakurai) | 64 comments I'm in a very similar position to you, Rachael, I have an office job 9-5 too and don't get much (if any!) writing done in the evenings. I do feel guilty about it sometimes but I'm usually too tired and also have a lot of other stuff to do in the evening. Instead I try to set aside one day at the weekend. This makes me feel less guilty but not a lot!

message 36: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Depressed is more like it. Been in a slump as far as writing goes for over a year.

But I can't force myself. I've got one troublesome novel finished but for final editing decisions and nearly a dozen other books already started. None of the projects are demanded my attention or sparking my enthusiasm.

And there are all the daily distractions of full time job, family, health stuff, extracurricular activities ... etc., etc., etc.

message 37: by Dora (new)

Dora Ilieva | 12 comments Not at all. Writing is supposed to be pleasurable, so if I don't feel like it, I'm not going to force myself. Sometimes it's nicer to read, be with family and friends or just watch TV.

message 38: by Susan (new)

Susan Stafford | 230 comments MIcah I'm in the same boat...... it is depressing but like Dora stated I can't force it because then it wouldn't be fun and in the past it's always been fun! I'm biding my time by reading a lot and checking in here....... good luck to all who are 'stuck' for whatever reason....... change is coming........

message 39: by Jon (new)

Jon Nikrich (jon_nikrich) | 9 comments I don't feel guilty about not writing if I am reading. My brain connects them as two parts of the same puzzle.

message 40: by Angela (new)

Angela Verdenius (angelacatlover) | 27 comments Jon wrote: "I don't feel guilty about not writing if I am reading. My brain connects them as two parts of the same puzzle."

I think it was Stephen King who said something about if you don't take the time to read, you lack the skills and tools to write.
I read in bed (and while waiting for dinner to cook!) I even take a book when I go to the doctor so I can sit and read while waiting. Any time is a good time to read!

message 41: by Angela (new)

Angela Verdenius (angelacatlover) | 27 comments Shari wrote: "I'm in a very similar position to you, Rachael, I have an office job 9-5 too and don't get much (if any!) writing done in the evenings. I do feel guilty about it sometimes but I'm usually too tired..."

I work shift work and write on my days off and often before and after work. Sometimes I get home and just want to shower and kick back on the sofa, but I make myself skirt the sofa and go into my writing room instead. But now and again I'll take a day off to just watch TV and relax, and between finishing one book and starting another, I take two weeks off. This time, it slid into 4 weeks, but in my defense, we're house repairing and have different things happening almost every day in between work! Seriously, though, sometimes you need to take time out for yourself or you'll burn out. Also, working out the writing routine that suits you is important. We all work different hours and different jobs, so whether you can do an hour a day writing, a day a week, or five days a week (okay, who's the lucky one then?!), write as you can. Be kind to yourself - you're only human AND a writer! If you have outside employment as well as writing, you have two jobs (that's how I see it).

message 42: by April (new)

April Wilson (aprilwilson) As soon as you allow yourself to feel guilty for not writing, you're setting yourself up for writer's block. Writers decide when they write, and whatever they decide is okay. It's different, of course, if you have obligations to an outside publisher... but that's another story.

I find that I have to take time off between books to decompress.... at least a month. I need to recharge my batteries and shift my imagination from the previous book to the new one.

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