Writing Without Wasteful Guilt

I’m not writing enough. Why don’t I push myself more? Am I lazy?

I’m writing too much. Don’t I care about my family, friends, and coworkers?
I could do more for them instead of hiding away to work on fiction. Am I selfish?

Worry and guilt waste time when they don’t encourage better behavior. Even worse is when negative thoughts collide: I’m not finishing my stories–But! I’m spending too much time writing.

I waste far too much time oscillating between different forms of writer’s guilt, and I’m not the only one who does. In an attempt to lead myself and others to more productive behavior, I’ve listed a few techniques for combating useless thoughts.

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1. Write at least one sentence for a fictional story every day, regardless of the day’s activities. A sentence isn’t as good as a paragraph, a page, or a complete story; however, writing in smaller increments on busy days reminds the subconscious that writing isn’t a threat to life’s other priorities.

2. Keep a diary. I’ve met people who can freewrite in a diary or personal journal even when they can’t freely draft fiction. This is extremely difficult for me to do, but jotting a few notes about my experiences of the day’s happenings has helped me feel productive. There’s a chance that a diary entry will prompt a new story in the future, and even if it doesn’t, dairy-writing is practice for telling stories–your stories.

3. Build and maintain relationships with other writers. Those who have already achieved balance might offer advice during the harder times. You and those who haven’t might benefit from working together to find balance.

4. Communicate your needs. Tell the non-writers in your life that you need time to work on your fiction. Start with a small amount of time if necessary, but keep whatever promises you make. People will learn when to expect your attention and when to leave you alone, allowing you to ignore them during writing time. (Theoretically.)

Overall, just write. Many writers seem to never rid themselves of the compulsion to create fiction. Accept that, and adapt.


4 thoughts on “Writing Without Wasteful Guilt”

  1. These are good tips, Ann. I share your sentiments about writing. Lately, I haven’t been making the time to write as much as I’d like to.I had been spending so much time on revisions this summer and now that they’re over I haven’t jumped into my WIP the way I had planned.

    1. That reminds me of a technique I’d forgotten to include on the list: Listen to your instinct. It’s different than the criticizing voice.

      Sometimes our minds are primed for editing and other times we can draft with ease. A story will teach more at one time than another. Most of my deadlines are self-imposed, so I don’t really have an excuse to not work on what calls to me.

  2. Many writers seem to never rid themselves of the compulsion to create fiction. Accept that, and adapt.”

    is it so, Ann? I feel that way – but is it healthy??
    I’ve been coaching myself – when I am not at the computer working, or if it’s not designated thinking (there’s not much of these) I am not wising or thinking about writing.

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