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Monday, July 13, 2015

Getting over Guilt

It’s been a week since I’ve been back from Nebraska. Of course, I had to balance out my land-locked month with a few hardcore days in the water. The day after I returned from the Great Plains, I left on a camping trip in the springs (to reconnect with my mermaid self). Then, I hosted my mom for a few days here in Tampa, taking her to all the fun places that I never have time (or money) to visit when school’s in session.

Now, my bags are unpacked and the house is quiet. My writing calls to me, but so does my closet that needs organizing, my garden that needs weeding, my bills that need paying, my friends that need visiting. I have the time but not the motivation. Saturday, I planned on spending the whole day writing. Instead, I putzed around my house, intermittently listening to podcasts and napping. I didn’t even go out into the garden or walk down the street to check the mail. I took lethargy to a new level. (Also, this heat. Seriously.)

And all along, I was giving myself an internal verbal beat down. You should be writing. Those pieces need editing. Why aren’t you sending work out? You’re never going to be a writer at this rate.

I don’t want guilt to be a constant part of my psyche. Being a writer can often feel like a formless dream with intangible goals. Of course, there are the concrete goals of getting published and having people read your writing. But before that happens, there is so much else that needs to happen: reading everything that you can get your hands on, writing and rewriting and rewriting some more. All of this is crucial to the overall goal of getting published and having people read your writing, but it’s not like gardening where the beds look cleaner after you’ve spent an hour weeding. There is often very little to show for your efforts in writing, and there is always more you could be doing. More writing, more editing, more sending of work out into the world.

So how do we as writers combat this constant feeling of inadequacy and guilt? The only solution that I have come up with so far is setting a writing schedule for myself. If I meet my goal of writing for an hour every day (or a set number of pages), then I can let go of the constant internal accusations. Writers should remember that we’re in this for the long run. The book isn’t going to be written by next month, or maybe not even by next year. Writing will be your life’s work, and your career will come together in due time – as long as the commitment is there.

I heard this quote today and I think it applies to the struggles of my writing life perfectly:
You can suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. It’s your choice.

Discipline will set you free. 

Photos taken at Chassahowitzka Springs