Pen To Print

Friday Feature: The Guilty Writer

By Claire Buss

Hello, my name is Claire and I’m a guilty writer. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and I still can’t get over the fact that other people enjoy reading my books. But the process of writing itself is not always a smooth path. Let me explain.

Getting Up Early To Write

If I set my alarm early to get up and join the five am writers club, I feel guilty if I wake hubby and the kids. I also feel guilty that I’m sat with a cup of tea writing and not working out, ironing or doing one of my other million jobs.

Writing During The Day

Carving out time to myself when I’m officially a stay-at-home mum is tough. I should be being ‘Wonder Mum’ all the time and deciding to put my headphones on so I can switch off Peppa Pig is so hard. I often feel incredibly guilty, because I feel as though I’m letting my children down, not stimulating them sufficiently and most definitely not being ‘Fun Mum’!

Evening Writing

Once the kids have been put to bed, I can lift the laptop lid and get to writing. Or I can spend some time with my husband and watch a TV show. Work or relationship? Guilt both ways.

Writing In The Café

Obviously, this would have been pre-COVID, but occasionally I would guiltily leave my youngest at home with hubby, take my oldest to school and then sit in a coffee shop and write, buying overpriced coffee with a guilty twinge.

Staying Up Late To Write

The time hits ten pm and everyone has gone to bed so, of course, it’s the perfect time to write. Only I’m tired and have to get up early in the morning, so I either feel guilty for staying up late, or guilty for not staying up late!

It’s certainly a conundrum. Trying to figure out when or where to write and doing my best not to feel bad about it. But what is guilt anyway? It’s a feeling we put on ourselves for not doing something we’re supposed to be doing, or conversely, doing something we know we shouldn’t be. So really, when we think about it, we are the architects of our own guilt. How, then, can we lessen our guilt?

Is It Appropriate To Feel Guilty For Writing/Not Writing?

If your job is full-time writer, and you have no other demands on your day other than sitting at a desk from nine to five Monday to Friday, and writing, then you should be getting on with it. Stop procrastinating. If you are a part-time writer due to other commitments, then you owe it to yourself to find blocks of time where you are ‘allowed’ to write. That might mean playing six games of snakes and ladders first, or sitting down and watching an episode of Cobra Kai with your hubby before donning headphones and writing for an hour. An hour a day might not sound like much, but if it’s concentrated, dedicated time on your book, it’s an hour you didn’t have yesterday.

Make The Change

If you are feeling guilty for writing, then it’s clear your subconscious is trying to tell you something. It could be that the time you set aside for writing, and told everyone you were going to sit and do some writing, ended up being a mammoth scrolling session on social media while watching an episode of TV on your laptop and answering your emails. You are never going to write successfully like that! Close all your tabs, mute your phone. Find your creative centre and give yourself permission to write. Procrastination is a state of mind, not of being. If you sit in that chair and begin that sentence, the words will eventually flow. Writing is a ‘practice’, not a ‘perfect’, like so many other creative endeavours, and requires patience, learning and commitment.

Accept The Guilt

Time is precious and, inevitably, you will have to miss out on one thing to do another. It’s your choice to decide what the balance should be; always remember that. If you come to realise the balance you chose isn’t making you happy, then it’s within your power to shift that balance. I have a timer on my phone, set to remind me to sit and do something with my little girl. The timer goes off every day. Now, that might seem mental to some people but to me it’s a wonderful nudge, pushing me to spend quality time with my kids and to not sit frozen in front of a guilty blank page.

At other times, you just have to suck it up and be guilty. If your husband works shift patterns and you have to write in the evening on one of his days off, instead of spending quality time with him, then so be it. Writing is your passion, your career, your dream and, as we all know, dreams require bucketloads of blood, sweat and tears to be realised. The key is to not let that guilt overwhelm you. Acknowledge it, do the best writing you can do at that moment, then enjoy your family time the next day.

Learn

If feeling incredibly guilty about writing is paralysing your creativity and encouraging your procrastination, you have got to learn to ‘let it go’! You are your own worst critic and you own your guilt. You can forgive yourself. You can change things.

No One Is Perfect

As much as social media would have us believe otherwise, nobody is perfect. Nobody gets it right the first time, every single time, and nobody is winning all the time. Everyone makes mistakes, chooses the wrong thing and picks the wrong option. Just like everyone is capable of realising the mistake and deciding not to do it again. There is no point in beating yourself up for the day, week or month. It certainly won’t help your creativity.

I think what I’m trying to say is, is your guilt trying to tell you something is wrong, or is it just an emotional response to a situation? Think about that next time you’re feeling guilty for writing and then be kind to yourself.

It’s not the end of the world if you feel guilty for writing, or if you feel guilty for not writing! Look after your mind, body and soul. Laugh, love and smile. At the end of the day, as a creative, you are driven to create. Be that writing, art, music, or whatever creative channel you direct your energies into.

Every day, you will feel the urge to express yourself and, even though life often gets in the way, there is no need to feel guilty for doing what you love. All you have to do is find a balance that works for you. Channelling a positive mindset will power you through any mental roadblocks in place. It will also forgive you for any guilt that you put on yourself.

As a guilty writer, I know why I put myself in this position every single day. I know why I sacrifice things for writing time. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s in my DNA as a writer to write and I know, after speaking to my writer friends, that they feel the same way. Some of us are able to let the guilt go more easily than others, but all of us will sit down to write sooner or later.

And if that guilt is preventing you from writing because you are scared of failing? Well, that, my friend, is a whole other conversation we’ll be having in the near future. What I can say now, is that you should take a moment to remember how brilliant you are, how much you’ve already achieved and remind yourself that you love to create. Maybe step away from the project causing you the most grief and start something new. Re-read the book that inspired you in the first place. Re-visit your joy. Happy writing!

Read the latest issue of Write On! magazine online.

Writing is your passion, your career, your dream and, as we all know, dreams require bucketloads of blood, sweat and tears to be realised. The key is to not let that guilt overwhelm you.