Have you ever felt bad for not writing? Or, in an opposite mood, felt guilty for wanting to write? Have you disliked yourself for writing a certain thing? I have too, and it sucks.
Guilt in general is a tricky feeling. Sometimes you don’t feel it when you should, and sometimes you feel it when you shouldn’t. It has to do with morals, and what you subconsciously think is right and wrong. I’m not going to tell you which morals are the best morals, because I’m not all-knowing and I don’t want to be accountable for your mistakes. We’re all adults here, I’m sure you have a great sense of what qualifies as good and bad. It’s just that guilt doesn’t always follow that belief system because it is an emotion. And emotions are illogical by definition.
But I’m also a writer, and I know a lot about writer’s guilt. Sort of. I know that 99% of the time, it’s totally unwarranted. The most common version of writer’s guilt show up when you’re not writing, like on the bus, or when you’re watching TV. You are suddenly struck by the idea that you could’ve been writing instead, and you feel bad for it. There are two options when you are hit by that particular phenomenon: Either you do something or you don’t.
Sadly, the option most people go for is doing nothing. they wallow in their bad feeling, and their thoughts start following that downwards spiral all because they could’ve been writing but weren’t. That’s stupid. The only thing making you feel bad is you in this case. All you have to do is choose not to be so passive. It takes some mental training to make yourself be an active participant in your own life, but it’s not some out there option that’s unattainable for the average joe.
‘But Julie, what can I possibly do about that guilt?‘ you ask. As I see it, you have two options. If it’s possible at all, start writing. Your emotions are always a tool to let you know what you want or need. If you feel bad about not writing, the obvious action to take is to start writing. But I don’t live in a fairy world where everyone can do what they want all the time. Sometimes you simply can’t write. Sometimes you need to watch that show with your family because it’s the only time you can socialize with all of them.
In those inescapable situations you go for option two. Accept it. You’re not God, you don’t have control over every single thing that happens in your life. (And it’s debatable if God does either, no matter what your beliefs are.) Sometimes you need social contact, and you can’t write. Sometimes your arm is broken and you can’t write. Sometimes you just need a good sulk and you can’t write. That’s alright, it’s normal. Why are you feeling bad about a normal thing that’s not your fault? I spent a long time learning to just let unnecessary feelings go, and if you’re interested, I suggest you start by learning mindfulness. That’s where my journey started.
Guilt about not writing is not the only guilt writers know. But to be honest, the ‘Active Decision’ thing works for all types of writer’s guilt. You feel guilty about wanting to write instead of talking with your friends? At least make an active choice about it: commit to your friends without feeling bad, or go write. You’re doing everyone a disservice by feeling bad about something you can change. It’s alright to want to do something else. Only a rare few people enjoy cleaning for example, but nobody feels bad for wanting to sit on the sofa instead of cleaning. I for one would much rather see my friends at home than at the pub, but I still go to pubs with them. I’m also not going to ruin my night by feeling guilty I like my house better though.
Mind over Emotion
Someone said that once. I don’t know who, and I don’t think it’s that important in this case. It’s not so much that you need to contain your guilt and ban it out, it’s that you need to be master over it. Don’t let the guilt be your master. Notice what you’re feeling, why you are feeling it, and then do something with it. Don’t let it force you into a passive role like so many of us allow it to. Use it for your own means.
Before you go, one more motivational thing: You’re still being more of a writer than others because you think about writing. Normal people don’t even think about writing unless someone mentions it, that’s a thing only writers do.