We all have those days when our best intentions and dedication to our writing get derailed. We oversleep, feel sick, have to get the trash out, and the cat throws up in the middle of everything, and the dog gets out and barks at a deer and our writing time gets spent corralling him back into the house, cleaning up cat puke, and chasing the garbage truck down the street.
When the events of the day thwart us so that the only addition to our writing is the intent to have written, frustration, sadness, and anger can morph into the Guilt Monster.
Oh, the Guilt Monster with its innumerable phalanges, each tipped with a talon designed to perfectly press your particular buttons.
The Guilt Monster plays us like a piano. It says, “You should have taken the trash out last night, should be walking the dog first thing in the morning instead of writing, should be getting up even earlier or shifting your writing time to after midnight because don’t you want to be a writer? If you really wanted to be a writer, you would write no matter the exhaustion and the desire to spend time with your family and the need to go to work to support that family.”
Just because you miss one day’s (or a week or a month or however much) worth of writing doesn’t mean you can’t be a writer or that you aren’t a “real” writer.
How Do You Feel Guilty?
In the past, the Guilt Monster hung around and made me feel bad all the time. The worst was the idea that if I wasn’t putting all available time and effort into writing what I thought I should be writing when I thought I should be writing it, I didn’t have the dedication to be a writer. I didn’t love writing the way I thought I did.
So, I felt guilty for not writing and guilty for not waking up at some god-awful time in the morning to write and guilty for spending all this time loving writing and not putting any time or effort into the process.
Oh yeah. It’s like curling up in a warm blanket and discovering it was only warm because someone peed on it and that person was you, and now you are wrapped in a cold, wet, smelly rag.
Now, it’s time to escape from the Guilt Monster faster than you would flail your way out of that rag.
Here’s the secret: You get to use your body and mind and spirit to write. By identifying and accepting what is true about you, you can figure out how to make it happen.
Let me explain.
At one point, I decided that I needed to get up at 4:30 am and write. I’d read blog posts, articles, and books by people who had done this and achieved all sorts of amazing things. Also, it was the time of day I could get a large block of writing done (I’d decided I needed to write for two hours each day) before I went to work.
Also, I was in my late forties, which was when my genetics switched over and turned me into a morning robin instead of a night owl, so I was pretty confident I could make it happen.
The first day, I woke up at 4:30 am—no alarm necessary! I trotted back to my writing space and wrote for my two hours. Then, I repeated this process for a few days in a row.
As the days plodded on, I grew nauseous, developed headaches, and exhaustion destroyed my focus by noon. I pushed through my day job and collapsed upon arriving home. Dinner? What dinner? How about frozen pizza again?
This schedule could not continue.
The Guilt Monster showed up with his teeth bared.
How could I consider myself a writer if I didn’t break my body to make it happen? How could I have wasted all this time on my writing when I wasn’t even dedicated enough to sacrifice my entire being to the cause? What had I done to my family by trying to be a writer?
Yeah. The Guilt Monster played the LA Sonata with all of its arpeggios.
Defeating the Guilt Monster
Begin by knowing this: that guilt you’re feeling? It’s normal. Natural. Bring your tray over here and have lunch with us at the writer’s table!
Let’s talk about comparing ourselves to others. We all do it. Looking at someone else and their writing process is a great way to get ideas for ourselves. However, it’s important to remember that those people who state with authority that “You MUST Do This to Be a Writer” are only telling you what worked for THEM.
They don’t know you. They’ve never met you.
You are the only person who knows what works for you.
In my case, those people didn’t know that my body and mind needed to stay in bed until at least 6:00 am. They didn’t know that my entire being would rebel and put me in a sickbed for days when I attempted waking up at 4:30 am.
And that was okay. Getting up that early could work for them.
It didn’t work for ME.
After spending time in the hellhole of my “I’m not good enough” guilt, I realized, even though getting up super early didn’t work for me, that didn’t mean I wasn’t a dedicated writer. That just meant getting up super early didn’t work for me.
And I didn’t have to do it. I could try something else.
I began experimenting with my process, finding the time and space and environment I needed to make my writing happen. To discover what worked for MY fingers to get the words on the page.
Any websites or blog posts or articles or books that proclaimed their way of writing was the best and only way? Out with the trash, baby! The comparison shop was closed.
Listen to Yourself
The best way to find what works for you is to listen to your body, your mind, and your heart. To get quiet, spend some time thinking deeply and differently about your process, and consider these questions.
Have I done anything before that might work here? If not, can I imagine something that might work? That could help me write regularly?
And when that idea bubbles up in your mind, try it. Even if ten thousand people are screaming at you that it won’t work, why not just give it a try? Look at that crowd and say, “So what? I’m doing it anyway.”
Even if it doesn’t work, at least you’re taking action. And that action quiets the static in your brain thinking, “I’ll never be a good writer because I can’t make (fill in your particular guilt trip here) work.”
That static goes away, and what remains is the time and space to do the work that you want to be doing.
Yep. Taking action silences the Guilt Monster. For the most part.
Walking away from the Guilt Monster doesn’t happen overnight. It still shows up, looming over you with familiar refrains. But the words stacking up on the page, chapters forming, stories being written, all of these help you give the Guilt Monster’s talons a needed manicure and make it harder for it to play the instrument that is you.
***This post uses Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching Tools™.
Tell us in the comments: What actions do you take to defeat the Guilt Monster?
LA (as in tra-la-la) Bourgeois empowers you to embrace JOY as you manifest your creative goals through her Creativity and Business Coaching. Battle resistance, procrastination, and overwhelm with her at your side, gently encouraging with humor and heart. Discover more at her website, labourgeois.biz