When I envision Guilt, I picture a hunched over little man, maybe only 6 inches tall, with a screwed up angry face and a very pointed pitchfork. He pokes me with this pitchfork right in the gut, repeatedly. Today, I picked him up by the scruff of his little red trousers and put him out with the recycling. Maybe someone else can use Guilt today, because he is no longer welcome in my house.
Writers are very familiar with my little goblin, Guilt. Maybe theirs is taller and has a big spear, but the end result is the same. Jab. Jab. Jab.
There are times when Guilt is useful: “Watching that episode of ‘Downton Abbey’ for a -third- time? Go write, you lazy schlub.”
But the majority of the time, Guilt is not useful: “I don’t care if you’ve worked close to open, close to open shifts all week! Why aren’t you writing? Who cares if you are falling asleep on your laptop? WRITE!” Jab. Jab. Jab.
To complicate matters, social media often dials into our sense of NOW, do it NOW, or you’ll fall behind. Who doesn’t feel a sense of urgency when you hear of other writers getting book deals, getting published, getting awards and kudos and you can’t help but think “AIGGGGHH! Why isn’t this manuscript done?”
The good news: for most of us, the only deadline is our self-imposed one. So cut yourself some slack. Do something other than write. Read a book, take a walk, watch a ball game, talk to a friend, cook an amazing meal and eat it, stare at your ceiling and play with your cat.
Let us collectively give ourselves permission to rest our creative brain. Ruining your health to satisfy your own inner deadline monster is a disaster. And, I hate to say it, but Guilt is never happy. He will keep jabbing you as long as you let him.
Your book will be there when you return, I promise. It’s sitting right there, beaming contentedly. And you may find that when you come back it is far easier to edit and tweak, now that you have some space.
Thus, my house is now officially a NO GUILT ZONE.
This post was inspired by a conversation with my writing group, The NoInklings. Deep gratitude to Angie, Angela, Ali, Cara, Dasia, Daniel, Lillie and Ruth for keeping me sane during bouts of Guilt. And Laziness, my other goblin, but that is for another post.
Goblin image courtesy of the magnificently talented Tony DiTerlizzi.