The Guilt of Writing

I have realised recently, both from my own experience and from hearing about the experiences of others, that there really is a lot of guilt going hand-in-hand with writing for some authors. It can sound fanciful to some, but it to others it can be something which dries up the flow of inspiration and makes writing a guilt-ridden task rather than a joyful expression of creativity.

The Guilt of Writing - Philippa Jane Keyworth

Power of Words by Antonio Litterio – Wikipedia

Sometimes it comes when the desire of publishing enters the picture and writing suddenly begins to be about what can sell, what other people will like, and making sure you’ve written enough words that day.

For others it can be a part of being published and working on forth-coming work. You can be driven by the word count, by finishing by a certain date, or even driven to do loads of promoting. There is a lot of ‘shoulds’, ‘oughts’ and ‘need to’s’.

The worst is the comparison with other authors. There are authors I admire and wish to emulate, there are people who’s literary position I would like to attain someday, but when it becomes some sort of odd competition of getting more books out than that person, hitting the number one spot on Amazon or writing a dozen blog posts a day to out-do others, it can get very intense.

Whatever the reason, I’m getting the impression that I, and quite a few other authors, are feeling pressure where our writing is concerned. The truth is, there’s no easy fix. There aren’t ten top things to do, or some rules to follow. There isn’t a plan of action or a list to tick off. However, with all this pressure, all these goals, I find my inspiration rapidly drying up and where once there were valleys of verdant words, tall, shady paragraphs and winding flowing chapters, there is a whole lot of nothing.

The Guilt of Writing - Philippa Jane Keyworth

I used to have a similar one like this – some of my first stories were written on it…

For me, when writing becomes a chore, it becomes a nothing. The funny plot-twists and deep characters are all forced, and all that sitting down for half an hour and forcing myself to write does, is leave me puffing and petulant.

In a world where everything happens in a few seconds, where movie sequels come out faster and faster, and where some blessed authors bang out several books a year, it’s so easy to grow impatient and disillusioned. The thing is, I know it’s cheesey, but every writer IS different. No one writes exactly the same way, and that’s a GOOD thing, otherwise we’d probably all be writing the same book. AND, writing is a CREATIVE pursuit and in a rather fruity way, we are all artists, so it’s hardly surprising that by pigeon-holing ourselves, writing extensive to-do lists and putting unrealistic time-frames around our work, that we become very, very, very discontented.

We need to cut ourselves a little slack and run by our own clock, not everyone else’s. We need to remember that all of us have different lives to lead. Some of us work full-time, some of us have kids, some of us are free all the time and other’s are in a season of change. So to compare our writing styles and lives by how much work we put out, or something similar, really is quite ludicrous, everyone is different.

The Guilt of Writing - Philippa Jane Keyworth

Agatha Christie claimed it took just three months to write a ‘good book’ – Well that was a time-frame that obviously worked for her, but not necessarily for the rest of us. Agatha Christie Plaque by Torre Abbey – Wikipedia

And, we need to remember why we write – not for the money, not for the fame (I HOPE) – but for the love of it. And if a certain routine worked once but now has us feeling all holed up and frustrated, then switch it up. If you’re happy to work a tight schedule while editing then do it, but if you need it free and easy whilst you write something completely new, then do it. Or vice versa, whatever works for you, whatever leaves you inspired, tapping out words and beaming like a cheery chipmunk.

The guilt only gets us down when we let it. We need to cast it off and learn to be contented with where we are on the writing journey, after all, we’ll never be in this exact same spot again 😉

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4 thoughts on “The Guilt of Writing

  1. Debra Brown

    Excellent that you brought this out into the open. It is so true! I have a lot of guilt for presuming to be an author. I didn’t go to Author U., you see. I wrote as a hobby. So who am I, really? A fake. I’m glad readers liked my book, though! I revised my book after the first year and some actual education, but some of the more educated types gave me low ratings on the first version. Can’t blame them! Plugging away on #2, guilt and all.

    Reply
    1. Philippa Jane Keyworth Post author

      Good to hear you’re plugging away on the second one! I think it’s a subject not many writers are necessarily going to admit to, but I feel so much better when I realise I’m guilt-tripping myself and then choose not to feel that way and carry on.

      I find it especially hard when I look at other authors. What I really need to do is view other authors as role-models NOT as comparisons.

      My worst habit is beating myself up for not knowing enough of the history behind my books, but I keep having to remind myself that I’m only 23 and haven’t even finished my degree yet! Px

      Reply
  2. Grace Elliot

    A timely post. Remembering the roots of why you write is always worth doing – whether you’ve been slammed by some troll reviewers or finishing the manuscript seems an impossible task – if you recall the joy of being creative, then you can enjoy the process and worry less about what others think.

    Reply

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