Friday, February 26, 2010

Guilty Writer's Anonymous

Hello. My name is Shannon. And I'm a guilty writer.

At first...I thought it was dedication.

Turning off my phone so I could write without interruption. Setting aside time each evening and weekend for writing. Staying up just a little later than normal. Waking up just a tiny bit earlier.

And then...the guilt started.

Soon the idea of a movie--2 whole hours of uninterrupted entertainment--tied my stomach up in knots. I felt guilty when I watched TV--so guilty I kept my laptop at my side, and snuck in a little proofreading during commercials. Then I cut out TV all together. Books even started piling up. How could I read someone else's story when I wasn't done with my own?

It got worse.

 Sleep became nonexistent. Meals scarce. I even cut out Twitter (well, for the most part. I can't live without a *little* bit of Twitter.)

And still the guilt loomed.

I told myself, "When I finish my revision things will go back to normal."'s been five days since I finished my revision, and the guilt hasn't lessoned.

If anything it's worse.

Now it's not just my current draft--it's the next book as well. 

How can I spare any time for myself when I have a new book to write, plus the old one to try to sell?

How can I sit and enjoy a TV show or a concert when I have an outline to write and Zombiedillo haunting me until I do?

How will I ever balance the responsibilities of writing with the desire to have some semblance of a life?

There has to be a way.

So I'm taking the first step today and admitting I have a problem.

And...I'm wondering if I'm not alone.

How about you--are YOU a guilty writer?


  1. Totally am. I feel guilty when I watch TV, read another book, write my posts (blogging)--I want to get to revising and soak myself into my characters without interruption but then my home life takes over and another guilt sets in that I need to take care of my kids (those little monsters). You will get there--you are not alone:)

  2. I am. My house is a mess and has been for months. I don't want to wash the dishes either. It all piles up. The thought of watching a movie when I could be writing bothers me. My advice. Try not to turn stuff down for writing. Movies and TV and books are one thing. But turning down seeing a friend or going out is bad. You have to still live your life. (That's what I try to do--but I don't even want to shop anymore. )

  3. I'm in the brain mush writers funk, so no guilt here. I totally watched American Idol and Grey's Anatomy last night. Sigh...I WISH I was a guilty writer. It will come back...right?

  4. I've done okay lately. December and January I was majorly guilty, but I think i"m back on track (for now.)
    Don't feel too bad, but do remember your new characters can't live without you. ;)

  5. The guiltiest!!!!!!!! I can barely leave my house without taking my laptop with me!

  6. I'm a guilty blogger...I have been so bad lately that I had to declare rules for myself AND I'll be taking a five day break in the beginning of March, so I can read, write, and drink.

  7. I am mostly guilty because my husband will come home and say, so hopefully, "Let's watch a movie!!" and all I can think is, "But I haven't reached my writing goal yet!!" Usually it takes about 30 minutes of movie time, and I've picked my laptop up and am sneaking in some revisions or reading writing-related blogs or something...

  8. I'd love to say I am, but life finds me all too often and I've gotten really good at putting my writing on the back burner. I wish I had more guilt, then maybe I'd get more writing done!

  9. Nope. Not guilty at all, actually, since I remember to eat and stuff. Except I'm sure my wife would prefer I tapped at the laptop a bit less. Er... maybe a tiny bit guilty, then. But only a tiny bit. Yes.

  10. Oh man, I'm so glad you're admitting to the problem. First step and all... ;o) I really don't have the guilt thing, maybe I should! I love tv too much, and hanging with my friends. I think a nice balance works for me. I write at night almost every day, and that works, for now...

    Good Luck to you! Go see a movie! The words will be there when you get back ;o)

  11. Oh, girl, you've got it bad! But maybe that's a good thing. I could use a little writing guilt myself. :-)

  12. I'm strange in that I'll go through phases, I'll spend like a month in a serious writing frenzy, then I won't want to write anything for like two weeks.

    The thing you need to remember is that you NEED some time away from your manuscript sometimes. Time to distance yourself, especially after finishing a first draft.

    Just give yourself permission to let that first draft stew once you've finished it. It'll help you see the story with fresh eyes.

    Good luck!

  13. As a young mom, there's a lot of guilt associated with writing for me. If I let things slide around the house too long, I feel guilty about that, but if I let my writing slide to take care of the house, I feel guilty about that, too. I'm still working on finding a balance between living my life and letting my characters live.

  14. Guilty! Seriously, I even feel guilty about reading blogs. I tell myself, "just one more and then I'll go write." Of course, I'm lying.

  15. Usually, I make a conscious effort to balance writing with other stuff. I would go crazy otherwise. Okay, maybe it's not a conscious effort. Maybe it's called "homework"....and a reality TV addiction.

    Speaking of which, whatever happened to Idol debriefing?! My Idolheart is lonely. :(

  16. Yes, this is definitely me. I always feel guilty, although I've started to get better with the new year.

  17. Oh, I'm so used to guilt it hardly even bothers me. I feel guilty when I'm not writing (those books aren't going to write themselves) and I feel guilty when I am (my husband and kids don't need food, water and love, right?)

    I guess it's just about balance. You have to write to live, but you can't write without living. *sigh* But balance ain't easy, I'll tell ya that!

  18. You are NOT alone! I think we should start a "Forget the Guilt" campaign!

  19. YES! Though this really only began in my revising stage because I'm SO CLOSE. I never had that problem in the writing part, as long as I was moving forward steadily.

    And some of the guilt stems from my deadlines/goals being self-imposed. This is my DREAM and instead I'm, what, watching TV? I definitely do watch TV (only the shows I LOVE) about 4-5 hours/week, but my Netflix movie has been sitting on my ottoman for three weeks, and unless a book is an audiobook, I have barely been reading for pleasure because audiobooks mean I multitask -- I'm already in my car!

    And even when I do take time for myself and (gasp) sit down and watch a movie WITHOUT my laptop, I feel guilty. That's the worst part. I rarely 100% enjoy my "me" time, my "sanity-preserving" time. I want my 100% back!

    The good news is, I'm not too far gone. I still make time for family and friends, and I try to quiet that voice in my head that tells me it's a shame that I could've spent the time writing.

    I think the most important thing is to constantly fight that guilt. Writing a novel and getting it publication-ready is a huge, full-time undertaking that we writers try to squeeze into our "spare" time. That's epic!

    Alright, now I'm going to go follow my own advice and watch that Netflix movie tonight! Good luck!

  20. Wow--So many comments. Glad to see I'm not alone!

    Christine: Wow, I can't imagine battling Writer's guilt AND Mommy's guilt. You deserve an award for that. And nice to meet you by the way. I love meeting new writers.

    Sarah: You're right. Friends and family are more important--though I will admit, I have seen my friends less lately. Hopefully they will forgive me for my neglect.

    Marybeth: LOL. If it doesn't I'd be happy to loan you a little of my guilt. I have PLENTY to spare. ;)

    Karen: It's true. They need me. But...they're ruining my life. I guess the payback is that I get to put them through Hell. Muwhahahahaha

    Frankie: I know. It's like...worse than my cell phone. I'm practically joined at the hip.

    Jonathan: OMG, a five day break sounds like HEAVEN. (especially the drinking part.) I need to find a way to do that...

    Heather: That is SO me! My poor husband has had to watch so many movies with the clickety clack of my laptop in the background it's not even funny. Poor guy.

    Alygatr: I guess it's about balance. Like I offered Marybeth--if you want some of my guilt, I have a FULL supply.

    Simon: LOL. A tiny bit of guilt is fine. I need to find a way to minimize mine. Perhaps I should try your method and use copious amounts of alcohol...

    Erica: Wow, you sound really balanced. I'm very impressed. Must try to steal your attitude.

    Shannon: I do have it bad. I'd be happy to loan you some of my guilt.

    Tere: Yes--fresh eyes are SO important. It's just...there's so much I can do while it stews. Critiquing my friends drafts, blogging, character exercises, outlining the next draft. It never ends!!!

    Kayleen: It's so hard. Why do the characters have to steal our lives to have their own? Maybe if we all band together we can figure this out.

    Solvang Sherrie: Aw, thanks.

    Myrna: Ah yes, blogging. Don't even get me started on the guilt associated with that.

    Sarah: I KNOW! We missed all of Hollywood week!!! I'm here to debrief--it's the one show I squeeze in. You know where to find me. ;)

    J. Koyanagi: I'm going to try. Book Two cannot be as all consuming as book one. It just can't! (*is delusional*)

    Kelly: You're right. Balance isn't easy. It's like the brass ring we all strive for. Someday we'll get there. I hope...

    Nisa: I agree. *ponders* I may have to do a post on that--once I stop being the poster child for Writer's Guilt that is

    Donna: That's how it was for me too. I was doing okay...and then I got close, and then I booked the writers conference and it was all deadline this, panic that. And now the guilt won't leave. But you put it perfect. I want my 100% too. When is the ME time? So good for you. You go watch that movie, and--even harder--NOT feel guilty!

  21. YES! This is me. This is my life. If I'm spending time with my kids I feel guilt about not writing. If I'm writing I think I should be spending time with my kids. I never watch tv anymore. I NEVER watch a movie at home. I have time to watch a movie, then I should be writing. I "auditioned" for a critique group and part of their concern was if I was serious about my writing. Seriously? Talk about add to my pressure.

    I have realized I need to find a balance in my life and create specific time for family and specific time for writing. However, I haven't done this yet. I tell myself I'll do it when I finish writing this current WIP. Which will then turn into when I finish EDITING my WIP... you get the point.

    Is there a 12 step program for authors?

  22. Yeah..I balance this due to my husband. He pretty much forces ME time. He is the first to say: WRITE - ONLY WRITE, but he is also the first to say: YOU NEED SOME PRINCESS TIME! really. He keeps me as balanced as a writer ever is. We TiVo EVERYTHING so that we can work around ME time. He also controls the Netflix que he knows that there are times when there is no need to put a Courtney Movie on the list.

    Don't get me wrong, there are lapses where guilt is the worst factor. But I just try to remember that sometimes the character's need a quick break. They need to breathe a little and reevaluate our current direction. So don't feel too will make the time if the story means enough. ;o)

  23. You are not alone. Do I feel guilt that I'd rather blog and write on a Friday night than go out and socialize with my friends?


    Yet, here I am, at my laptop, working on a paragraph or two while I catch up on my reader, knowing that my social life is passing me by.

    (But, there's always Saturday night, afterall.)

    I justify it: I'll do something social tomorrow night, after writing in the afternoon! I won't start that next chapter until I plan a girl's night out. Etc. Always.

  24. Yup. Guilty.

    Even with the blog reading. My internet connection was down for 2 days, and I couldn't read other people's blogs - I've spent HOURS catching up!

  25. I wish I were a guilty writer! I end up wasting so much time blogging, reading, watching tv, I never get any writing done. And then I feel guilty about it. So I guess I'm the opposite!

  26. Guilty as charged. Netflix stacking up, TBR pile teetering. But I did go for a walk with a friend today, so I'm not a total failure at life beyond writing.

  27. Sometimes. Stuff piles up. I blame the kids, lol. But with work and little ones, I can't even always get to thr writing, so I have to make peace with the ever-shifting priority list. I'm trying.


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