A No-Guilt Writing Life

Does taking time to write make you feel guilty? In her book Writing as a Way of Healing, Louise DeSalvo said, “Many people…have told me that taking time to write seems so, well, self-indulgent, self-involved, frivolous even.”

Does that describe you? Do you fight your own guilty feelings that say you should be doing something more productive? Does writing–especially if you haven’t sold much or aren’t making piles of money from it–feel selfish to you? Do the real (or imagined) opinions of others keep you from spending time writing or making it more of a priority?

The Stages of Guilt

When our children are small, we fight the guilt that comes with motherhood. Are we taking too much time away from the kids? is it really good that they’ve learned to entertain themselves so well? Is it really the responsible thing that my kids are the only ones on the block who know how to run the washing machine and cook meals? Will the children remember Mom as someone without a face, only a hunched back and tapping fingers?

I used to wonder all those things when my kids were small. But we needed the money from the book contracts I was receiving, and at least I was home. (Only technically, it felt sometimes.) You may know the feeling. When you’re writing, you feel like you should be doing crafts or baking with the kids. When you’re making the umpteenth finger painting, you long to be writing.

This Too Shall Pass…or Will It?

Once my children were grown and on their own, I thought the guilt would stop. But I really identified with Carol Rottman in Writers in the Spirit when she said:

“Now all I have to do is quell my guilt over the things I displace because of my indulgence in writing. There are so many worthy causes that regularly tempt me to leave the desk. A sister describes me as ‘driven’ when I am so serious about my work, and friends wonder why I don’t join them for lunch. My children and young grandchildren, all within a twenty-mile radius, can use as much time as I can give.”

The Cure for Guilt

As in so many cases, the cure for guilt seems to be in finding the right balance. Balance between time for writing and time for family/job/home/church/community. Have you found the balance that works for you and your family? It will look different if your children are babies than if they’re teens or adults.

But how do you find that balance and banish the guilt? Take some time on your own and prayerfully answer the following questions:

  1. What/who pushes your guilt buttons when you’re trying to write?
  2. How do you choose whether to keep writing or not?
  3. What questions do you ask yourself in order to find the right balance and keep your priorities straight?
  4. What are you willing to give up of your own in order to make time to write?

Once you’ve decided, make a schedule for your writing, inform friends and family, and then make a firm commitment to banish the guilt. Trust me on this. Even if you now prioritize your days according to guilt (like I did for decades), you can do this. And in a surprisingly short amount of time, when you see the world goes on functioning while you’re writing, the guilt will fade away.

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8 Responses to A No-Guilt Writing Life

  1. Karin Larson says:

    Wonderful post, Kristi. I needed to read this! Guilt is a tricky thing, both the guilt I feel myself and that I sense from others. Thank you for sharing!

    • kwpadmin says:

      I think that discerning between real and false guilt is the hardest thing. What I used to sense from others turned out to be in my imagination at least half the time, as it turned out.

      • So true, Kristi! Here we go, feeling guilty about something that no one else even thinks about! Thanks for this post–very timely for me.

        • kwpadmin says:

          Jane, that is so true! It took me months and months to “set some boundaries” in various situations, and only in ONE situation did anyone even mind much at all! What a shock to find out how much of my guilt had been self-induced!

  2. Vijaya says:

    Yes, I positively feel heartless at times … but I’m never sorry about choosing the writing.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Vijaya, isn’t that the oddest thing really? If you push through the (false) guilt and just write, the rest of the day goes so much better! :-)

  3. Heather says:

    What a perfectly timed post! I’m just learning to set a schedule for my writing and making sure other people, myself included, respect that time.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Heather, that is the most important. When WE start taking the writing seriously, others will too. For some reason, “Mommy’s working” always carried more clout than “Mommy’s writing.” But writing IS work, as we know! Good luck to you!

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