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:
- What/who pushes your guilt buttons when you’re trying to write?
- How do you choose whether to keep writing or not?
- What questions do you ask yourself in order to find the right balance and keep your priorities straight?
- 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.