Overcoming Writers Guilt

Can I be honest? Right now, I feel like a terrible wife and mother. I also feel like an inconsiderate friend. I am in the process of writing another novel and it has simply taken over my whole life.

My day to day life is already busy. I have a very demanding job and three children to look after. Working from home is not practical as I tend to blend my home life into my work life. I put on the dishwasher between meetings, cook dinner, clean the house and do all the things I would normally wait till the weekend to do if I was working from the office. This means that I am constantly on the go. 

Throw a book into the mix and suddenly, my life is filled with late nights, early morning and lots of fast food. I feel guilty. I am not spending as much time with family or friends. I have had to step back from various aspects of my everyday life like social media so I can have the time to focus. Although it seems like a small price to pay, I have missed big things like - My own birthday wishes and celebrations, pictures of my friends wedding, pictures of a friends new baby, engaging in various social platforms and so much more.

Is there anything like a life write balance? I need that. When I start on a book I get so engrossed. Don't get me wrong, I do not write everyday, and I am not churning out books each month. The truth is, even if I am not actually writing on screen, I am writing in my head. Once I conceive an idea, it doesn't go away. Yes, I have had a few book miscarriages but most times, the conception is strong and it becomes a delicate pregnancy that I must carry to birth. 

The last twelve months I have been head writing, allowing the baby to grow on the inside. Now, it is birth time, it is putting to paper time, it is bring the book out of me time and though it is time of joy and hard work, it is also a time of guilt. Writer's guilt.

I know not every writer experiences this. Some people write full time and so it is their job without any other conflicting priorities. I am not there yet. I have so many conflicting priorities that suffer in this time of book birth. Whilst I enjoy it, I think my friends and family don't enjoy it as much.

When my husband asks to have our movie nights in or dinners out, my response is - I'm writing.

When my teenage sons want a lift in mummy taxi, my response is - I'm writing.

When my sister or friends call for a long chat or ask for a visit or night out, my response is - I'm writing.

Need I go on? By now, you get the gist! Can you relate?

As guilty as I feel though, I am in labour and this book is not waiting, this means that everyone else has to wait. I know it sounds selfish and maybe it is but I get to that point where I just cant help myself, I need to get this baby out. I am so engrossed. 

I am also battling a lot of emotions when I write, the most prominent is FEAR... that little voice that says "this is rubbish" or "no one will read that". I won't digress and talk about writer's fear, that's a whole separate post. What I will say is, it is exhausting and it can add to the guilt that I feel. How can I be absent to my friends and family simply to write rubbish? That's how fear makes me feel. I hate it. 

There are two tips I have learnt to overcome writers guilt.

1. I see book birth as a season. I know it will be a difficult time, so I try to plan ahead. I go out of my way to make myself present for many months before I get to the time where I have to be absent and focused to write.

2. I try to manage the expectations my family and friends by providing a timeline. I have found that this helps them, but it also helps me. So for example, I have dedicated the month of December to writing. This means that instead of giving a vague response, I can give a postponed response i.e can we go out in January? I am writing in December.

These two things have helped me. I use them, but I wonder why the guilt never completely goes away. I have to keep reminding myself - IT IS A SEASON and hold on to that truth with my dear life. It keeps me sane it keep me going and it gives me peace when I see my kids roll their eyes at me or my husband walks away feeling ignored. I sigh, take a breath and remind myself - It is a season!

I must say though, my family and friends are very supportive and they do understand. The guilt is my own burden that I carry and I learn to remind myself each day to simply put it down. 

P.S - winter writing requires lots of hot coffee and a very warm hooded blanket. 


Peter Leyland said…
That question what am I doing this for? is a constant in whatever form of writing one undertakes. I like the metaphor of giving birth, although of course having no actual experience myself of this event first hand, but the creative process lends itself to that idea. A novel, a poem, an article, a book - needs to 'gestate' before arriving fully formed and even then like a baby it still needs looking after. Now before I get carried away with more metaphors, thanks for the post and hope it comes to term - whoops! Happy Xmas
Ruth Leigh said…
I completely understand. I love your analogies around books and birth. I am moving from the book being in my head to going down on paper and I'll be the same. Not available all the time. But that is what you do, Amanda. You are a writer and as you say, you're not writing one every month. Can't wait to see what you produce.
Amanda Bedzrah said…
Thank you much Peter and Ruth. Words of encouragement are often a balm to the soul.

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