Monday, February 01, 2010


Recently I blogged about words.  I talked about how writer's write and said:
Writer's write.  Writers may also blog, tweet, critique, whine (I'm a fan of that), outline, vlog, etc., but they all write.  Or should write (and that's a topic for another blog as well).
And since I promised to write another blog dealing with the "should write" part, I thought I'd go ahead and talk about that today.  Up until a year ago, I was working full time while I was also writing.  I've mentioned before that this often takes some sacrifices: I used to watch TV every night and now I don't, I used to cook dinner (or JP did) and now we don't that often.  I used to have free time and gave up most of that as well.

I also spent a whole lot of time feeling guilty for NOT writing.  My logic was this: if writer's write and I want to be a writer but I'm not writing, that must mean I don't want to be a writer after all.  Writing became a lot like exercise: I know I like it once I start doing it, I know I feel amazing afterward, but it's often really hard to motivate when LIFE gets in the way.

One of the anecdotes I tell when asked about finding time to write is that I wrote a chunk of The Forest of Hands and Teeth when I was also prepping for a trial and working crazy hours.  There were nights I'd come home and set the water to boil and write during the eight minutes that it took to make mac'n'cheese.  What I don't mention are the weeks when I wrote nothing because of work, because of life, because I didn't know what happened next or just because I plain old wasn't writing.

Free time became so valuable to me then (because I had so little of it to myself) that I hated spending my precious little bit stressed out about something I felt I *should* have been doing, like writing (or cleaning, or cooking, or weeding, or reading, or talking with my family).  And I finally realized something: if I'm not going to write, I'm going to own that decision.

I decided I was done with guilt.

I decided something else: not writing doesn't mean you can't or don't want to be a writer, it just means that maybe something else is taking precedence right now.  Life isn't easy and it's certainly not easy to balance and juggle all the various parts of it.  Sometimes you have to put all your energy into your day job or your family or whatever else and sometimes you need to come home after a long day and veg on the couch and let your brain recover.

There's a difference between passively deciding not to write (i.e. just not deciding to make time for it, not analyzing your priorities, just not getting around to it) and actively deciding not to write (realizing that now may not be the best time to fit an additional "should" in your life.)  And if you make an active decision not to write, then own that decision.  Enjoy the time you save and don't feel guilty for it.


J. Koyanagi said...

Thanks for the reminder to shed the guilt; I think we all need to hear that sometimes. It's all about balance No one can do everything flawlessly all the time. Great post.

Anna Staniszewski said...

Amen! Writers tend to be a bit neurotic anyway, so I think we beat ourselves up over things, even when there's not much we can do about them. I really like your distinction between active not-writing and passive not-writing.

Daisy Whitney said...

Love this post. I totally feel guilty when I don't write, but you're right -- it's a person decision and I can also decide not to feel guilty!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much. This is the very issue I've been grappling with during an extraordinary semester at work.


miss_melange said...

This. Pretty much the best thing i've read in awhile. That's good guilt free advice.

Anonymous said...

Carrie, your post is just what I needed today. I've been feeling exactly this same way. Writing is the one part of my life that has been taking a back burner for years, and when I thought I'd finally figured out how to include it, I'm afraid it'll be abandoned again. I do write when my chaotic life allows.

Thanks again for your thoughts today and encouragement!


Darin said...

Very few words made onto the page of any of my WIP's this January, and I have carried a bit of guilt about this. Reading your blog made me feel so much better. I know the creative juices will flow again soon, but I just don't think I've been in my "happy writing place" for a couple of months now. Nice to hear from you and the others that its okay to take some time off!

M said...

Very good post. It's so easy to drive myself crazy thinking that since I want this career I should be spending every spare minute writing, which of course isn't really possible. And it's not like I need anything else to be neurotic about!

Sage Ravenwood said...

In a post I wrote 'Rainy Day Muse' one of the lines I wrote toward the very end was:

"I’m trying not to forget there is a life strung in between these words of mine, a real live breathing persona."

At the time I was overwhelmed with the details, that flooded my brain screaming to be written and waiting (still waiting) for results from my Dr. In that moment I realized we can't forget we are human and sometimes as you said, life takes precedence. (Hugs)Indigo

Stephanie said...

I so struggle with this!! I've got four kids (I'm typing with my 6 yrd old autistic daughter sleeping on my lap) and I'm in graduate school working on my master's degree. Sometimes I don't have time to shower, let alone write!

Thanks for reminding me that sometimes it's okay for other things to have a higher priority than writing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this! It's hard sometimes, between doing the whole college thing, working part time, and still trying to fit in time to write, then feeling guilty for not writing, or feeling guilty because I decide I should really concentrate on school right now, and shelving the writing until I have a break from school.

Beverley BevenFlorez said...

Fantastic post. It took awhile before I'd leave my computer home during vacations, because there was that part of me that felt if I had free time I should be writing. I added a link to your post on my blog today. :)

Cassie - Vegan Fox said...

Thank you for the inspiration! I can easily make myself feel guilty for the way I use my time, forgetting that there isn't time for everything at once and that is important to make those decisions, like you mention. Thanks for the blogs on writing, I share these with my teen writing group and they love them!