We feel bad for writing. We feel bad for not writing. We critique ourselves for not living up to expectations, failing to do the dishes, and falling under word counts. Guilt has strangled more burgeoning novels than we will ever know, and it’s time to put it to a stop.
Give Your Guilt Some Attention
Sometimes, your guilt may be validated. Maybe you really are failing to do something that has consequences for others. More often than not, though, your guilt is rootless. It stems from false equivalencies, unrealistic comparisons, and general perfectionism. The only way to tell, though, is by sitting down and giving your angst some face time.
List all the things that cause guilt and anxiety blocking you from writing. Maybe you feel bad because you haven’t taken the dog for a good, long walk this week. You obsess over the fact that you haven’t made your word count for the past few days. Your friend got published and you haven’t. Dig deep and figure out why these things bother you.
In the case of the dogs, you’re genuinely concerned about the animal’s welfare and worry that as its owner, you are not providing everything it needs. That may be a valid guilt. It’s also an opportunity. Walking is great for brainstorming, focus, and energy. Caving to that guilt may help make your remaining writing time more productive. In the case of your word count and your published friend, though, you have no reason to feel guilty or anxious. Figure out why you feel this erroneous guilt so you can address the source.
Practice Letting Go
Guilt is a distant cousin of self-pity. Don’t let it consume you. Once you dig down to the roots of your guilt trips, work on letting those things go. Most writers deal with perfectionism on some level, and that fuels plenty of guilt, because none of us will ever be perfect. Work on challenging and revising the expectations that force you to feel bad.
Lower your writing goals, even for a few weeks so you can regain your equilibrium. Look at everything you’ve accomplished, and know that you are still moving in the right direction. Most importantly, work on understanding that perfection is an illusion at best and a poison at worst. A perfect novel has never been written. Don’t try to be perfect, just try to be true to your own vision.
Work on Mindfulness and Meditation
It sounds like a cliché, but these practices do actually help cognitive awareness. Meditation helps you focus, and mindfulness helps you get down to work faster. Both offer potent anti-guilt benefits. They erase real-life fantasies that lead to needless guilt so you can immerse yourself in your fiction work. There are plenty of free apps, tutorials, and guided video sessions online. Not all will work for you, but all it takes is one little break through to make a big difference.
Are you ready to conquer your guilt and anxiety? You’ll feel better, and you’ll write better without those shackles slowing you down. Awareness is the first step, so you’ve already made progress, just by reading this post.