Writer Wednesday: 5 Ways To Overcome Writer's Guilt

The writing life is tough enough. With the pressures of deadlines, always needing new work to submit, and the occasional writer’s block, the last thing a serious writer needs is to feel guilty about his or her craft. This guilt can stem from a variety of places, like having to cancel plans with friends in order to finish your new story, or from not making enough money to make all that work seem worthwhile.

But all hope is not lost! Writer’s Relief has come up with five practical ways to help minimize your guilt complex and maximize your writing potential:

Is your lack of publication credits making you feel like your effort isn’t worth it? Do you find yourself pulling all-nighters to finish your short story for a big contest, only to end up not winning? These situations can make it increasingly difficult for you to justify the time and hard work you spent writing, leading to a sense of guilt over the “wasted” time.

Luckily, you can look at it this way: All authors had to start somewhere. Every well-known author was at some point an unpublished writer, so each moment you spend writing and submitting brings you one step closer to that first publication credit. And, who knows, that first publication credit could launch the writing career you’ve always dreamed of (and worked so hard for!).

Feeling guilty for not letting everyone read your work? It’s Thanksgiving and your family is over for the festivities. Naturally, your mother starts talking about this amazing story you’ve been working on for days and days. The next thing you know, the whole family wants a private reading. But the story’s just not finished, and you’re hesitant to show it to anyone quite yet. Your family’s disappointed, possibly even a little offended, and now you feel guilty.

Explain to Uncle Joey and Aunt Martha that revealing your work to a workshop or writing group is very different than showing your writing to close family and friends, as their opinions hold much more emotional weight than a writing partner’s. Offer to give them an exclusive reading once you feel the piece is ready to be seen by editors. Keep in mind that your writing is your art—it belongs to you—and if you’re not comfortable sharing it, you don’t have to. Your family and friends are more likely to understand your feelings once they know how important their opinions are to you.

Is the all-work-and-no-play mentality bringing on the guilty conscience? Your friends are starting to suspect you’re on the lam because you consistently bail on Friday night poker, or just don’t answer your phone. Truth is: You’re hard at work! The poetry contest deadline is tomorrow morning, and you know you can perfect your submission before sunrise—as long as you don’t get distracted. You might feel terrible when you finally look at your phone and see twelve missed calls from your best friend, but think of how great you’ll feel knowing you submitted the best poem you’re capable of writing.

Remember that honesty can always work to your advantage, so explain the situation to your loved ones, and start feeling proud of (rather than guilty of) your hard work and dedication to your craft. Rather than going on the defensive, try asking your friends directly for support. Instead of feeling blown off, they can instead feel like they’re playing an active role in your success by giving you a guilt-free pass on poker night.

Do you feel guilty writing about real people and situations? While inspiration is often drawn from everyday life, it’s easy to feel guilty when writing at someone else’s expense. On the same note, there are some situations in life that are so difficult to handle that writing about it can be the best (and sometimes the only) therapy. But you must take the appropriate steps (changing names and places, for instance) so as not to offend anyone you care about, or share too much personal information that someone else may not want publicly known. Your motto in this situation can be, “Always tread carefully!”

Keep in mind that you can’t unpublish your work, so be sure that what you write won’t come back to bite you!

Do you need help with the ins and outs of being a writer, but feel guilty asking for it? A lot goes into a writing career, and a major aspect is regular submissions. This means: preparing cover and query letters (writing, printing, and signing them), stamping and addressing envelopes, and doing research on agents or editors. This process alone could take you all day, and most writers have other jobs to earn their income. You know you need some assistance, but you feel terrible asking your friends to do YOUR work.

Here’s a solution: Make it FUN! Instead of asking your friends if they can sign and seal forty envelopes, invite them over for some popcorn and a movie, and have everyone stuff a few envelopes throughout the night. The task is simple, and it doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it can turn into a learning experience for everyone involved.

Best Fall 2012 Books