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For the writer, this often manifests in a form of writer's guilt.
Writers are really good at finding reasons to be disappointed with themselves: whether it's not writing enough that day or week, not writing well enough, not reading enough, or editing enough, or querying enough, or whatever it may be, we're really good at telling ourselves that we're not doing enough, and we're even better at stressing out over it, which in turn often makes us do even less. And so the hellish cycle goes on.
Now I'm not saying that writers shouldn't be disciplined, or that we should ignore missing deadlines or a need to improve. I'm not saying that we shouldn't look at our writing with a critical eye, or that taking stock of how we could be more productive is somehow a bad thing, and I'm not saying that it's unimportant to push ourselves to write and read and refine our craft.
What I am saying is that there's a healthy way to handle writer guilt without beating yourself over the head with it.
I've broken it down into three easy steps:
- Acknowledge. As they say, the first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging that you have one. Take a few minutes to accept whatever shortcoming that's making you feel uneasy. Then move on to step two.
- Reassess. You know you have a challenge to overcome—whether it's time management, actually writing, or editing, or reading, or whatever the issue is. Now is the time to decide what you're going to do about it. What change will you make to improve? Decide on a concrete goal, then...
- Make a change. Don't worry about what you didn't accomplish or how your shortcoming affected you or your writing. Don't worry about feeling guilty or not doing as much as another writer. You've figured out what you need to do to take steps towards improvement, now do it. Simple as that.
The key to dealing with writer guilt is truly not to let it impede with your efforts to improve. Accept that it's there, then tell it to shut up and get to work.
Because believe it or not, drowning in guilt won't help you improve for a second.
Have you ever experienced writer guilt? What do you do to overcome it?