Writing: Now with 50 Percent Less Guilt!

guilt trip

 I loved Kevan’s Monday post on interruptions and distractions. I struggle with those issues year-round, but in the summer it reaches critical mass, an affliction I like to call K3W0 (Kids: 3, Writing: 0). With travel and little league and music lessons and the many demands of keeping a household running smoothly, summer break really zaps both my productivity and my morale.

Having a book under contract has only intensified the weight of guilt I feel when I miss a day (or two or three) of writing. How can I be a “serious” writer if I can’t even squeeze writing time into my schedule? And when I do find time to sit down at the computer, the battle with interruption (other people) and distraction (myself) begins. It usually takes at least half an hour of Facebook, Twitter, email, online shopping, cute puppy videos, etc. before I find The Zone and turn off the distractions. And then, invariably, come the interruptions. Case in point: two sentences ago, my youngest popped in to tell me about an upcoming episode of Sofia the First. Something about butterflies and camping and…wait, what was I saying again?

The Zone is hard to find and easy to lose, especially when I’m in front of a computer. So I get cranky, allowing minor issues to mushroom all out of proportion, and declare the entire day a disaster. In short, I make everybody miserable.

For the sake of all parties involved, I had to find a compromise. First and foremost, it meant accepting the situation as it exists instead of stomping around like a toddler.

Second, I had to step away from the computer. Yes, dear ones, I’m referring to the lesser known form of writing involving actual pen and paper. I understand this isn’t for everyone, but for me it removes electronic distractions and allows me to write in shorter intervals, say 20 minutes riding in the car or 15 minutes waiting to pick up a child from a lesson or a birthday party. Of course I still have to type it all, but at least I have written notes to lean on, instead of a blank computer screen that double-dog dares me to run off and browse Pinterest for recipes I’ll never use.


Your writing tool of choice?

Finally, I had to think back to more productive months of the year and remind myself that to everything there is a season. Last fall, once the kids were in school and our family routine was back in place, I was able to finish and revise MOTHMAN’S CURSE–actual proof that I am only a flake SOME of the time! Summer is simply a crazy time of year, and I had to let myself be okay with that.

So take it from me: guilt is a wasted emotion that sucks up all your positive energy and offers you nothing but grief in return. Life is complicated and unpredictable, and so are humans. If you write best in the winter, during an eclipse, eating cake, wearing a robe and slippers, at the lake, in the woods, on the roof, with crayons, on a tablet computer or a typewriter or a Commodore 64, it’s all okay. Exchange your guilt for acceptance, flexibility, and purpose. It’s a three-for-one special, and it has no expiration date.



Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Guilt, Writing, Writing and Life

15 responses to “Writing: Now with 50 Percent Less Guilt!

  1. Even though I don’t have kids, the distractions are there. And yes, it puts me in a sour mood when I’m not efficient and productive. For me, pen and paper help, but also putting the phone on silent. Thank you for sharing!


  2. Christine Hayes

    Anita, yes, there are so many hurdles of every kind to navigate, especially the phone–I forgot about that one! Good luck and thanks so much for reading.


  3. “Exchange your guilt for acceptance, flexibility, and purpose.”

    Love this, Christine!

    Pen and paper are great for me, too, but when I’m on the computer I also find that the internet-blocking program Freedom helps a lot. I recommend it if you don’t already use it.

    Funnily enough, summer has turned out to be my most productive time of the year, but that’s probably because I don’t have kids. It’s in the late fall and winter, once the holiday season gets going, that I almost always fall off the horse.


  4. kevanjatt

    I feel guilty when I’m working long, long hours for not spending more time taking care of my wife. I feel guilty when I am spending time with my wife when I have so much work to be doing. And god forbid I am not working OR spending time with my wife—having a little KevanTime—the guilt is as thick as (fill in your own simile.)


  5. “The Zone is hard to find and easy to lose” – YES! But thanks for reminding me we all struggle with this! Great post 🙂


  6. Christine Hayes

    Tara, I’ll have to give that program a try. Does it work on phones too? The time of year thing is definitely so personal, depending not just on our circumstances but also our personalities.

    Kevan, you gotta have KevanTime, especially when you’re caring for a loved one. It lifts you and makes everything else seem more manageable. If you ever figure out how to shed the guilt 100 percent, please share your secret. You can write a book and become a millionaire!


  7. Another totally relatable post!!! I like the three-for-one special!

    I keep thinking that if I can just clear my Inbox, or get all my errands run, or do whatever random thing, that I will be able to have better focus and it will be more worth my time! Who am I fooling? Who EVER clears their Inbox totally…I sort of do this but I’m just shuffling stuff to another folder! Who EVER has all errands run? Doesn’t another one pop up as soon as you walk in your house? I will never have all of this done completely! I just need to write.


  8. Raised in a Catholic family, guilt is very hard for me to shake. I’ll try hard to take your words to heart. I generally find the zone exactly when I have to stop, clockwise (get to work, go pick up kid, time to make dinner, etc.), which combines with my perfectionism (don’t start if you can’t finish) to yield a perfect storm of “Oh, why bother?” defeatism. This is why I rely on my Friday morning writing group: if nothing else, I’ve got three hours of motivation, quiet and COMMITMENT on Friday morning.

    Thanks for your honesty and your encouragement. 🙂


  9. Christine Hayes

    Melonie, thank you. So cool about the Commodore 64!

    Hi Penny! Totally agree about the endless inbox/errands. Sometimes they just have to wait their turn. 🙂


  10. Christine Hayes

    Mfantalis, thanks for your comments. I believe in conscience, and that guilt exists for those times that we have truly done something worth making amends for, but it’s not fair to drown ourselves in guilt over things we can’t control, or when we’re really trying our best to meet the demands of the day. Your writing group sounds like the perfect, peaceful place to renew your soul. Happy Wednesday!


  11. Joshua McCune

    Terrific post, Christine… Extra points for the Commodore 64 reference :)…. Not sure I could write on one, but sure do miss some of those games.


  12. Great advice! You’re so right: guilt is a wasted emotion. Though, part of my guilt is my fault. I don’t have to procrastinate as much as I do, playing Harvest Moon on the Nintendo DS. But I can take the occasional hour off to have lunch with a friend and not snarl at her, because I feel guilty for not writing.


  13. Christine, this is such a great post! I, too, struggled all summer with finding time to write and then feeling guilty for taking the time. I write myself notes or get my phone to remind me of ideas – helps face the blank screen; there’s less warmup to the “zone.”

    This: to everything there is a season. Yes! And it’s so important to *try* to enjoy the season we’re in because it lasts only for a little while.


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