Friday, May 10, 2019

Writer's Guilt...It's a thing

by Abir

Writers sit and write – for a long time. What do you do to stop yourself becoming welded to your writing seat?

I’m not sure this is true. Most writers I know face a constant battle to make time for writing, what with the competing calls of a full-time or part-time job, family time and other commitments. Added to these, being on the treadmill of producing a book a year, which many publishers expect these days, can be a lot of pressure.

In fact, often the last thing I want to do after a full day at work, fighting my way home through the commuter crush, helping put the kids to bed and having dinner, is to sit down at my desk and start writing. Quite often I just can’t face it and tell myself I’ll catch up at the weekend… but that should be family time.

Indeed, one of the overriding emotions I associate with writing is a feeling of guilt. It often feels like I’m following my dream while neglecting my family and forcing my wife, who also works full time, to pick up the slack. She’s very understanding but in truth it’s not fair on her or the kids.

Even when I do sit down to write, the process is often hard. Buoyed by the excitement of a new project, the first ten or fifteen thousand words of a novel are generally ok, but then come the doldrums: the hard slog of the next fifty to sixty thousand words, which can often make me question why I’m doing all this. It gets a bit easier by the last fifteen thousand, when the end is in sight, but at that point I’m like a long-distance runner with little left in the tank, doing my best to just fall over the finish line. 

Focussing can also be difficult. I always seem to want to write something other than the project I’m mired in; always looking to the new, shiny idea which I just thought of the week before. It’s half-formed and little more than a vague notion, but to me it seems like the best idea ever…except I can’t write it cos I have this other thing to finish.

Then there’s the dreaded procrastination. Sometimes…maybe more often than not…I find myself sitting in front of my laptop, willing to do anything other than write…surfing the net for crosswords and football scores, and articles on everything from politics to punk rock. I once spent an afternoon watching crown green bowls rather than knuckling down and writing.

Why do I waste so much time? Maybe it’s fear? Fear that my writing’s no good; fear that this is the book where I’ll be ‘found out’; fear that the plot will unravel into a big stodgy mess. I lose a lot of time worrying.

So why do I do it? 

The simple answer is because I adore it, and all that comes with it: the festivals; the bookshops and book tours; and most of all, the meeting wonderful, warm, thoughtful, generous people. For me, writing books is a privilege, and it's the price of admission into a world I love, full of the best people and the best experiences.


Brenda Chapman said...

Hi Abir - I feel like we could be writing clones. I wrote my first books while working full time and crammed it in when I could, often wondering why I was putting myself through it. And yet, I couldn't imagine doing anything else that also brings me so much enjoyment. Comforting to know I'm not alone in the struggle ...

Anonymous said...

I hate to be a gloomy lil' so and so, but how'd you keep going back before all the good stuff happened? Before the fans and festivals and friends, when it was just you and the screen and all that uncertainty?

James W. Ziskin said...

Crosswords, football, and lawn bowling? Thanks, Abir. Some new things to do instead of writing!


Susan C Shea said...

So much of what you say mirrors my life and my juggling of competing calls on my time. Writing is hard. Who is it that said "I hate writing but I love having written?"