Sunday, March 31, 2013

Make Guilt Work for You!

A lot of writers experience a roller coaster of guilt powered by lofty goals crashing into real life. Most of us admire the full time, experienced writers who write the first draft of a 100k novel in a month or appear in every sf/f magazine throughout the year. That's cool! Lofty goals aren't bad as long as you break them down into manageable chunks and make allowances for that real life thing.

But telling ourselves that we're not superheros doesn't mean we don't still feel guilty about it sometimes. There's always that person who's better at that thing you do, and there's always that time that you could have been writing but instead you were hanging out with friends. The question I present to you is, why do we do that?

For instance... I haven't posted here in a month. Could I have? Yes. Technically, physically speaking. But I chose to bump the blog down to a lower writing priority - and writing as a whole had to bump down, too - and there was even one day that I wrote up a blog post about the family medical emergency that blew my month away... and I then I didn't hit submit. The medical emergency was no big secret, and if you're on my facebook you probably know already. But I want this blog to be about what I do get done and how happy I am to share it with you. And, maybe, occasionally, those moments when I'm correctly annoyed at myself for having flubbed something or wasted my time.

So recently, as in, today, I started to feel guilty about not having gotten more done. Hold the phone! Worst month of my life, yes? We've been sick all winter! If I had actually accomplished all my lofty goals this winter, or even since the start of the year, I'd probably be dead from lack of sleep, food, and/or sanity. Why am I suddenly not at peace with this fact?

And then I realized something about myself, or rather, how to put it into words in a way that makes it fit in with the rest of my life. I believe they call that an epiphany. A mini epiphany, at least.

I start to feel guilty when I start feeling capable. Present me says to myself, "I feel great! Let's get things done!" But then she also turns to Past me and wags her finger. "Now I have to pick up your slack! Watch me get this all done in a week!"

I then look at it logically and tell Present me to calm down. But, the emotion is still there. I still feel that twinge of guilt. Do you know what I do with that guilt? I put it to work! So, I say I can get it done in a week? DO it, then! Goodness knows, I might not get a whole week before someone is sick again or something else comes up, so if I DO get that week, I'd better take advantage! When I have the energy for the whirlwind of activity, each thing I get done feels like a notch in my belt.

Although, maybe I'd feel even more accomplished if I stopped planning all my projects as if I'll never get sick. Hmm. Get right on that, Future Me!

(Sure, right after I finish my to do list...)