by Meg Dowell
Do you feel guilty when you don’t write? I think all of us do, to a point. But that can only make things worse. Here’s how to keep from letting guilt ruin your progress … and how to let it drive you forward.
Give yourself just one day off
There’s one common reason behind why we’re afraid to stop writing – and why we often don’t want to start again. It’s because we’re afraid of what will happen when we don’t write. I used to refuse to let myself take days off because I thought if I broke my daily streak, I would never be able to get back on track again.
Thankfully, there’s a simple antidote for this specific fear: give yourself one day. I took one day off from blogging this past weekend, for the first time in months (thanks to scheduling superpowers, you didn’t even notice). I will admit, it has been difficult to keep going, having taken even that one day away. But before I signed off, I told myself, “On Monday, you’re going right back in.” It was hard. But I knew I only had that one day. I savored it.
I came back Monday and I jumped back into my usual routine. Yes, this requires some planning and a lot of willpower (I did not want to do it). But you can pause for one day, as long as you get right back to it the day after that. You don’t have to feel guilty if it’s all part of your plan. If you plan for a day off, you’re technically doing what you’re supposed to be doing on that day off. See how that works?
Exercise your creativity in a different way
Have you ever walked away from your laptop frustrated yet still weirdly full of energy? When we’re “feeling creative,” especially as writers, we assume that means we have to immediately sit down and write something. Most of the time, that’s what you should do. But it doesn’t mean you have to. And just because you don’t write doesn’t mean you’re somehow ignoring your brain’s desire to create something.
You can be creative without writing something. Sometimes you have a lot of creative energy, but don’t want to use it for writing at a particular moment. There’s nothing wrong with that. So draw a picture. Go take pictures of random things. Decorate something that’s just sitting on your desk. Sometimes your brain just needs a break. Staring at a screen for hours at a time is physically draining enough. Writing takes a lot of energy. You don’t have to do it constantly in order to be creative.
Write – even if you don’t feel like it
If you don’t feel like writing, but know you’re going to feel guilty for the rest of the day if you don’t do it … just do it. Easier said than done? Not really … because sitting down and getting started, when it comes down to it, are the hardest part. The longer you write, the easier it gets. There will be days you will feel like you’re dragging yourself kicking and screaming through every single word. It happens. But knowing you tried – that can make you feel less guilty. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it.
That’s not to say you’re lazy or a failure if you don’t write. That’s absolutely false. Those feelings are only going to make writing all that much harder for you. If you do manage to get some writing done, great. If you don’t … it’s not the end of the world. Things aren’t going to start falling out of the sky. I realized at midnight last night that I’d forgotten to spend time on my novel at all that day. Did I panic? No … because I just woke up and worked on it this morning. Life goes on. It’s going to be OK.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.