Guilty As Charged.

Someone confessed to me the other day, "Do you ever feel guilty when you don't write?"

And my response was, "OMG YES!!! I'M NOT ALONE!!!"

It's so true. Ever since I started pursuing publishing, the guilt has been clinging to me like my slacks on a staticky day. If I don't write that day? Guilty. Don't write a good wordcount for the week? Guilty. Project takes a little longer than I think, or the writing isn't as good as I want? Guilty guilty guilty GUILTY!

Writing wasn't always like this for me, of course. When I first started writing, I wrote when I felt like it. It took me a year and a half to finish my first novel. I didn't care. I had no clue what the industry was like - all I knew was that I wanted to write. I first submitted my second novel, and began to talk to writers in the industry.

I learned that you need to push out one book a year for most genres. In some, two books or more are 'required' to keep your name in front of readers. You should always be working on something new, according to everyone and their mother. You should constantly be subbing new stuff to your agent for a sale. You should work on short stories to make yourself more attractive to editors/agents.

It sounds exhausting just thinking about it. You want to be one of the success stories, right? So you work and you work. You write in the morning before work. You edit on your lunch hour. You come home, throw corndogs in the oven for dinner (or microwave, if you're REALLY lazy) and then spend time that night writing. You read before bed to keep an eye on the industry. You crit a friend's book while in the bathroom (okay, not really).

So where's the funtime in this schedule? One would argue that the writing is the funtime - and it is - but it's also a job. Writing for publication is the equivalent of having a part-time job. Sure, it's glorious (and sometimes it doesn't pay crap) but it's still a job, even if you are working for a party of one - yourself.

That's where the guilt comes in. If you take a day off and play hooky, your book glares at you from the corner of your office. There's 4 pages that you didn't write today (or two, or ten, depending on your schedule). That means you're a day behind, which means you should work doubly hard the next day to get things done. Didn't work on it all week? You should really work all day on Saturday - and I mean ALL DAY - to get 'caught up'. Don't you dare catch a cold and be MIA for a few days.

And heaven forbid that your book is a slow write (all books come out their own speeds, I've learned). You wrote the last one in six weeks in a glorious rush. The fact that this one is taking three months obviously means that THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH IT/YOU/THE WORLD.

And people wonder why writers are neurotic. ;)

We do this to ourselves, and voluntarily. We know what the gig is, and we run towards it gleefully, hands outstretched. But it really changes the way you think about writing. When I'm not working on a novel, I'm a horrible person to live with. I toss aside every paperback that I'm reading with disgust about halfway through. I can't watch TV and enjoy it – I should be writing, even if I have nothing to write. Video games? Not if you want to be successful, missy! So when I'm between books, I'm cranky and surly and restless and a miserable sort.

My husband took me aside the other day when I was having a (minor) hissy fit over general crankiness and how unhappy I was with the world overall, and how utterly bored I was. You guessed it, I wasn't working on a book.

"You don't know how to relax anymore, do you?" Husband said.

"Writing is relaxing!" I barked at him, glaring at my lonely Alphasmart that was acquiring dust. "I'm having fun when I write, dammit! No write no fun! All work and no play makes Jill SANE!"

And then I realized how dumb that sounded. How is it that I feel calmest when I'm putting the most pressure on myself? Is it because I have a goal I'm working toward? Is it because I can put aside the guilt as long as I get a few pages a day?

Because, LORD, the guilt when you take a few weeks off. It's shattering.

I recognize that this is a strange form of Author-Iz-Nuts and I'm trying to stomp it out before it becomes a bigger problem. So I'm allowing this book to write itself more slowly. I don't write every night if I don't want to. I don't do the long marathons on the weekend. I don't have deadlines at the moment, so I'm enjoying the writing...

And spending most nights playing World of Warcraft and reading. Take that, static guilt!

- Jill Myles, with the level 24 shaman


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