Thursday, October 20, 2022

How to Squash Writer's Guilt

The writing community is great at keeping you accountable. Other writers encourage you, inspire you, check-in on you, and help you achieve your writing goals. The writing community is a great salve for the writing soul, but like any medicine, it comes with side effects.

Perhaps the most prevalent side effect is writer's guilt. It can seem sometimes like other writers are more productive than you, more successful than you, and (by extension) that they are better writers than you. So while you join a writing community to get the support you need so you *can* write, sometimes it makes you feel like you *should* write.

I used to experience writer's guilt daily. Thankfully, I knew deep down that my writing partners would support me 100% and never judge me for not writing, but sometimes my emotions got the better of me and I'd forget for a few minutes...or hours...or days.

The best treatment I found for writer's guilt was a shift in my mindset around writing. Whenever that familiar feeling crept up, I'd remind myself that writing is about much more than just sitting down at a keyboard. Many writing-adjacent activities play an important role in my writing journey, without which I would be floundering creatively. 

Here are just some of those activities: 

READING. When I immerse myself in a story, whether I'm using my eyes or my ears to do it, I'm developing my storytelling skills, learning what to do (and not to do) in my own writing, and raising my awareness of the book market. Even movies and TV can be considered writing-adjacent, though they don't give me the same insight into publishing and therefore are not as beneficial as reading.

LEARNING. Sometimes engaging in writing podcasts, courses, and Youtube videos feel like procrastination, but these outlets teach me important writing skills, and introduce me to hacks and productivity tools I might otherwise miss. Like anything, of course, moderation is key. I make sure I don't reach the point of diminishing returns, where the benefits I gain from doing something are outweighed by the time and money I've invested in it.

QUERYING. I don't give myself enough credit for the time I put into querying. It's a full-time job, especially given that I'm neurodivergent and struggle with the confusion and anxiety that comes with it. Between researching agents and publishers, writing pitches and query letters, researching comps titles, and actually sending the query packages, it's a lot. But this is part of my writing journey and I should not discount it.

DOWNTIME. This one is the biggest producers of writer's guilt, but it is often the most beneficial. Some of my best ideas come to me I'm driving, walking, or taking a long bath. This is because I'm engaged in an activity that doesn't require a lot of active thought, and thus my brain works on problem-solving in the background. Downtime is when I get my best creative breakthroughs.

CREATING. Other types of creating, like painting, photography, and graphic design (to name a few), are also writing-adjacent. They develop my storytelling skills, stretch my creative muscles, and can have a similar passive problem-solving effect as downtime (depending on how involved the activity is). Visual mediums also increase my understanding of composition, which translates to better use of white space and pacing in my writing. I'm not working at becoming a professional artist in another medium, but I find even doodling with no end goal has had positive results.

All of these writing-adjacent activities are vital to my growth and success as a writer. Changing my mindset about what constitutes writing has allowed me to not get bogged down with writer's guilt.

Remember to support and encourage yourself the way you do your own writer friends. Do you guilt-trip them if they don't get any writing done, or would you support them, give them credit for what they did do, and encourage them to keep going? 

I still struggle sometimes, but I've learned how to flip that switch and give myself more credit for what I do accomplish. If it feels like I *should* be writing, I ask myself, "Do I actually *want* to write right now?" If the answer is no, I do something else, resting easy in the knowledge that the time I log on these activities in the short-term will benefit my writing journey long-term.

Jes Trudel a Canadian author, editor, and instructor based in Timmins, Ontario. She has written and presented for various outlets, including Children's Book Insider, SCBWI, 12x12 Picture Book Challenge, and BoldFace. Jes founded

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