Home > Writing > On writing: the guilt we all feel

On writing: the guilt we all feel

So, these days I consider myself a writer. Don’t laugh, because it’s taken me a while to get to this point. No, I’m not published, but the desire to write remains, despite rejections and a host of other life issues and emotions attempting to derail anything remotely resembling the life of a writer (whatever that may be). Deep inside, despite it all, something pushes me, speaks to me, tells me I must keep typing words and stringing them together into sentences, paragraphs, scenes and stories. If I don’t do it, all that I think about is doing it, or that I should be doing it.

So yes, I write, but something is holding me back, keeping me from reaching my full potential as a writer. I’ve struggled with it for so long I’ve very nearly giving up writing altogether. And it’s been relentless, beating me down until I barely have the motivation to lift my fingers to the keyboard. The culprit? A little thing called guilt.

Isn’t there something better you could be doing with your time?

Shouldn’t you be spending time with your wife?

Couldn’t you be working a little more so you can get a better year-end review?

Bleah, bleah, bleah, bleah … insert favorite cause of guilt.

On and on it goes, until soon you feel no more able to write than someone frozen by fear of rejection. It doesn’t matter … there’s no difference … you get nothing done. You spend your time surfing the web, researching for your latest idea, doing just about anything but putting one word after another into your latest short story or novel, or even blog post. It’s a sad state affairs, at least for me.

And all along, I naively assumed it was something only I struggled with.

So what made me think of this particular topic? Well, I can thank Victoria over at Crimson League
for making me think about this. While I’d thought about it frequently, it wasn’t until I read her recent post that I realized that, yes, I dealt with this very same problem. All the time. Fortunately, she also had some great ideas on how to beat these guilt feelings. It’s definitely worth a read for anyone who’s not yet read it and thinks they themselves might be suffering from guilt feelings over writing.


  1. August 2, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    It keeps your from robbing banks and spending all your money on hookers and cocaine, so what’s the problem?

    But seriously folks, aren’t we writers a deranged bunch? People who ride mountain bikes or collect stamps or garden never have these hang-ups, do they?

    • August 3, 2013 at 10:33 am

      Well, that it does, Eric … thankfully 🙂

      Those of us to write seem to suffer some of the most difficult emotional challenges. A neurotic group of souls, I’d say. But then, that’s just the price we pay, I suppose, for following our compulsions to write.

      And no, I’ve never had any mountain biking, stamp collecting, or gardening friends ever talk about these things. I think we’re a peculiar lot 🙂

  2. August 3, 2013 at 5:23 am

    I’m so glad my post resonated with you! The guilt is tough, for sure, but it’s normal. Sometimes just knowing that it’s normal helps me pay less attention to it. We all struggle with different, personalized forms of writer’s guilt.

    • August 3, 2013 at 10:27 am

      It sure did, Victoria. Thanks for writing the post and for your blog in general. It’s great.

      One of the things your post did was help me realize that I’m normal, that many (if not all) other writers deal with guilt in one way or another.

      Thanks again for the great post and for stopping by my blog.

  3. August 3, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Maybe a little guilt is a good thing! Keeps us humble. After all, it does take considerable ego to believe that the notions your overactive brain cooks up are worthy of broadcasting to all humanity. A smidgen of guilt is probably the only thing keeping us grounded…

    • August 3, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Ha ha … isn’t that the truth. Never thought of myself as someone with an ego, but when you put it like that 🙂 I’m working on reducing my guilt factor, though, because right now it’s much too high. I’m aiming for just a little guilt, or make that a smidgen …

  4. August 7, 2013 at 5:17 am

    All my life I’ve carried the guilt of wanting to pursue a profession that might pay me next to nothing. It’s the “Isn’t there something better you could be doing with your time?” that torments me like a roomful of mosquitoes. To my family, my writing was always just a hobby. And I grew up relatively poor so I’m hardwired to always be thinking of how to make $$. That’s one reason why I’ve put off publicly writing for so long. I’m just hoping I haven’t put it off for too long. I appreciate this post, Dave. It is nice to know we’re not alone in our guilt trips.

    • August 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      I know how you feel, Marie. Being the primary breadwinner necessarily made me look to making as much money as possible in my chosen career. I think this what tended to fuel for me, like you, that terrible thinking that says you really should be doing something else more productive, especially if it means improving your future in your career. So for the most part I put off writing until the last couple of years. The guilt still nags at me, but not as much. It helps that the kids are all grown … it was impossible for me feel good about hiding away in my office when the kids were younger. So now, like you, I’m older and, hopefully, wiser. I think we can lick this whole guilt thing.

      And don’t worry … you haven’t put off your writing too long. I’m sure of it 🙂

      • August 7, 2013 at 7:25 pm

        Thanks, Dave. I do feel wiser, at least about my writing 😉 I try to remind myself that it’s better late than never.

  5. August 13, 2013 at 7:55 am

    For whatever reason, most of us seem to be plagued with the “If I’m not getting paid, I’m not working” message. I find it helpful to shout over that message in as loud a voice as possible. Anything you do (research, social networking, going for a walk) can be viewed as avoidance or as part of your life as a writer. When you struggle with the guilt of “I should be,” that’s fear and insecurity talking. YOU are a writer, just like you’re a dad and a husband–and can you imagine how dull your life would be if you weren’t?

    • August 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement, Candace! It’s hard to overcome that “I’m not working” mentality when it’s all you’ve ever known. I like the idea of looking at all parts of your life as a part of your life as a writer, and how an activity can be viewed as avoidance or part of that writing life. Nice.

      Looking forward to the day when I can use someone like you to improve my book. I’ll get there eventually! 🙂

  6. August 14, 2013 at 11:13 am

    I’m so glad to know you’re writing. So glad to see you blogging. I’m sure your dad would never want you to let that go.
    Here’s to us writers!

    • August 14, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks, Sue. It feels good to know folks out there miss you, or think enough about you to say such nice things. You’re right … one of the things that keeps me going is my dad’s memory. He would keep blogging, keep writing, no matter what.

      Wonderful to hear from you, Sue. All of us writer’s need to stick together. So here’s to us!

      Thinking about you, and praying for you all …

  7. August 19, 2013 at 10:59 am

    I have guilt but find I am a little obsessed with writing. I am doing a lot of blogging and it seems to satisfy my craving but it also seems to occupy my mind. I am grateful some people like my material because it gives my ego a boost but truthfully I enjoy the craft of putting together a story. I try not to be heady for that certainly will lead to a big fall. If I give anyone some reading pleasure that is a great accomplishment.

    • August 19, 2013 at 11:59 pm

      I’ve got to say I feel the same way, Barry. Ultimately, knowing someone read and enjoyed a story I wrote is what it’s all about. Still struggle with that guilt, though 🙂

  1. August 15, 2013 at 1:02 am
  2. May 9, 2017 at 6:25 am

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