As a person who finds it difficult to make time in her schedule to write, I’ve been pondering the obstacles that I tend to put in the way. One of my primary obstacles is guilt. Yes, guilt: the utterly useless emotion that I nevertheless constantly battle to exorcise. I’d be happy to pay for a priest if only it were that simple. But priests share a lot of the blame for implanting it in me in the first place.
In talking to women I know there is great variability in how entrapped or burdened we feel. Most of my male friends don’t seem to suffer from guilt much at all. Some women I know have absolutely no inclination towards guilt, period. I’m not sure how they escaped it, but I suspect they’ve had exceptional role-models, supportive spouses, and counseling. I think it also helps to be of some means, just as Virginia Woolf explained in A Room of One’s Own. It is a lot easier to give up guilt about housework, for example, if you can afford to pay for a cleaning service.
Never “should on” yourself.
Most days when I sit down to write the first thing that comes to my mind is a list of all the other things I should be doing. Usually the items on that list highlight all the things that other people need—volunteer work, caring for sick family members, meal-planning—and whether the littler boxes have been scooped.
And the sequel…
After I make my “to do” list, I move on to anxiety about money and health. I am, after all, supposed to be exercising an hour every day, meditating, flossing, creating delicious and nutritious meals, making time for friends and family, and keeping my romance alive, the house sparkling and the bills paid. Oprah says it can all be done, with deep intention, elbow grease, and a little help from Gail.
Oprah and I are so over.
If I actually listen to the voices in my head, if I try to emulate the women in my life who seem to manage to do it all (with or without burying their resentment) all I do is paralyze myself. I’ve come up with a list of therapeutic suggestions, for people like me who haven’t had any trouble at all finding this particular g-spot. Here is my personal prescription for dealing with guilt:
• Take the long-term view. I’ve never been to a funeral yet where anyone was interested in discussing the state of the departed’s housekeeping.
• Take the wide-angle view. Sometimes no amount of caring, sharing or meal-preparing can make much difference to the happiness of others. My job is not to fix people. My job is just to love them.
• In the airplane safety demonstrations the flight attendants always advise the caregivers to put on their masks first. If writing feeds your soul you need to write. Otherwise you will waste away from soul-malnutrition, and then you’re no good to anybody.
• Let go of the need to see immediate results. I have had years of goal-setting, effective-habit indoctrination, and outcome-measurement training that do nothing but make me more neurotic and tired. For my own particular psyche I find I need to let go of these paradigms to get past my resistance.
• See the ways in which guilt can be just another excuse. How am I creating stories about guilt that prevent me from facing my real fears about writing, whatever those may be? Fears are best faced, not by running away, but by getting to know them intimately.
• Find support. Not everyone needs this. But I do. Join a writer’s group, whether in person or online. Nurture your connections with other people who like to write. Then if you are feeling guilty about taking the time out to write they can whack you upside the head (metaphorically-speaking) and back into writing motion.
• Write a little bit every day. Set a timer so that you don’t have to worry about losing track of the time and stay sitting in that chair, pen moving, even if you have absolutely nothing to say.
• Meditate (more on this in future posts)
• Maintain a healthy sense of humour. Read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird for expert help in this department.
• Treat yourself to a writing retreat like what we offer at Writing from the Centre (or see the WCYR or WCDR websites for other options). In a retreat situation you are safely removed from all the distractions and sources of guilt. Imagine: no laundry, no vacuuming, no meals to prepare, no facebook, no phone calls, and no flying monkeys (big problem in these parts). In a retreat setting all you have is uninterrupted time and support—well worth the money if you can scrounge it together.
• Commit. Feel the guilt and write anyway. Write about guilt…it’s working for me right now. Believe. Check your attitude. Keep putting one word in front of another, even if the words are meant for your eyes only.
• Don’t feel guilty about feeling guilty
Guilt can be a healthy emotion—a pro-social emotion—that helps us to live in harmony and care for one another. There are times and places when it is appropriate and necessary to put our own needs aside temporarily, but this should be done with awareness, forethought and boundaries; it should be situational, not habitual. If guilt is one of your demons then tame it by calling it by name. Out, out, damned guilt-spot! Then you can focus on the better class of g-spots; the good ones that lead to pleasure and to letting your creativity shine.
How do you deal with guilt? Let us know your tips and suggestions.
Until next time,