Writing Tip Wednesday: Guilt #amwriting #amdrafting

It's been a long day. You couldn't get out of bed right away, so you had to rush your morning shower and grab breakfast on your way out the door. All day at work, you guilted yourself for your failure to get up early and write. Again. So you promised yourself you'd write when you got home, even though you had to buy groceries, get quarters, and do laundry so you'd have something to wear tomorrow. Oh well, you thought. If you don't get the writing done, you're going to be pissed at yourself.

And that's what happens. You get all your errands done, and when you look up at the clock, it's almost bed time, and you haven't written a word, but by now your brain is pretty much useless. Might as well hit the sack and try again tomorrow.

But the guilt lingers. And in the morning, when you again fail to get up early enough to write, guilt is still what you feel. The rut. The cycle.

Okay, maybe your problem is a little different. Maybe you do write often, but you still feel like it's not enough. You look at that successful author you follow on social media, and it's only been a year and a half since their last book, and they're already promoting a new one, and here you are struggling to get halfway through your latest project. Ugh. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

If you go back through my writing tips, one of the things you may notice is how often my advice sounds like something you'd find in a self-help guide. This is no accident. Because, like self-help, writing has everything to do with your mental health and your state of mind. If you're feeling foggy and depressed and just want to binge on reruns of The Office, how are you going to write 100,000 words, and then rewrite them over the course of months or years, and then maybe rewrite them again? Because that's what it takes sometimes. And let me tell you something about guilt: it doesn't help.

Guilt is a negative emotion, like fear and depression. And if you are trying to get yourself to a more positive place, negativity is never going to be an effective motivator. Maybe for a day or two, but sooner or later, you get fatigued, you fall into a slump, and you think, "Screw it. I already feel like crap." That's the cycle.

The guilty feeling you get when you aren't writing can be useful, but only for one thing: to tell you that you aren't meeting your goals. Once you recognize that, you have to effectively deal with the realization and move beyond that initial negative emotion. If you dwell on the guilt and try to use it as a motivator, it's not going to work. Because negative emotions are emotions of stagnation. They don't push you. They make you sit idle. They hold you in place.

So, my advice, when you aren't meeting your goals and you feel guilty about it, is to focus not on the negative emotions as a motivating factor, but on the positive emotions you crave to feel through success. You need to continuously remind yourself of your goals and how nice it will feel once you meet them. Focus on that, the place you want to be, not on how bad you feel when you fail, the place where you don't want to be.

So, let's go back to our initial plot: you wake up late. Miss your writing time. Get home. Can't write. Too busy. You feel guilty. What do you do after that? Well, first, you put aside the guilt. You reassess the day and ask yourself where it went wrong, then imagine correcting it tomorrow. How will you do that? Maybe go to bed a little earlier tonight so it's easier to get out of bed. Maybe use an alarm clock instead of your cell phone so you don't sit in bed constantly dropping the phone on your face as you browse the web. Maybe shoot up and immediately make a coffee and sit in your underwear in front of your laptop, trying to write. The solution might be something different, but the point is, you're searching for solutions. You're seeking out a way to succeed and get to the positive place you crave.

If you fail again, don't dwell on the guilt. Reassess things again, always striving for positivity. It sounds cheesy, I know. But if you can get yourself in this mindset, you will be motivated to find the time, and you will write that damn book.