By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
Summer is quickly arriving. And for most of us that means our nice neat schedules get turned upside down and shaken around. Whether it's having the kids home, one-hundred-and-one summer activities, the family vacation, or out-of-town company, we usually find ourselves scrambling to find writing time.
Not only are we chasing after that allusive time, but when we DO actually catch a free moment, we feel GUILTY, like we should be out playing in the sunshine with the kids, or heading to the beach, or walking the dog.
Yes, we writers are good at feeling guilty for "sneaking" in writing time. But is writing time a guilty pleasure or is it a necessity?
Of course, those writers who are under contract, who have advances, or who have a steady income from their books, might be able to more easily justify holing away in front of their laptops while the sun is beaming brilliantly and summer activities beckon.
And yet, I still find myself struggling with writer's guilt, even though I'm a wage-earning, work-from-home, published author. Whether we're published or not, we all experience guilt. I think it's inherent to working at home, no matter what the job. We're easily distracted by what goes on in our homes. And our families are quick to interrupt us.
And let's face it, for writers, it's even easier to feel that pressure. After all, we spend hours dreaming up stories, devising twisted plots, and writing about people who exist only in our imaginations. And the thing is, we actually love it. We thrive on it. We usually wish we had more time for it.
Should we feel guilty for loving what we do, for actually deriving pleasure in our jobs, especially when WORK is a dirty word for so many people? Or should we feel sorry for those who don't have that same privilege, for those whose work is drudgery, who aren't able to use their gifts and talents, or who are caught in a dead-end job for reasons they can't control?
Perhaps instead of feeling guilty, we can count it a blessing that we can get out of bed every day and do something we love so much.
And we can also accept the fact that writing (or using our talents) is a necessity. It's the way we're designed. As human beings, we're each uniquely wired, and we function best when we're doing the job we're wired to do. Our mental health and physical well-being flourish when we're doing what we were created to do.
All that to say, we can't let summer derail our writing efforts. It's not a guilty pleasure. It's a necessity (whether we're published or not). And here are just a few ways to alleviate writer's guilt:
1. Set blocks of work time. Be clear with your family when those times are. Post it on the refrig or on the calendar. Then everyone knows when you're busy and when you're not.
2. Plan scheduled time or days off. If the family knows when you're working AND also when you're free, then it's easier for them to respect your work time. They'll know that they get YOU later in the day or later in the week during that planned time.
3. Consider getting help. A couple summers ago, I hired a college-age young woman to come over a couple afternoons a week and watch my kids, drive them to activities, and take them swimming. Then I didn't feel so guilty that my kids were sitting at home on such nice days. They were still able to get out and enjoy summer activities.
4. Teach our family/kids that it's okay to be home. Yes, summer is a wonderful time to be doing camps and swim lessons and all that other good stuff. But we also have to remind ourselves that it's okay for our kids to play at home. We don't have to fill our lives with every activity available to mankind. In fact, some of the best creative play comes when kids are allowed the space and time to use their imaginations.
5. Take full advantage of our work time. When I get a block of concentrated writing time, I don't respond to emails. I don't write blog posts. I don't answer interviews. I don't do anything except work on my stories.
How about you? Do you ever feel writer's guilt? Is writing a guilty pleasure for you or a necessity?