By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
I was at a recent book signing doing a presentation. During the Q & A time, I was asked a really great question: Unpublished writers often feel guilty for spending time writing when they're not seeing a profit from their work. How can beginning writers justify spending lots of time writing when they're not yet published?
I only had to think back to my pre-publication days to remember the frustration I once felt trying to justify the hours I spent writing. Sometimes I would question myself and sometimes others would question what I was doing.
I would ask myself: Should I really put so much energy into my writing when I wasn't making a dime on it? I often wondered if what I was writing was good enough. Quite frankly, I wasn't really sure if I'd ever even get published (this was in the day before indie publishing came of age).
I persevered through the angst and have since learned that the guilt was completely unnecessary.
There are numerous reasons why unpublished writers shouldn't feel guilty for spending time on their writing:
1. Writers need to GET an education.
Most other professions require years of college where students pay out thousands of dollars to get a degree, all without seeing a return or the guarantee of a job in their field. Sometimes students are even required to do internships without pay.
No one questions such training. In fact, most people see it as a necessary part of the process of becoming ready to handle the "real" job. For example, most people wouldn't want to be operated on a brain surgeon who hadn't gone through numerous years of rigorous training.
The same is true of writers. We have to spend years learning the trade. Sometimes we have to pay money out (for conferences, books, workshops, etc.) even though we're not seeing a return. Usually we have to write numerous books without monetary profit. Those years of learning are our internship, the hands-on-learning that we need to finally be ready for moving to the next stage of our career.
2. Writers need to GO after their passion.
I believe that everyone is given a gift which is usually wrapped up in a combination of talent, passion, and personality. When we discover our gift (or perhaps gifts), we should use it, pursue it, and make the most of it.
Maybe we won't be able to earn a living using our gift. But that doesn't mean we should set it aside. Lots of people have "day jobs" to help pay the bills, but still pursue their passion on the side.
Using our gifts helps to improve our mental health because we're doing what we enjoy and were made to do. Using our gifts often helps make difference in the lives of those around us. When we get to the end of our lives we can look back and know that we not only touched other lives and made our world a better place, but that we also lived our life to the fullest and best of our ability.
3. Writers need to GAIN family support.
Families are the places where we should be able to discover and test our gifts. We should be encouraging one another to use them and supporting one another in our endeavors.
All too often, however, families take one another for granted and fail to mutually support each other.
Mothers, especially, are in the habit of sacrificing so much every day for their children and families, that they often give up personal hobbies, exercise, and even using their gifts because they're so busy doing stuff for everyone else. Eventually those moms burn out. I've discovered that I can be a better mom when I'm taking care of myself and leaving time for the activities that are important to me.
If families get into the practice of helping each other carve out time for the things we love and enjoy doing, then we'll all thrive. It can't just be one person sacrificing or one person getting to do his hobby. Rather we need to be encouraging all members within our families to pursue their passions (including writing!).
How about YOU? Have you ever felt guilty for spending time on your writing?