Friday, January 27, 2006

Guilty as Charged

Guilt. We’ve all felt it. My great-grandmother had a black belt in dishing it out. It hovers over you like a cloud, like Eeyore, wandering around the 100 Acre Wood getting a personal rain shower. I’ve tried to avoid guilt. I’ve always made the best decisions I could and not beat myself up over them. Lately, though, it seems hard to avoid.

I’m a person of many interests. I’ve never been one for physical activities or sports, but I can spend hours reading, drawing, painting, writing, cooking…that sort of thing. Lately I’ve started doing some scrapbooking and I dabble in a little home cosmetics sales. This is, of course, on top of my writing, my day job, being head chef and deck swabber.

Really, until about a year and a half ago, writing has been in the hobby category, the same as gardening or scrapbooking. I did whichever I felt like at the time, enjoying my diverse interests. If I didn’t write for three months, that was okay. I wasn’t in the mood. It was just a hobby. I would probably never get published anyway.

Fast forward to now. Writing has become as real a job as my day work. I try to do it every day. If I have free time, I dedicate it to my writing, the playground, Heart of Dixie, or reading and reviewing books for one of those. My life has become my writing with the pesky hours I’m forced to dedicate to my job and sleep carved out. I should feel blessed, I guess, since so many others struggle to find the precious moments to write.

The problem, I guess, is that I miss my hobbies. I haven’t scrapbooked in months. I keep getting invitations for all day or weekend crops. Who has time for that? Spring is coming and the garden catalogs are flowing into my mailbox. I suck at gardening, but I try. It’s time consuming as well, something else I want to do, but don’t really have the space to fit it in. I have a copy of the latest Diana Gabaldon book in my bedroom that was loaned to me by Instigator like 3 months ago. If you’re familiar with these books, you know they’re like 1300 pages. I haven’t even read past the dustcover yet.

It really isn’t about time, I guess, but guilt. I feel guilty if I do something other than work on my writing. I used to feel guilty about reading even, but now I allow myself the chance to do that for book reviews, etc. I feel guilty scrapbooking when I know I should be writing. I feel guilty watching Project Runway or falling asleep on the couch watching Law & Order when I should be writing. I know I should have a life outside of my writing, but I feel I’m at such a pivotal career point, I need to focus on it entirely.

So this makes me wonder…until I get to the point that my writing is my sole career and I’m not wasting 9-10 hours a day on something I don’t care for, how am I going to strike this balance? When I AM a full time writer, will the guilt go away? Or when I have un-shifting deadlines and bills depending on my writing, will it be even worse? Does being serious about my writing mean I can’t be frivolous about other things?

Just a question thrown out into cyberspace. Maybe I'm just whining. I'm sure the playfriends will point it out if so.



Problem Child said...

I've decided there's no such thing as a guilt-free anything. You want guilt? Have a kid. Mom-guilt will bring you to your knees (I should be growing organic vegetables and cooking beautifully healthy meals while teaching my child the art of origami. Instead I send her to preschool, dish out basic, but unimpressive, meals and let her watch Dora while I'm trying to write a book. I'm the worst parent in the universe. Rinse and repeat.).

Yeah, I used to do other things, back before the Playground, HOD, and you guys took over my life. Do I miss it? Sometimes, but life is a series of trade-offs, and as long as I'm happy with what I'm doing now, I have to let the other things go.

But, if you really miss it, go do it. Go to the scrapbook thing (my idea of the outer rings of hell, but different strokes). Plant flowers in your yard. Read non-fiction. Neither the Playground or HOD will fall apart if you take a few days off.

You'll just have 500 emails and my current crisis waiting for you when you get home. :-)


Playground Monitor said...

I've learned that no matter what I do and how much I do it, there's always something else that I should have done more of. I enjoy beading. I should write more and bead less, but beading has helped pay for my RWA expenses. My husband and I are taking ballroom dancing classes and that requires one evening per week for class and some practice time at home. But according to an article in today's paper "Dance increases the chances of preventing the onset of Alzheimer's by 40 percent." I'm all for preventing that!

I had a published friend tell me that I should enjoy this time before publication because once you DO sell, then you have the deadlines and the revisions and the promotion and the real worry. And most likely a new and different kind of guilt.

It's about balance. All work and no play makes Alexandra, Kimberly, Kira, Danniele and yours truly dull girls.

And that, my friends, is simply my two cents' worth. :-)

Angel said...

Andrea, this is SO how I feel a lot of times. I, too, have scrapbooks that I faithfully kept up until this year. I just culled a whole box of books out of my To-Be-Read pile. What's the point in keeping them? I'll never get around to reading them.

But my focus for this year is balance. (Ha! Like I have any idea what that is!) But my new mantra is "I'm doing the best I can." Just like I'm a better mother for those times when I get away from my children for a while. Sometimes we are all better writers when we do something else for a while.

Actually, I read somewhere that, when you are stuck in your book, try doing something else creative. There's an excuse to play hooky somewhere in there, I'm sure. :)

Now I just need to take my own advice.


Anonymous said...

There are many sides to your personality. Think of it this must nurture every facet in order for the whole to function with upmost potential. Give in to the yearnings of your creative spirit. Allow yourself the joy of watching a plant grow... that feeds your soul. Create something out of nothing... that jumpstarts the mind.

Nothing we do in life draws us away from who we are. But everything we do feeds the story that is trying so hard to break free.

Nothing we do is wasted. So I go with whatever phase I'm in, whether that is knitting, quilting, gardening, reading, cooking, etc...I'm being productive somehow and I try to be at peace with that.

Just my own thoughts.


Maven Linda Howard said...

Guilt because I do something other than write? You bet. It's a fact of life, part of a lifetime spent working. Does that stop me? No.

Look at it this way: your life as you live it is what shapes you. It affects the way you write, because it affects the way you interpret things. How are you going to describe joy, if you do it only from memory and don't actually experience it anymore yourself? I find joy in a lot of things: taking my dogs for a walk, seeing a gorgeous sunrise or sunset, a good book (and, by the way, the new Diana Gabaldon is excellent, the best since Outlander), and, yes, watching television. I'm hooked on American Idol. I'm going to watch it -- period.

The way I look at it is, everything is grist for my writer's mill. Everything I experience, everything I see and read, everything I do. It's all part of ME, and I'm the filter through which my characters emerge, so simply living is part of the writing process. If you cheat yourself out of joy, you're hindering the writing.

So go live.