Writers Block Or Writers Guilt?

When I am here, I feel I should be there

or anywhere else really

To be here is to sit on a pile of ants

ants like, jobs to do,

ants like, emails to return

ants like, what’s for dinner?

ants like, water the plants

So the only answer to the antics of the ants

is to leave the nest

*Does this make sense? Anyone else have writers guilt rather than writers block?

Steven Pressfield writes about resistance in his excellent book “War of Art.” I wrote a post about my own resistance at times

I also wrote in another post of the invisible to-do list that our house can become, plants that yell at us to water them, floors that need to be cleaned, washing put away, and then the office, which is full of emails and accounts that should be reconciled and all the other tasks that fill up our day.

or should

If we weren’t taking this small block out just for ourselves to write, create art or whatever it is that you really want to do but can’t because of the significant and very real obstacle of mental resistance that seems to be, for me at least, related to guilt for not doing the other things that I should (there is that word again) be doing. (No shoulds in 2023!)

This shouldness was exacerbated because my husband has been in the office all week. He has been working away at putting numbers together for quotes. Occasionally he calls me in to help him with something, but mostly I could be writing perfectly peacefully. Except I can’t. Because I feel like he is thinking I should be doing something else. Which he isn’t.

Yes, I am that barmy.

So now I had two sets of should. Mine and his imagined ones.

“I don’t think that at all, I love the fact you are writing, you just have to change your mind and get over it,” he said when I told him.

Which was perfectly sane in theory and of course I should be able to do that.

But when writing fiction, I have to submerge myself in the story. It is like going underwater. And to do so successfully, I have to write my journal, then tinker with my blog post, read back over the story from the day before, and slowly descend into the world of my characters. Once I’m there, thousands of words roll easily. I take breaks every hour, or when I get a bit stuck, I can do things in between, like check the emails or whatever and then go back to it. But if I don’t get to submerge that first time and crack apart the portal between worlds – I need help getting into the headspace, even for blog writing, which is why I usually write my blog post early in the morning before all the to-do things wake up and start talking at me.

Anyway, driving into town this afternoon, on yet another errand, I came up with the solution.

I used to think that people who went to coffee shops to write were mad. How could it be easier to concentrate in a coffee shop than at home?

Now I get it.

No guilt at a coffee shop, no tasks screaming at you to be done.

You could knock out a good couple of hours of writing and then go home and attend to all the noisy things.

I’m not a coffee shop person, more of a library person. When it is as hot and windy as it has been outside, the park is no place to write, I would melt or blow away, the library however, particularly our town library which is as quiet as a church – would be perfect.

So that’s my thing today – off to the library to try and get something done on my writing. And yes, I usually do my blog posts very early with no distractions, but the last few days have been very early starts and then doing things for other people so I have fallen out of any sort of routine. Which is also damaging to practicing the craft.

I will see how this “writing in other places” goes. I just thought I would share if someone is facing a similar problem with clearing space in their head to write.

Thought I would also add this lovely passage that I think applies to anyone who is doing what they are supposed to be doing, whether that be the bricklayer, the builder, the writer, the poet, the artist or the dancer etc

“Then a Ploughman said, Speak to us of Work. And he answered by saying: “you work so that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth, For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turn to music. Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all sings together in unison.

Always you have been told that work is a curse, and labour a misfortune. But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born, and in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life.”

Kalil Gibran – The Prophet

Beautiful, and exactly how I feel when I write.

Have a lovely day; I hope you find some time to do the thing that makes you smile inside.

31 thoughts on “Writers Block Or Writers Guilt?

  1. As usual, I can completely relate to everything you’ve said today. I’m at home sick, and feeling so guilty that I’m not taking care of my normal responsibilities. I can’t even seem to enjoy the quiet of being home alone. I should just relax, but my brain keeps telling me, “You should shrug off your sickness and get busy.” I gotta learn the trick to shutting off my brain sometimes. We should be allowed to relax a little bit. Lol

    • It’s all in our head, which should make it simple to get rid of except that my head is the worst place to put one of those repetitive thought triggering feelings. I decided yesterday to give my guilt drip a name, “Mandy” it’s easier to tell Mandy to shut up and go away I’m busy writing, then to sit with the subconscious monologue. Humans are so strange and I think we creative types are the strangest 😂

      • I love that… giving her a name. We are are extraordinarily strange, but weirdly I don’t mind. 😅

  2. It’s interesting all that journaling/blogging jumpstarts you into your work. Like warming up for a run. I think I am finding it takes the urgency out of my writing–like telling someone the plot first. Even though I might not be writing about the same thing–it uses creative energy. I am playing with WHEN I blog. That might be part of the problem. If I decide to post a bit of my work, it should definitely be after I write. And if I write about my life or observations on life, I need to find a time to do that. Yet I’m not sure when that is yet. Before I blogged, I used to read/make creative notes/write parts of things at night. That is when I was most creative. Then I edited or put things together in the morning which is a different type of task. Which worked well. Later Facebook (before I got off it) was a place I promoted my work, but it wasn’t a blog. So am wondering if I use Substack to post excerpts on a more regular basis, but just “blog” here and double-post once/week if that would solve it. I think reading blogs and commenting, though, can be inspirational. As long as I don’t spend all day doing it and keep it to the bloggers I really admire…

    • Hi Lynn, I think everyone has their own creative process, we are unique – I find that when I blog it is a completely different style of writing to journalling (which I don’t share) and then the fiction which is altogether different also. Like using different cogs they all serve a purpose in turning the wheel and moving me forward. I find that since I’ve moved away from social media I have more energy to pour into writing and funnily enough, I also receive energy from the process.

  3. “I have to submerge myself in the story. It is like going underwater. ” – Yes!
    It can take me a bit to settle down, but I love that feeling when I do get there – getting lost in the story- when all else fades into the background. In the flow, you might say. ✨

  4. we beat ourselves up unnecessarily; go about your normal tasks; the poetry will come through the tasks themselves or through a whimsical sideways glance; capture it then move on. I like your little parable of the ants. But unless you’re writing a novel or a screenplay like Jack Torrance in ‘The Shining’ go about your daily tasks; the poetry will come 🙂

  5. I relate very much. So much of what I do creatively is mood-related, and it’s sometimes an excuse that stops me from even trying. And yes – a solution everyone preaches about is to just sit and do it. Force yourself. And often, things flow when I just begin and make a decent effort at it. But life admin nags…and so yes, a complete change of environment is a wonderful idea, though for me, it usually means having to take time off work – because even if I go elsewhere, I can’t allocate a decent enough amount of time for what I want to do unless I deliberately shut off everything else (including the phone). I envy people who can go on writers’ retreats and take up writing residencies. Even just travel alone to experience more – which later feeds into what they end up writing. But they are a small minority. Writing usually doesn’t pay enough to do it full time…at least, not the kind of writing that tugs at one’s heart.

    Anyway…we just try our best and hope good things come 🙂

  6. I have had that conversation with my husband! When he started working from home I felt like I should be moving and working. I put off writing until it was late and I was too tired. Now I get up early and carve out time. But I still have the nagging ants! Love this post!

  7. I fully relate to all this! I’ve found I really love writing in my van during my kids lessons. It like my own private office and it helps with those loud “shoulds.”

  8. Oh, I could so identify with this piece, Kate. I feel that awful guilt when I’d rather be writing, but I have all these menial, practical jobs to get out of the way first. Once I start writing, though, I get totally lost in the process, but then I get behind with reading and commenting on other blogs. It’s all a bit stressful at times, but I love the passion of writing so much; it makes it all worth it, and while I’m doing that, I get so lost that I’m in my own little world, and anything outside of that tends to be ignored regardless. I also like to write in coffee shops (and can even concentrate more on reading there, too, strangely enough). However, like you and some of your other readers, I’m in my element at the local library. Having said that, there’s nothing more annoying than trying to compose a piece of writing when the person next to me is munching on a bag of crisps or a group of people quite close by start having an animated conversation right next to me. So – I try to go to the library at its quietest times. School holidays and exam times are a definite no-go area for writing. Thanks for sharing your experience of writer’s block or writer’s guilt. It made for very interesting and appealing reading. Hope you are well, Kate. Xx 🌹💕

  9. I related to this quite well. Add a religious upbringing to the mix, and you’re stuck with guilt of feeling wasteful of precious time that could be spent “serving”. Yet, as I begin to “enter in” if you will, the place where imagination becomes reality, it is there that I find myself doing what God purposed for me from the beginning.

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