It’s summer vacation time. I hope you have had or are going to enjoy a wonderful one! I did. And I urge you, no matter where you are in your writing process, to relax and make it a true vacation. You deserve it.
Many writers find the act of writing — and reading, for that matter — an escape, a way to release the stresses and overwhelming anxieties of everyday life by delving into someone else’s life and problems or into the imaginary. That’s a marvelous thing. As a teacher, I introduced journal writing to my students as an acceptable way to release anger and other pent-up feelings, as a way to consider problems and solutions, as a way to focus conflicting thoughts or release creativity, and more.
Writing has many benefits for the writer, but the writing process can also become an additional source of stress through guilt. Don’t let that happen to you!
When I retired from teaching and began seriously pursuing a second career as a writer, I sought out helpful advice from published writers, agents, and editors through writing groups, conventions, and conferences. A number of these experts, along with books I read about writing, proclaimed that a writer must write every day. I’ve always had trouble with this axiom. I cringe each time I hear it. And for a while, I felt a good deal of guilt because I could not adhere to it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that writing every day is bad or wrong. On the contrary, it’s a great practice for those who can stick with it. In fact, many writers need the discipline of writing every day and/or writing a certain number of pages a day. But for some writers, like me, that process doesn’t work well, adding unnecessary stress and guilt to what should be an enjoyable occupation.
Any mother, especially a working mother, can tell tales of days when she could not find a minute to take a deep breath, let alone a half hour to write. And there are days of illness, both personal and family, that preclude writing. And hundreds of other obligations and unforeseen circumstances, as well as holidays and vacations.
I used to feel guilty about not writing on such days, a feeling that heaped even more fuel on the already well-stoked stress furnace. However, as I listened to more writers and read more books and articles about writing, I realized several things:
- Writing is an individual process, and no writer’s process works perfectly for another writer.
- Not all writers actually write every day.
- Guilt is unhealthy and counterproductive.
I decided I had to let go of guilt. I had to find my own process, to do what worked for me, and that did not include the absolute necessity of writing every day. Writing every day just does not work for me. Following my own schedule does. My productivity has not suffered. In the last six years, I’ve completed drafts of three novels, two novellas, three short stories, and a number of poems. I’ve also edited three books and many shorter works.
So take your vacation, take a break from writing, and return refreshed and recharged and eager to plunge back into your writing. Take photos. Hope you enjoy these glimpses of my vacation! To see more photos, visit my personal blog.
What parts of the writing life or writing process have caused stress and guilt for you? Share and let go of the guilt!