Why You Feel Guilty About Not Writing (and What to Do About It)

It’s time to wash the guilt away for good.

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Do you feel guilty when you don’t write? You’ve come to the right post. And the right blog.

The thing about guilt is that it sends a sickening fog through our minds and makes it difficult to do the tasks we feel are important. So in feeling guilty about not writing, you end up pushing yourself even further away from making it possible to write.

A vicious cycle. Maybe one that has an end.

My theory: writers feel guilty for not writing because they’ve been told that the only thing writers are allowed to do is write.

When you read about writers living the “starving artist” life, all you hear about are the late nights, the carpal tunnel syndrome, the isolation. The pain.

And for many “active” aspiring writers, there are plenty of late nights and physical/mental ailments and lonely stretches of very slow time.

But even though writing is challenging and does not come easily to everyone and takes many long hours of very hard work, it is not a 24/7 way of living. Yes, you are a writer, you do hopefully write, and you do your best to figure out how to squeeze as many words into a 24-hour period of moments as you can manage.

This does not mean you have to — or should — spend every waking moment of your days writing. I know that’s often what it seems like you HAVE to do. I have to wake up and start writing! I have to stay up and write until I can’t keep my eyes open! The more I write the better chance I’ll have of succeeding! Right?

Not if you constantly burn yourself out and wear yourself down by carrying around excessive guilt every time you thnk you “should” be writing but aren’t.

Guilt is very heavy, and carrying it is very exhausting.

Is it really worth tearing yourself up from the inside out because you don’t want to spend every second writing? Absolutely not — because good writers make the most of their writing time; they don’t make most of their time about writing. They do quality work in smaller chunks of time so they can spend the rest of their days doing things that they need to do, on top of things that energize and fulfill them but allow their minds to rest.

I can’t tell you to “stop feeling guilty,” because I don’t know you. I don’t know how much of your self-wroth you’ve sewn into your work. I don’t know if you feel guilty about not writing because you’re embarrassed about your procrastination habit or because you secretly don’t want to do the work or because you wish your life could be different but don’t know how to change it.

But I can tell you that not writing is not something to be ashamed of. It’s just something you have to figure out how to fit into the awkward shape of your life, in your own way, on your own time. There is no set formula that can dissolve the roadblocks for every person who approaches them. There isn’t a spell that can take all your bad habits and transform them into better ones.

If you feel guilty because you aren’t writing and you think should be — but you really don’t want to — maybe, at least for now, you should relieve yourself of that unwanted pressure. If you don’t want to write it, don’t. The world isn’t going to end if you decide to put it aside.

If you feel guilty because you aren’t writing and you want to be, then the first step to changing that is to ask yourself what’s stopping you. Be honest. Is it because you haven’t figured out the best time of day to write? Are you afraid your ideas aren’t good enough?

Maybe it’s not guilt about not writing you feel, but guilt about not addressing the things that are stopping you from writing.

Think about it. Decide what you’re going to do about it. And then get back to writing.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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8 thoughts on “Why You Feel Guilty About Not Writing (and What to Do About It)

      1. I think it’s important to remember that writing, as a profession, is a long game. At first, there isn’t much reward. But the time spent can pay off. But I can see how it may not feel worth it in this context. Maybe it might help to ask yourself why writing is important to you, how you want it to fit into your future, and how you can make that fit happen. Sacrifices go both ways. You have to do what’s best in the moment. I’m sorry this is your struggle and I wish I could do more to help. <3

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