Oh writers guilt. My WIP. Don’t you love those initials? A little too close to RIP, if you know what I mean. I haven’t touched mine in over two weeks. . . Okay, maybe three. The guilt is starting to nag, and normally I wouldn’t harbor any of it. But lately it’s starting to grow a little heavy on my shoulders.
While I was growing up my mother would receive letters from her mother. She called them her guilt letters. In my teenage years she began sharing them with me (once I could understand what sarcasm was). They were fIlled with the “you never visits,” and, “I never hear from you’s.” But not so obviously that you could spot them easily. They had to be read out loud with my Mom’s affected voice and little jabs. We would all laugh and then my mother would feel obligated to call my grandmother and force us on the phone to speak with her. You may think I’m being terrible, but my grandmother was not a nice lady, and these conversations were pure torture to us. Her letters might have been funny, but her conversation verged on down right mean.
We would get off the phone and my mom would have us discuss what we talked about. She would diffuse any ill feelings toward my grandmother with laughs, and manage to turn it all into a big joke for us. I look back on these conversations in amazement, my mom turned what should have been guilt, into something funny. She turned what should have been hurtful, into something we could laugh about. She taught me a valuable lesson with those letters. What we do, can be enough, and what we don’t do, can be enough too.
But sometimes it feels as if it’s never enough, what we do. Especially as Moms. Especially as Writers.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this as what Ranee affectionately calls NaNo Momo is approaching. I have never participated because I find the whole idea guilt inducing. I don’t write well under pressure. I set time aside when I can, to let the ideas form and flow organically. I can look at other writers and appreciate that they can do this. That they can participate in something so challenging. I will not feel guilty about not being able to join them. My first draft of my second WIP is almost done and then I begin the edits.
Maybe I can NaNo the edits.
With my first book I remember the point where I had to decide to publish. My arrow hovered over the Amazon button. Excitement may have been at the forefront of my consciousness, but guilt colored the edges. At some point you have to look at a manuscript and say, “It’s enough. I’ve done enough.”
I studied fine art in college, and it’s the same in painting, there comes a certain point where you have to stop creating. If you continue to work on a painting after it should be complete, it crosses the line into bad. There’s no going back in art, so at least in writing you can backspace, you can “undo.” There was a manuscript I was asked to crit for a friend, which has never been published and is probably languishing under a bed somewhere. She is a very talented writer, but she had disguised the plot with too much. Too much description, too much language. I began writing strip all over the pages until I began feeling dirty. Part of your job as a writer is to allow your reader to imagine the situation for themselves. You give them just enough to put them there, so they can draw from their own experiences to finish the scene. I believe wholeheartedly in allowing a reader to use their imagination. It’s why movies never quite live up to our expectations. We’ve already interpreted the book with our own imaginations. My Harry Potter is different from your Harry Potter because his image is influenced by my own influences. So in balancing our life as writers and as mothers, it’s okay to do just enough. Sometimes too much is bad, sometimes the people and the writing in your life, need space. You don’t have to give 100% all the time. Release the guilt, allow others to pick up some of the slack. I have to remember that even if I’m giving 100% of my time to my children, I’m still not going to live up to the idea of what I think a perfect mother should be. So while I’m writing, I can give them my minimum- and they will be okay. And when I’m being a mommy, I can put my writing on the back-burner, and it will be okay too. I can say that it is enough, what I have done. Because I have to accept the things I can not change. I will accept the things I don’t want to change.
And I don’t have to feel guilty about it.
Good luck my Nano-momo gals, I look forward to the updates!