For any writer, but especially for writers still waiting for the dream of publication to come true, spending time on your writing without feeling guilty can be a constant difficulty.

Many of us live with family and all of us have roles other than “writer” to fulfil. Partners, children, friends and relatives all need our
time and attention. The pantry is empty, the floors grubby, the dogs need walking. And many writers still have to work to support themselves or their families.

Carving out writing time in the midst of all these strains can be almost impossible. For women writers in particular, housecleaning and family responsibilities can be a huge drain on our creative juices. Sitting there with a notebook or in front of the computer ignoring it all works for some but for others the stress and guilt often cause us to crumble – and to not write.

As we all know writing is a craft that requires time, persistence and head space. So how do you find that space and time in the midst of all these demands? How do you write without feeling guilty, or at least without giving in to the guilt?

After years of trying to answer both these questions for myself I have no definitive wisdom but can give you a few tips:

  •  Write out a weekly and daily time schedule.
  • Allocate time for everything you need to do, including writing. Have the schedule posted where you – and everyone you live with – can see it. Stick to it. Adjust it weekly if needed.
  • Prioritise your time. Work out how much time you can dedicate to your writing each day/week. Do the writing first and everything else later.
  • Sit down with your nearest and dearest and explain to them that you need time and space to write, that you will not be
    neglecting them but that they need to pull their weight and allow you time to devote to your passion, just as you allow them to focus on theirs.
  • For those with children – or partners who act like them – write out a list of responsibilities for everyone in the household.
    And the consequences if it’s not followed. If they want to steal your writing time, refuse to do something for them. Be strong.
  • Realise that you may never have huge blocks of time in which to write. Break your writing down into smaller sections – scenes, episodes, descriptions, even sentences. Write in smaller time blocks – you can tweak a few sentences in 15 minutes and draft a whole scene in an hour.
  • Keep your work in progress open on your computer screen and minimised. Whenever you have some spare time, click it open and write.
  • Do a freewrite on why you write (for an earlier post on this topic click here). Read it and find the one key sentence or
    paragraph. Type it up in your favourite font on your favourite coloured paper and post it somewhere you will see it often.

Ultimately it’s up to us to get the writing done (see The Writing is Your Responsibility here). We’ll probably always feel torn but if we can find ways to minimise the guilt our writing – and our lives – will be so much better.

How do you avoid the guilt trap?

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