As if the rest of it wasn’t enough – the moneylessness, the lack of ambition for normal non-writing jobs, the general drifting dreaminess of my mind – writing suffuses me with guilt.
Of course, it’s not the writing itself. That’s the fun part; shaping worlds, meeting my own characters, fine-tuning sentences. How could I feel guilty about creating a universe for myself to play around in? It’s pure joy.
The real guilt-maker is the writing schedule. If you don’t have rules about writing, you don’t have writing.
Generally, no one really cares if you write during your own private lunch hour/breakfast time. It’s the weekends and the after hours where the guilt encroaches. That’s when friends and family call.
And what can you tell them? That you can’t hang out because you’re writing the same sentence over and over again? That you’re not going to the party because you’re afraid the noise and buzz will scare your thoughts away?
I’ve lost a lot of friends, and in 99% of cases it was because I didn’t hold onto them tightly enough; it’s almost never their fault. They don’t want to have a friend who never hangs out because she’s always writing things that no one gets to read. Fair enough. How can I begrudge them that?
It wouldn’t be so bad if I could prove it was true. Most of my work is very private to me, and I don’t share fiction lightly. I’ve only told one family member about this blog. My writing’s never good enough to show off, and besides I’m not interested in showing off anyway. I’ve never been externally motivated; the idea of earning accolades or awards or even publication doesn’t excite my ego. Publication only excites me because it would be great to prove to my loved ones that I’m actually doing something worthwhile. (Also money. I’d really like some money please thank you).
But mostly I’d love to hold up a published piece of work to my best friends and say, See? I was doing a thing. A real thing. It’s not that I don’t love you or value you. But I was doing a thing.
Doing the thing is not the problem. The problem is that nothing external comes from the thing. People are bound to get suspicious. And the excuses are as embarrassing as the absence: I can’t hang out with you because I’m too busy failing at writing.
Or: I’ve spent two years on this series but you can’t read it ’cause it’s crap. Regardless, I’ll still spend two hours working on it on a Friday night when I could be at the bar with you all being human or whatever.
It’s a solitary pursuit. No one can give me what I want when it comes to my writing practice. I have to find it myself, dig out of the gelatinous corners of my brain. I have to stoke the pilot light of inspiration and hope for some flame that might not come because it requires lightning. And lightning is rare.
That’s it, isn’t it? The rarity of it all. It’s unusual to become a published and successful author. All the work I’m doing, all the social shit I miss: it probably won’t lead to anything. I live with the knowledge of that reality, and I live with guilt, and I live with extraordinary feelings of inadequacy. And yet. Even if I knew FOR A FACT that my fiction will never be published (and it’s looking grim), I would still keep going.
I guess I’ll take the guilt. I’ll take the uncertainty. I’ll take money where I can get it. I’ll keep making weird excuses to leave events early to write.
This is not a post with a satisfactory conclusion. I haven’t figured out yet how to balance writing with friendship. I haven’t figured out how to share my fiction without feeling like I’m giving away something far too personal. I haven’t figured out how to turn a private passion into an external presence. I wish I could be open and honest with my friends. How do you do it? If you have a hobby that doesn’t pay off, that nevertheless entrances you? Do you languish in guilt, or do you have a way of working through those feelings? Do you share work with your friends and family, even if it’s not up to your standards?
Do you have as much writing guilt as I do? If not, WHAT IS YOUR SECRET. WHY ARE YOU SO NORMAL AND NICE. AND HELP ME PLEASE.