Why You Shouldn’t Be Writing

We are constantly told: “You should be writing.” Especially from our fellow writer friends. It’s meant as a sort of tough love encouragement, a call to action, or push to get us going. Which is great, if the only thing stopping you is your own procrastination, or the ever-present self-doubt.

But sometimes, all this does is add to guilt us writers already struggle with every day. Every free moment we get, a little voice in our head is taunting, “You can’t relax. You’re being lazy. You should be writing.”

I’m here to tell you that little voice is wrong.

As far as little voices go, they’re usually wrong, and it’s a good idea not to listen to them anyways. But that one I am sure you are familiar with that constantly nags at the back of your mind with guilt the longer you go between words, is hard not to listen to. Especially when our fellow comrades in writing are saying the same thing.

Yes, sometimes we just need a little push. But sometimes, there is more than that going on. Maybe you’re a parent (a full-time job) or have a full-time job (maybe both). Maybe when you get home you’re just so exhausted you can’t stand, or mentally drained, and all you want to do is veg out on the couch and watch some brain-numbing TV. Or if you’re like me, a full-time student with so much going on, it feels like you’re just trying to keep your head above water most of the time.

When I’ve finished studying for hours, or come home from a four hour lecture, the last thing I want to do is sit down and force out some words with brain power that I don’t have left. I’d much rather binge watch Once Upon A Time until I pass out and have dreams of Captain Hook (it’s happened, no judgement), or spend some quality time with boyfriend, or have an old-fashioned girls night, or I don’t know, sleep for the first time in a week.

We are writers. The words are a part of us, and they always will be. That doesn’t mean that the longer we go without writing, we become lesser writers. Yes, we are writers, but we are also human beings. With lives, and families, and responsibilities, and memories to be made.

Let yourself off the hook.

I know this can be hard for us writers, but seriously. If you need me to give you permission: You shouldn’t be writing right now. You have absolutely nothing hanging over your head, pressing at the back of your mind. You shouldn’t feel guilty. Go outside, read a book, spend time with your family, go out, take a nap. There are a hundred other things you can and should be doing instead of feeling guilty for not writing.

Again, we are writers but we are also humans. You do not stop being a writer if you’re not writing, or if you don’t think of writing every hour every day. The words will always be there. Go out and live your life, enjoy it. Maybe you’ll even get inspiration out of it, or come up with the next great American novel.

Trust me, letting go of that guilt feels amazing. When I stopped listening to that little voice, it felt like being freed from shackles.

So the next time you feel that familiar, gnawing guilt in the pit of your stomach, and hear that voice in the back of your mind, saying “You should be writing”?

Kindly tell him to leave you the hell alone.

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18 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Be Writing

  1. Oh, that voice hits me so often! And sometimes I get swallowed up in this guilt that I’m not writing when I should, and that disturbs my writing habits, gets me out of sync, and now I’m not writing because of the guilt.

    What a terrible cycle to get stuck in, and it’s the main cause of writing blocks. Though it takes me a bit to recognize that the block started because of that guilt. So this is great advice and a great reminder to let that guilt go, to not give it power, and to recognize that we don’t always need to be writing. We’ll find a time when that time is right, and it will work out. In the meantime, we take care of ourselves so that when we can write, we have the energy to do it.

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  2. I tell that voice to leave me be, and then I see that he’s just a much older, hairier, more tattooed and angry version of me. He tells me NO. I grumble something and sit back down at the keyboard…

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  3. This resonated with me big time! I used to feel guilty if I wasn’t writing every single spare moment I had. If I’m not falling asleep on the keyboard, I must not be trying hard enough, right? If I’m not eating, and breathing writing 24/7 even thought I’m sick, or tired it means I’m not passionate enough about it. If I’m not locking myself in my office for endless hours until I can’t see straight, I don’t have the drive it takes to be a successful writer. Yeah, right.

    It’s taken me a long time to realize that my creative process works the way it works and it’s okay if I don’t write on my WIP every single day. My creative process needs in-between breaks to recharge. Some days, all I might get is a haiku or two, and that’s just fine.

    Spending time with family and friends and other hobbies is healthy for me, and it helps keep my creativity well full. I think when you let go of the guilt too, you actually end up writing a whole heck of a lot more, which is pretty ironic in the end. 🙂

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    • I’m glad you did! I can absolutely relate to that, and I think that’s how a lot of us writers feel, but honestly that’s just not realistic, and trying to expect that is just ridiculous. I function so much better as a writer when I have time to recharge, and when I let go of the guilt. That way, when I do sit down to write, I really love it, and that translates onto the page. But yes! That is so true 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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  4. This voice is a burden. Though, what’s worse is I don’t have much on my plate at the moment – I’m doing a course which is part time, and am currently waiting for results of my Assessment, which will roughly be until December, so I’m not busy. Yet, I still haven’t done any real writing for a week; sure, I’ll do a couple hundreds words scattered over a few days, but it feels like absolutely nothing, and this negative voice doesn’t help! I’m just not pushing myself to write – I want to write, but I feel so disappointed in myself that I don’t do anything about it, and if I don’t change that, then someday even the feeling of WANTING to write will disappear too.

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    • But that’s okay too! Even when I don’t have a lot going on, or have a free day, writing isn’t always my first choice. Sometimes I’d still rather binge watch Netflix or go out with friends, or anything. And I don’t feel guilty about it, because the words will always be there. And in my experience, they are much better when I do give myself that freedom, and I get to come back and choose to write, and every word is love poured out on the page rather than guilt and frustration. I know how tough it can be not to feel that way, but trust me when I say the guilt and disappointment aren’t doing you or your writing any favors, and your words or love for writing will NEVER disappear. It is a part of us, and always will be, even if we stopped writing altogether. Hang in there, and good luck! 🙂

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  5. Wonderful post!
    How often I’ve heard that little voice…
    Sometimes though, I have an itch to write, but nothing to write, so I end up half crazy because I know I should be writing because I want to be writing, but I can’t think of anything to write.

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  6. I think the only time that little voice should be listened to is when you have a lot of time to sit around and do nothing. It’s Saturday and you have no plans or responsibilities and you have that nagging feeling you should get up and do something. Sometimes I really need that time (even if it’s the whole day) to relax and do nothing, but most of the time I regret doing zilch. But super busy people etc? They should be allowed to rest.

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  7. Oh man. I think I really needed that. Since early September, I don’t think I’ve gotten a single thing written. Not a word. And I’m right there with you on the drowning thing. Feelin’ it hardcore. Great point you got here.

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