Monday, July 23, 2007

Guilt and Artistic Pursuits

The greatest enemy of any hobby or artistic pursuit is guilt. I have seen so many people quit whatever it is they loved, simply because they guilt-ed their passion into a duty, and then guilt-ed themselves into resenting that duty.

Personally, this first developed with piano, in college. Any time I wasn’t in class or working, it was time to practice. Vacations? Time to practice more. Any free moment was for practicing. In fact, the year before I got sick, I would go to class from 8 am -1, work from 1-11, and practice from 11:30 - 3 or 4 am. (See how I got sick, LOL?)

When I started writing, it was more a matter of making money than anything else. Still, if I wasn’t teaching, or doing the business part of teaching, or doing the creative part of teaching, or practicing, I felt I should be writing.

That’s where the guilt comes in. Somewhere after "Yay! I’ll have X amount of time to practice my art!" comes the guilt. And guilt is like a cancer. It can eat up your love for ANY activity, before you can blink.

Don’t let it. Feeling guilty about not practicing your art can overwhelm your joy. Then the only way to get rid of that awful guilt feeling is to quit the art. How sad is that?

My current guilt? I didn’t write at the conference. I barely wrote this week. And now I’m on a cleaning frenzy, which means I won’t write for another two days or so.

Seriously, I write 5 - 6 days a week, like clockwork. During vacations, I pull 10 hour writing days. This not-writing has me in a bit of a panic to get back to it. But I’m determined not to feel guilty. I’m determined. My house has been a perpetual mess for over a year, because I always feel like I should be practicing or writing.

No more. This week, I’m going to finish cleaning this darned house, and I am not going to feel guilty about it.

Now about guilt. Sure, one should write five days a week if one wants to become a professional. But there’s a line. Use the guilt if you have to, but don’t let it ever make you quit. There are many reasons to quit an activity or art.

Avoiding guilt isn’t one of them.

5 bonus scribbles:

The Dark Scribe 7/23/2007 04:19:00 PM  

Excellent observation, Spy!

Working forty hours a week and taking care of family life and home life and any other pursuit cuts into writing time. Even on my days off, when I can get 2,000 or more words down, I still feel guilty when I sit down to play a game or watch half an hour of television. Why is that? We can't be on all day, every day. Can we? And then, even when I've been productive, I don't enjoy my leisure time because the guilt sets in.

Frustrating. I know a couple of people who are so incredibly well-rounded it boggles my mind. They have their jobs, and their hobbies, and they watch television and walk the dog and work out and do all of these things and never feel guilty about one minute of their day. It's incredible.

I only wish I could eliminate the guilt and let myself enjoy my time away from the keyboard.

Liz Wolfe 7/23/2007 04:26:00 PM  

You've made an excellent point. I think I teetered on the edge of that for a while.
One thing I do when I'm stuck in my writing is to not write for a while. After a very short time, I'm just dying to get at the keyboard again.

Loreth Anne White,  7/23/2007 05:16:00 PM  

Sheesh, now you've guilted me into cleaning my house!!

Seriously, it's a great post, Spy. I think, for me, the guilt comes from not meeting my own targets/expecations/goals. And maybe the trick is to keeping them realistic. And to taking time out to have plain old fun. Because a strong, healty, and rested mind is going to take us a lot further in writing than a tired, guilty and unhappy one.

I think this happens with all 'work' though. What was that quote? ... "The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves." -- Logan Pearsall Smith

You've left me with something to ponder ... along with the dust in my house :)


StarvingWriteNow 7/24/2007 07:44:00 AM  

Hey there! Read all your National news, and I love your DH counter! I'm quite certain you'll be a writing fool again in no time flat. Enjoyed my vacation; Aruba was lovely and very restful.

I'm going to miss the August meeting since I have to pick up Son that weekend. Have you been checking the NEORWA loop lately? Suddenly there is a list for the fall retreat--when did they talk about that?

Bernita 7/24/2007 08:03:00 AM  

After returning to writing, my main guilt is the messy house, the weeds in the garden, the neglected you-name-it.
Writing is the guilty/selfish pleasure.