Monday 20 September 2010

Writer's guilt

I suffer from something I can only call writer's guilt (note the position of the apostrophe; I'm not attributing this to anyone else!).

Having spent nearly all my adult life looking after people - nursing, bringing up children, counselling - I feel I should be doing something less self-centred than writing. Writing used to be a luxury; something I fitted in around all the other things I had to do. Nowadays, I can spend much more time on it (that I often don't is due to sheer laziness), and when I am writing, I often feel I ought to be doing something more "worthwhile". My husband says I suffer from "oughtism", and he's probably right. But even now - especailly now - as I spend (waste?) time posting this, I know that there are less self-indulgent activities in which I could (and probably should) be indulging.

If I were terribly successful, and made shedloads of money from my writing, I'd feel much more justified in doing it. After all, I could spend it on magnificent treats for people. That would be worthwhile, wouldn't it? As it is, I often feel quite uncomfortable about being writer.

Am I alone in this? Or am I just in the wrong job?


  1. To some extent, I am able to reconcile myself to this with the hope that my writing will provide a useful catharsis or provoke a useful thought for some readers.

    For something more concrete, I also volunteer with the local ambulance. It's not a lot, but it gives me something I can hang my hat on when I feel like a more concrete contribution.

  2. Hardening of the oughteries is another phrase I've heard for what you're feeling.
    I think it happens to all of us who've ever worked in the 'caring' professions, Frances. But I genuinely believe that good books are essential for people's well-being. The only problem is, we never see that benefit so don't know how worthwhile what we're doing is. (Fan mail aside, of course)

  3. Yeah, I really suffer from this. Writing is so indulgent and selfish, particularly when it doesn't make any money, really - I do feel that I should be doing something 'proper', particularly now the Munchie is at school. Ah well, one more year until I get my Masters and then I'll be looking for a 'proper' job and moaning about how little time I have to write, no doubt.

  4. HI, Nevets. Yes - a bit of voluntary work helps, but I don't do much any more because I want to be free for sudden demands from (grand)children. I think your reasons for writing are more worthy than mine. I write for me. I want others to enjoy what I write - of course I do - but I do it because I enjoy it. No excuses there, then.

    Hi, Alis. Yes - the caring professions are very hard to get away from. I still miss nursing, even though it's in an appalling state at the moment. And of course books are essential, but I'm afraid that's not why I write them (see above)! Oh - and I've been thinking of you, because I really am beginning to enjoy the re-writing. And at least I don't have to think up a new plot. Yet.

    Hi, Aliya. I'm glad someone else feels the same way. But at least you are bringing hp your Munchie. I'm not bringing up anyone any more.

  5. Don't underestimate the impact you're having what with Welsh dragons and all. :)

  6. Thanks, Nevets. I'll hang on to the Welsh dragons!