Beating Back the Guilt

Posted: November 5, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


All of this NaNoWriMo talk has made me acutely aware that I am not being nearly as prolific as I was when in the throes of finishing the manuscript for my novel, The Last Princess.  I was in a great hurry to put a period on my WIP by a certain date, and I had all kinds of tricks and processes in place to accomplish it — monthly word-count commitments, submission deadlines for my critique group, and so on.  It was exhilarating, uplifting, and gave me tremendous self-confidence every time I turned in a new chapter.

To be sure, I never came close to approaching 50,000 words in a month (more often 6,000), but it was steady, sustainable progress, and I could just squeeze it in between my two jobs, quality time spent with my wife and kids, a few household chores, and if there was any time left over, sleep.

But now, while thousands of writes are churning out pages of prose like snow falling in a blizzard, I am combing my manuscript for typos, fine-tuning my query letter, compiling a spreadsheet of likely agents, and watching my e-mail for the last few stragglers among my beta readers.  I am, in fact, not producing anything.

Oh, I’m also researching my next book, The Last Faerie Godmother — which will be set in Ireland in around 1500, and will incorporate an obscure fairy tale — but this isn’t exactly “progress” either.  Most of what I’m finding is about what life was like in medieval England, which is about 200 years too early and 600 kilometers too far east.  And until I can reconcile the differences and “see” the setting, I’m not comfortable putting pen to paper.

So I’m not writing.

Someone asked me why I’m not using NaNoWriMo as an excuse to hit the ground running.  I said,

The flavor wouldn’t be there; many of the ingredients would be missing. If I did, it would be like cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people without quite knowing what I was going to cook and before thawing the turkey. Making thanksgiving dinner for people I care about and who I hope will want to come back for more next year should not be a damned cooking show. I do not propose to slam everything together with a giant timer ticking away over my head, flailing around ingredients and hoping I don’t lose a finger in my haste. People could get seriously ill if I forget to, say, take the giblets bag out of the turkey. And who want’s a watery jello mold?

Novels are hard; I can’t just squeeze one out like toothpaste from a tube.

Having said that, I think if I was single, only had one job and could devote several hours every day to nothing but writing, I would probably start churning out pages, if for no other reason than to keep the writing muscles limber and because maybe 25% of what I produced would be actually useful or lead in useful directions.  But I can’t hope to produce 50,000 in a month.  6,000 was already an accomplishment.

So where does that leave me?  Vaguely guilty, to be honest.  Instead of writing I’m enjoying reading, which I firmly denied myself while I was producing chapters.  It smacks of avoidance and wasting time, even though I know I need to come out of my self-imposed literary solitude every once in a while.

So what do I do with this guilt?

I embrace it and hope it keeps me on my toes long enough to get going on my next book.


  1. terzahcain says:

    More like trying to put all the paste back in the tube – writing a novel.


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