This past Tuesday, my older daughter had her first softball game of the season (and second, because this league likes double-headers and pissing parents off). Unlike last year, this year the girls are allowed to do fun stuff like slide and steal bases. My daughter stole her first base and, as she stomped on it, she clutched her heart like a Victorian ingénue who’d stumbled into the Red Light District. She’s the smallest girl on her team, so this drew a collection of “D’awws” from the other moms.
Then, one turned to me and said, “I can’t believe you’re not videoing this right now.”
My first thought was, “Fuck off.”
My second thought was, “Oh, shit. I should.”
But I didn’t whip out my phone like some twenty-first century gunslinger. I continued to watch my daughter play.
Later, I felt a little guilty. My parents live in Florida, which is a far fucking cry from Minnesota, and rarely get to see my kids. A video would have been nice to show them. Or I could have had it to transferred to DVD to embarrass my daughter with later. Or I could have just had it to watch over and over again when she’s irritating the crap out of me and I need to be reminded of her good qualities.
But then I stopped feeling guilty because I’ve been feeling guilty a lot lately.
As writers, we feel two things predominantly: overwhelming excitement over a project and guilt.
Guilt over writing too much.
Guilt over not writing enough.
Guilt over sacrificing time with family, friends, and “real jobs” to get the fucking words on paper because we need to sleep at some point, too.
It comes from every angle. And sure, sometimes people have good intentions—You’re looking pale, maybe you ought to go outside; Have you eaten?; Tequila is not a fruit—but in the end, the most torment comes from within and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Except stop feeling guilty.
You didn’t write today. Instead, you planted your ass on the couch with a cup of coffee and a plate of cookies and read the shit out of a book that’s been on your to-read list for months. Good! Where do you think inspiration comes from, anyway? The toaster?
You didn’t read, either. You took a walk. Or went grocery shopping in peace (praisethelord). Or bought the fancy coffee and watched people quietly argue over that bitch, Jennifer.
Good! How do you expect to be worth a damn to yourself (or anyone else for that matter) if you don’t take the time to do nothing once in a while?
You spent eight hours in front of the computer, typing like a trained monkey, because the words just wouldn’t leave you alone. The house is a wreck, there’s no dinner on the table, and your significant other is seriously concerned over the state of your lightning-fast fingers.
Good! Protect that writing time fiercely! If you don’t take it, no one is going to give it to you, and you’re not going to write that book. Or play. Or script. Or whatever it is that makes your little heart go pitter-fucking-pat.
You’re not a typewriting monkey, and you’re not a useless human being for spending the bulk of your mornings making shit up, either. You’re a person. Or a humanoid cephalopod; we don’t judge.
Do what you think is right for you in this moment and the next, because no one else knows better than you. And for fuckssakes, stop feeling guilty about.
I don’t. Not anymore.