Letting Go of Shame

I just read this great piece by Daniel José Older called Writing Begins With Forgiveness: Why One of the Most Common Pieces of Writing Advice Is Wrong. There’s a paragraph I really want to share with you, so I’m going to quote it here:

Here’s what stops more people from writing than anything else: shame. That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be,’ ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations. Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.

The whole article is great, though, and I urge you to take the time to read it.

But this thing, this shame…it hangs over my head every day I don’t write. Every day I don’t put in the time on my writing, or my author career — every day I don’t blog, I don’t edit, I don’t proof, I don’t put new words on paper — every day I focus on something else, I feel shame.

And I need to let go of that.

Right now I’m not writing as much as I’d like to. I’ve been putting in some work on a small project, but it’s slow going and like pulling teeth to be honest. I would like to have been finished with it in August but at this rate, I’ll be lucky to write “the end” in October. And as for the big project, Anala, book 3 in The Third Age, I’ve had to promise myself that on day 1 of my honeymoon I’ll sit down and do more work on it, but that I can’t try to get to before then.

I still have a bunch of stuff to do before then anyway — I just finished proofing The Jade Star of Athering, finally, and now I’ll be sending off the edited files so I can get the final paperback proof, and maybe there will be a paperback available by November. (Let’s not get hasty here; there have been so many issues with getting that book out.) I have that small project to get out, which I’ll talk more about when it’s launched, but suffice it to say it consists of 5 short pieces — a story, a myth, and 3 character backstories — that are proving difficult to get done.

These things I have to find room for in between the day job, the other publishing work I do, keeping house, wedding planning, and keeping my health up. To be honest I’m kinda crap at all of these things, except the day job, where the requirement is I show up, smile, and do the same thing for 8 hours. The fact is I just don’t have time to focus on writing all that much right now, and I have to let myself be okay with that.

It’s a struggle. I already shame myself for not being productive enough on whatever I’m doing; writing is no exception there. It’s supposed to be my greatest joy, but I also want it to be my career — to provide for me on some level. Is it any surprise I am too hard on myself for not doing enough of it?

I’ve been writing for most of my life and I’ve yet to really find my process. It’s changed and fluctuated so much over the years, I’m honestly not sure what really works for me. I’m sure I’ll figure it out someday — if I can let go, and trust myself, and actually have the time to do so.

So I’m letting go of the shame. I’m not letting myself feel crappy for not writing (aside from, you know, the crap feeling I get when I’m not writing just because I’m not writing — I’m not giving myself extra crap feeling, is what I’m saying). Shame does nothing productive; it drags us down; it makes us despair; it constricts whatever creativity we might have had. Shame is the mind-killer, for it is rooted in fear.

I’m going to start with self-forgiveness instead. Then, when I have the time to sit down and write, I can truly let what’s in my heart sing on the page.

~Katje

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Katje

Author. Poet. Menace to society. I live in BC with my husband and our collection of books, DVDs, and video games. Hobbies include knitting, baking, and pixel homicide.

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