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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.

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Monday, 21 September 2009
There was a lot of guilt about last week! So much that I began to wonder if it was catching. Two Yup writing friends (yup – as in Yet Un-Published) wrote to say they were thinking of giving up because they felt so GUILTY not contributing to the family finances. Then two more arrived - one laden with GUILT that she spent too much time writing and not enough with her family. The last from one who felt, since she wasn’t yet published that she felt GUILTY wasting her time and perhaps should do something else. Did you notice? All four were women. What is it with us that we suffer so from this problem? Do men? I’d be surprised if they did! It appears we arrive on this planet with guilt stored in our genes, often, it seems, released, with the arrival of children – and life is a roller-coaster of guilt from then on. For my writers there is little I can say or advise. What solution is there? Only one, to ignore it and get on with the novel. Easier said than done, I know. I do believe that the lucky ones are those who are selfish and don’t suffer culpability but I guess selfishness is something you are born with and cannot develop from choice. When I started to write I fell in love with it and became obsessed to the exclusion of everything else – I didn’t want to socialise, go on holiday; I simply wanted to write. It was not fair on my family. A compromise had to be reached. So, I gave up working on Sunday and later added Saturday. The problem occurs when your partner does not understand the obsession that writing can become – writers needing writers yet again. As to my friend who felt she had given it long enough and should pursue another course – well my feeling, and I told her, was that deep down she didn’t want to do it anymore for most writers to stop would be like losing an arm. Then to top it all I had a phone call from a YUP who was in tears. Her husband, who had never read her work – not his cup of tea - had been nagging her to give up and get a “proper” job. She obviously wasn’t going to succeed, he said. She loves him, what was she to do? Since, unlike me, she could not consider kicking him out, there was little comfort I could give her. I did however point out that once she was a great success no doubt his attitude would change when the money came rolling in! TRUNCATED WORDS. Jan asked about the use of truncated words; aren’t, wouldn’t etc. I don’t know if there are any rules (I hate rules) but what I stick to is – conversation I use them and when a character is internalising but not in narrative passages. But beware if writing an historical for then they would not sit happily in some conversation.

2 comments:

  1. Gosh and here i was thinking it was just us Catholics who suffered so badly with guilt! I know I feel guilt about taking so much time, energy and resources for my writing but I have to tell myself that repeatedly - this is my job/career. I need to invest time and sometimes money in it as I would with any other. You don't become a doctor or a musician with a degree or instrustion and years of practice/training. To assuade my guilt over time away from the family - I have turned it in my head to a way of showing them that nothing comes without hard work and some times it may take years to reach your dreams but don't ever give up on them - even when it hurts or kicks you in the teeth.

    I have to add this works most of the time but....I have been so close recently to dropping it all. Thankfully it didn't last long!
    lx

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  2. Guiltwise, modern women get the end of the stick that's been broken off all sharp and pointy. Insane amounts of expectation and a constant chorus of voices going,'gimme, gimme, gimme'. I don't know how you do it!

    I only have two pieces of advice for the discouraged, dispensed according to my mood:

    1) If you feel like giving up, you probably should. There's a wide and beautiful world of fun stuff to do that doesn't involve the hard and lonely hours of practice required to make it in the arts. Look at your work and make a choice.

    2) Shut up and get back to work.

    Some days, I give myself talk #1 or talk #2, or even talk #1 followed by talk #2m as often as needed... :)

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