Don’t Let Guilt And Shame Derail Your Writing Goals

Not living up to your New Year’s Resolution? Now is the time to reset — to recommit — before guilt and shame derail the rest of your year.

You probably set some pretty ambitious writing goals at New Year. Did they include writing a certain amount every day or every week? And now, are you find it hard to even log your word count because you’re afraid of what you might see (or not see)?

That the sinking feeling you get when you’re disappointed in yourself is not something installed in us by a malevolent designer to make our lives miserable.

What you’re feeling is guilt. And the point of guilt is to alert you to something you’re not happy about, so that you can change it.

Guilt Is OK, Shame Is Not

We creative types are emotional people. It’s especially important, therefore, that we keep good records about our actual achievements, rather than relying on our emotion-tinged memories and perceptions of how things went.

Of course, if we keep accurate records, we run the risk of seeing something that disappoints us. I, for example, didn’t log ANY words in July or August last year. However, I also hit 100,000 words of fiction over the course of the whole year.

So, I can feel ashamed about my lack of writing in the summer and allow that to color my perception of myself as an unreliable, slacker of a writer. Or I can focus on the 100,000 words I did write and think of ways to deal with the The July Problem. (Or not, if I decide that my overall output is good enough.)

It’s All About State of Mind

Decide today — now — to change the way you look at accountability. If keeping track of your writing progress has, in the past, made you feel guilty, change your mind. Decide to look at it the way a scientist looks at data: as a set of information they can use to design a better experiment or process.

Your writing log is just like that. If you KNOW you’re not writing anything on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then you can figure out if this is something you can change, or if you have to work around it. If, on the other hand, you just have a vague sickly sense that you’re not writing enough, how are you going to fix it? You can’t. You don’t have enough information.

Adjusting Your Goals

If you’re not meeting your goals, it’s possible they are not realistic for you at this stage (and this point in your life).

There’s no shame in adjusting your goals.

There is, however, a lot of benefit.

By setting smaller goals, you’re more likely to meet them, which will encourage you to keep going, and eliminate the destructive ‘shame’ emotion that is the byproduct of unresolved guilt.

Small, achievable goals, executed regularly, produce better results than a quick binge here and there. Remember, I wrote over 100,000 words last year, by setting a 323/day word goal. (And I didn’t in July and August!)

Things To Remember

  • Be persistent – remember all the times you’ve overcome obstacles in the past. You can do that again.
  • Be Patient – sometimes you need a while to get those new, good habits to stick
  • Be kind to yourself – take some time away from your writing to do something truly relaxing (not stimulating like watching TV or reading. Relaxing. Like looking at art, knitting, going for a long walk outdoors, meditating, listening to or playing music, playing a sport).
  • You’re in this for the long haul. Look after yourself, and take the long view.

Remember: guilt are there to teach us. Learn, and then let it go.