Authors by definition have one primary overriding desire: to write and publish. In itself this can create undue pressure to constantly achieve. But that is not the end of the story. In modern times they are also pressurised to market extensively. This is applicable to both traditionally published and independent authors. These demands can lead to conflict. Mostly internal though undoubtedly, there are times when it may burst into the physical, interactive, world like some multi tentacle alien monster. This article will principally contemplate some of the internal conflicts and what, if anything, may be done to mitigate the consequent arising emotions. In this context guilt is defined as: ‘A feeling of having done something wrong.’ (Oxford English Dictionary)
Family and Relationships
Authors often find themselves torn between the duel desires of dedicating time to writing and spending time with their family or friends. Consequently guilty sensations, when choosing to do one above the other, usually when locking themselves away to write, frequently arise.
The importance of maintaining healthy relationships has been previously highlighted in the family and relationships section of the article Priorities – Values.
Due to the driving force within them, authors are naturally reluctant to give up writing time however, not to do so carries many dangers. There is also the fact they do not have to give up writing altogether. What they need is a balance. To achieve this it may be necessary to draw up a schedule. Of course, life is not static, or if it is to be a healthy one, should not be. A formal schedule may go against the grain but what is more important, good relationships or having a published book? Is life about the book or about the people? Best advice is to discuss the issue with those impacted and come to an understanding. If there is a healthy relationship most will comprehend and are usually supportive. Once an understanding has been reached, and provided the author sticks to it, there should be no reason for guilty sensations to persevere. Naturally, there will be times when the agreed schedule will not be appropriate. Life requires flexibility with its tendency to throw up unforeseen situations. However, if all have accepted this beforehand there should be no insurmountable problems.
Wherever an author may look for advice, one thing is for sure, the constant counsel to publicise and market. This comes from both people recognised as experts in the publishing business and those the author has come to trust. It goes without saying, there has to be at least some publicity otherwise how will readers know a book exists. However, the continual barrage to be super active comprises just another pressure the poor, struggling, individual author has to cope with. And, yes, it can result in a sense of guilt if they think they are not doing enough or not living up to expectations.
Marketing is no easy task and is one that requires substantial time commitment. That is if the author wants to see a reasonable return on their investment, whether it be time or money. But, there is also another truth to be acknowledged. Many authors are sensitive introverts to who public exposure and the need to push themselves and their books goes against the grain. In all things, allowance should be made for the individual character and personality and though marketing is a sensible occupation, it should not be at detriment to the individual.
Sometimes it is sufficient to the author to just let a few people know about their book and rely on word-of-mouth thereafter. Of course, all depends upon what they are aiming for. If they want their writing to become their primary occupation and source of revenue, then they have to accept marketing as part of the package. On the other hand, it they are content with just writing and being delighted if they gain any financial benefit, then marketing is not an issue.
In either scenario the author should never feel guilty. They do what they can and what suits them. What other people think does not change a person and should therefore never be allowed to determine actions and emotions. Naturally everyone wants to be liked but in reality that never happens across the board. Everyone does what they can and that has to be sufficient. If the author has set unrealistic goals then, once realised, these should, must, be adjusted.
Along with marketing, the budding author, and not so budding, is continually advised to be active on social media. After all many believe this is where more complete, and hopefully longterm, relationships are formed. However, social media can be a minefield. First there are so many varied sites and second, a lot recommend opening accounts with most. Thankfully, there are also those who aim for a more practical approach but that is not a discussion for this article.
If the author is to make effective use of social media they are advised to be constantly active in every site they have an account with. This does not only apply to their own profile but also to any groups they have joined. A challenge for the most proactive and agile user let alone a struggling author. Inevitably, the inability to keep up with such a regime results in yet further sensations of failure and guilt.
Best advice is for an author to test each social media site. Recommendation is for two or at most three, at a time. By so doing they will be able to assess if a site is for them and whether it achieves the results they want. Subsequently, they must assess, taking into account all other demands upon them, their availability. Trying to unrealistically ‘keep up with the Joneses’ will result in frustration and failure. What follows? Guilt of course. Naturally, once committed to a site or group, the author should do their best to regularly interact, otherwise what is the point. But activity does not have to be every day or for hours on end. Sometimes a quick visit three times a week is sufficient.
A further point is to be careful of the distraction and time consumption social media can be lead to. It cannot be denied there is much of interest published every day. Any inquiring mind will be tempted to dive down the proverbial rabbit hole.
By nature an author’s mind, consciously or subconsciously, is regularly occupied with thoughts of their tales, where it will go and what will happen, and books. This occurs no matter where they are or what they are doing. Unfortunately such thoughts can intrude when they should be concentrating on their work.
Not only could this lead to a failure to complete the task in hand to the standard required but may also lead to disciplinary repercussions. Everyone owes it to their employer to produce the best they are capable of. If the author is a conscientious person, which it is hoped they are, such a shortcoming will result in a sense of guilt. It must be said in this instance, rightly so.
It may be difficult but the employed author needs to discipline themselves to compartmentalise. They need to concentrate on the work in hand and push the intriguing ideas to the back of their mind. Keeping a notebook handy may help. Often, when a new thought hits, writing it down helps overcome the fear of losing it and thereby frees the mind to the task in hand.
Authors do not have to feel guilty but inevitably there will be times when they suffer such a sensation. To overcome this, they should determine, as early in their career as possible, what they wish to achieve and what is important in their lives. For most, though they would like it otherwise, the reality is authoring verges on being a hobby. Some are fortunate enough to end up making a living from it but the majority do not. Family and employment must come first as well as anything else they have committed themselves to doing. Authoring is a pleasure, even if it feels like a task at times, and does provide a sense of achievement but it should not be to the detriment of more important aspects. Provided the author has prioritised and planned properly, there should never be a sense of failure or guilt, just an acceptance of the realities.
Much more could be said about the sensation of guilt and the various related topics. However, the aim here is simply to provide food for thought and hopefully some helpful solutions to the problem.
2 thoughts on “Author Guilt”
This is another special, unique post from you, Tanya – and full of resonating truths. Must share!
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Thank you Lynne.
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