Guilt is a Useless Emotion

Write every day! Keep your butt in the chair! Reach your word count! Write, write, write! We’re writers and writers write, but occasionally something comes up that prevents us from writing. Even if there’s a good reason for it, we still can feel guilty for not following the writer’s creed.


Wayne Dyer first introduced me to the idea of guilt as a useless emotion in his best selling books, self-help guru. Clearly I’m not the only one with this issue, since he sold a lot of those books. As a personal trainer, I’ve passed the mantra on to my clients that there’s nothing useful about feeling guilty for messing up their health and fitness plan. Don’t let one missed workout or eating something you know you shouldn’t have sabotage the rest of your efforts, I tell them. Most commonly, we think, “Heck, I already messed up today, I might as well throw the day away and eat whatever I want.” Then your one mistake turns into a much bigger one. “I already missed one workout this week, might as well miss the rest and start again next week.” We know how this goes. You’re feeling awful about yourself so when next week comes you don’t feel like getting back on the program and before you know it, you completely fall off your plan.

Either that, or we try and overcompensate. “I ate that food I wasn’t supposed to, I’m going to eat nothing but vegetables tomorrow.” That never works out and isn’t good for you. “I missed a workout, I’m going to do two workouts tomorrow!” If you actually do both workouts in one day, you end up over trained, extremely tired or injured and that interferes with continuing to your goals. The same thing applies to our creative endeavours.


Here’s what happens. You feel the guilt, you feel terrible about yourself. You feel like you failed. You get down on yourself and sometimes give up, permanently.

I have one of the best excuses right now with a newborn in the house, yet I still feel guilty for not editing my current WIP or writing any new words. I’m sure no one reading this will be surprised that my time has been occupied with a brand new baby, but as he gets older, (a big ten weeks old now) I feel like I could squeeze some time in for editing. The lingering guilt of having been away from it for so long, however, weighs heavily and wants to keep me from taking on the task at all.

What are we supposed to do when we miss a day of writing with or without a good reason? Get over it! Move on! Dust yourself off and just get right back on the wagon you fell off of. Don’t use it as an excuse to let everything slide. There’s NO NEED to beat yourself up over it. Everyone takes breaks, everyone needs a break once and a while.

What we need to do is shake off the guilt and focus on what’s to come, not what has been. There is nothing to be gained by feeling guilty. In my case, I’m going to make a plan with small goals to begin with and start it right away! Well, after December 25th. It is baby’s first Christmas after all.



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