Guilt: The Final Round - Total Knock Out
I was recently asked to comment for an article being written on writers’ guilt, especially in conjunction with parents’ guilt. The researcher had read my journal post written at the end of 2015, Mother's guilt vs writer's guilt - a full 12 rounds, and posed some follow-up questions.
Reading back, I realised that I’ve matured significantly over the past three and a half years, and not just in the furrowed sort of way. This journalist landed on a topic that I feel so strongly about. Since writing that post, my views will have changed - a lot.
I have become much more indignant in regard to creativity being nothing less than a birthright. Guilt is not something to be shoved into a cupboard and tolerated. Guilt no longer has any place in or around my person whatsoever, and here’s why...
Q. Do you think parents who are writers can ever find a happy work-life balance without feeling guilt?
If you are a person that is born creative, it's a part of you. We know that because we feel it. That much is undeniable. Creativity is your birthright. It's been gifted to you, and you are duty-bound to honour it.
It took a little while, but eventually, I realised that my 'guilt' wasn't guilt at all. It was that I hadn't given myself permission to be a writer. I hadn't given myself permission to create the space to write. What that's really saying is that I didn't feel worthy of honouring the creativity gifted to me at birth. Realising this was a turning point. You have to stand in your truth, first and foremost. You have to accept you are creative. You have to give yourself permission to take up space. You are worthy of honouring your creativity. More than that, you are duty-bound to honour your creativity.
It might mean that you need to ask for a little help and support from your loved ones and that's not always easy. Don't underestimate the significance of saying, 'This is really important to me, this is who I am and I'm going to need your support so I can do it.' By doing that, you've just shown up for yourself and given someone else the chance to really show up for you too.
A work-life balance comes down to scheduling, but happiness comes down to you.
Q. What's the best advice you can offer a writer and a parent experiencing guilt right now?
To any writing parent that is feeling guilty doing their work, I want to say, 'Be kind to yourself. What you are doing matters.' Place the same value on your needs as you do on the needs of your family.
With writing, we do a lot of work upfront and then sometimes wait years to understand the full effect of that work. Recently, I got to see the look on my son's face as he showed a story I'd written to his friend and said, 'My mum wrote this book.' My children love that they understand what I do and they're proud of it. It matters to them that I am a writer. In knowing our work, our children get to know us a little better.
Our children are learning all the time from what we role-model and that is what they'll grow up to replicate. Demonstrate that you take yourself seriously because you understand that your creative work matters - not just years from now, but right now, as it's being made. It neither serves you or them to infuse that work with guilt. Infuse your work with the full force of your creativity.
Years from now, your children won't need to grapple with giving themselves permission to place value on their needs because you've already given it to them by valuing yours.
Q. What tips can you give to a parent struggling to stay motivated to write?
When we have children, our creativity might take a dip in line with our energy levels, but it's still there. We also prioritise the demands of having a family over our creativity, and in the beginning, this is fine. Babies are all-consuming and having them certainly requires a lot of adjustments. When we've lost motivation or we're out of energy to be creative, find a moment of surrender. It's okay to feel that way sometimes so don't be hard on yourself. It will come back because it's a part of you.
However, creativity, like a child, thrives on attention! But it doesn't have to be writing. After each of my children, I think I stopped writing for about a year. Or, I struggled on for a bit and then lost the love of it. I was too tired and too overwhelmed to write. I thought I'd lost a part of myself. But I hadn't. It was hibernating. So, when I feel like that, I just find little ways to give a nod to my creativity. I would honour it in the smallest ways by listening to creative podcasts, getting creative with cooking, with the clothes or colours I chose to wear, rearranging spaces in the house, reading, walking in nature, playing with the kids - any little thing I could think of.
Sometimes, you're not in a place to write, just be easy with yourself and find ways to give your creativity a little tip of the cap because you'll be back!