Feeling guilty can be a real buzz killer for a writer. The song, “Careless Whisper” is currently stuck in my head. George Michael nails it right on: “Guilty Feet Have Got No Rhythm.” What does this mean? Let me give it a whirl: When we let guilt invade our creative space, we lose the pizzazz, the pulse that beats in our writing. Have you ever experienced Guilty Feet Syndrome, otherwise known as GFS?
Highbrow guilt analysts such as myself classify guilty feelings into two categories: Genuine and Bogus. Let’s start with Genuine Guilt. I’m guessing that the only thing worse than a guilty writer is a guilty woman writer. Guilt really runs amok when we become mothers. Am I wrong? How many mothers raising young children hesitate to take a moment for themselves because of the needs of their family? To be fair, fathers too these days. How many writers feel guilty because they have shut the office door to carve out a little time for their writing life?
Family is of course a priority. Do we ever use their demands as an excuse not to write? That’s Bogus Guilt. Here’s an example: One of my more sophisticated avoidance techniques when I’m having trouble settling down to my writing is that although I no longer have children at home unless my grandchildren are afoot, the house still needs managing. Dinner must be made (right now-really? It’s two in the afternoon). The faucet’s dripping (yes, and has been for the last month). There’s a load of towels in the wash (we know how quickly things mildew in Florida-act quickly, forsooth!) By giving into these housekeeping urges, I just weaseled out of my responsibility to myself to create the best story that I can.
Nobody knows how to make us feel guilty like children. You have carved out an hour on the weekend between soccer practice and dinner preparation. You have announced, “I am going to write now, do not disturb me.” Everyone understands. Your partner’s onboard. You have set a timer for the children.
You open up your Word file, to the part where the hero and heroine are about to have their first love scene. You close your eyes and picture that moment, when after a five-year absence, the lovers meet, lips touch, and flesh is revealed inch by delectable inch.
Then your romantic world collapses as a little hand reaches under the door, beseeching you to come out. It is of the utmost importance. Larger footsteps pad down the hall to drag the berserk toddler from the door. The hands disappear. It’s too late. The two lovers slink off to their own corners and the screams continue to echo in your head.
Here’s the thing: at this point, we choose to either fold or soldier on. If we choose to fold, eventually no one in the family will take us seriously. It takes time to build a writing habit. If we don’t take ourselves seriously, how can anyone else? Even if we aren’t published authors, we have to act as if we are, or we never will be.
When we let guilt take charge of our creative lives, we are depriving ourselves of the gifts we receive from writing. The opportunity to discover what lies within our creative wellspring will bring us energy and euphoria, which benefit everyone around us.
The next time you get Guilty Feet Syndrome; remember that spending time with your writing self, discovering that extra side to a character, or dreaming up a new plot twist can turn guilty feet into happy feet.
She spent her childhood running wild on an Idaho mountainside. Although she’s lived across the U.S., she is still an Idahoan at heart and a notorious potato pusher. She has a degree in Human Services and worked as a roofer, a hoofer, a computer data entry operator and a stay-at-home mom.
Music has ruled Jennifer’s world since birth. She shimmied out of the womb with a bad case of Boogie Fever, but soon fell in love with the lyrics, how the words fit together perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. Jennifer has dreamt of writing romances since reading Wuthering Heights at the tender age of twelve, and now lives that dream, using music on a daily basis to uplift and inspire her writing. It’s no coincidence that Ian, the hero in Mercy of the Moon, uses music to win heroine Maggie’s heart.
She lives in rural Florida with her husband and Great Dane puppy, and enjoys frequent visits from her three grandchildren and three grown children. She feverishly lobbies for the return of breeches and would really love to see her husband of thirty-five years in a pair. Jennifer can be found online at: JenniferTaylorWrites.com