Over the years I have struggled (and lost) to overwhelming guilt whenever I wrote.

You know what I mean. How dare you take time to sit and write, when there are dirty dishes in the sink? When dinner has to be made, eggs collected, dogs fed, etc., etc.

If it wasn’t the specter of chores slapping me with guilt, it was a little voice whispering that my writing would never benefit the family, that I needed to do something to help out more.

Then of course there’s the guilt for taking time to write ‘when you know you’re really not any good’. That’s the nasty inner guilt-slinger again.

Today is a very wet day in the woods. Raining, after days of rain. A perfect time to build up the fire, put on the kettle, and write. Right? Until guilt reared up. So first I went out into the rain and planted several things that were gasping in too-tiny pots. Into bigger pots, and some into the ground, went bell peppers, thyme, marjoram, parsley, costmary, lovage, sage, golden bush, forget-me-nots, beans, peas, and…well you get the idea. I came inside in late afternoon soaked.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that feeling of coming inside cold and wet, knowing you’ve accomplished something. There have been many, many times I’ve worked out in the rain. In the Pacific Northwest, if you wait for good weather, you’ll never get anything done. I remember days of climbing up into the woods with my father to repair the pipeline that brought water to a water wheel and generated electricity for us. Coming back down covered in mud, soaking wet, hauling a soggy backpack full of tools, smelling like pipe glue. I loved coming inside, where my mother would have tea waiting. Or hot chocolate and cinnamon toast. A reward for the work.

And that’s what I realized today. Writing is my reward for work. I have to ‘earn’ the words. If I do something first, I am then justified in taking time for myself. It’s stupid when I spell it out like this because no one puts that expectation on me. My husband is the first one to tell me, leave everything and go write. Matter of fact, he’s doing the dishes right now.

If the only way I can silence guilt is to buy it off by doing some chores first, then I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do.

Now what I need to learn is how many chores is enough. Because I also have a tendency to do so much that I end up too tired to write, or with no time left in the day. But oh well. One lesson at a time.

Meadow Rue

8 thoughts on “Guilt

  1. that lovely flower again… 🙂
    Although I feel the need to comment, I dont really know what to say since you pretty much know how I feel about your guilt. The guilt that got planted into you by your mother and has grown widely in yourself over so many years. I wish I could take that guilt away from you or slap it down, so you can feel free to write whenever you want to or feel like it!
    Lots of feelings in this…lol
    I guess since I have been living alone for some time now there is just nobody there to care if I cleaned or not but myself. But I think even if you didnt have your men, you would probably still do the dishes for yourself first before sitting down to write.
    I can not just sit down at a certain time and write. The muse comes to me at some late times and if I go away and do chores first the moment is gone and I can not get it back later mostly.
    Oh, and you really still believe your writing is not good??? Can I give you a Gibbs slap for that?


    • Gibbs slap received. Here’s how I handled the guilt today. I cleaned in the cabin. I got my writing desk all set up and ready. I even put an end table next to it, got the candles and lanterns in place, and my cast iron coasters. Note the plural. Because I put a rocking chair on the other side of the table so we can sit with tea and talk about writing. The rocking chair and cats await. (I also figure when you come down we can put the floor in…)


  2. Guilt!!! That is a can of worms wiggling to come out. I feel guilty when inspiration OR a whole poem will come to me and I do not stop and write it down. In a minute or even seconds the thoughts are gone never to return, another lovely poem or idea sent back to the universe unexpressed. Am I worth the time? Are the thoughts worth the time? Time, my most precious commodity, how often I spend it and then feel guilty.
    We were raised by people with low self-esteem that, they handed to each of us along with an inflated sense of responsibility. It has taken me years to realize that I am enough just as I am and that what I do and have and feel are enough. When I think that I have this mastered, enough, then the guilt creeps back in and I start all over. Thank you for sharing your thought Lisa!!! Love Jani


    • You and Jenni both bring up another side of the guilt coin. That if we don’t take those moments to write down what is trying to come through us, then it’s lost and won’t return. Our stories and words and poems just move on to someone who cares enough to give them time. So in a way, we have a responsibility to those words. I see your question above, ‘Am I worth the time’ and I want to hug you and say of course you are! You’re so worth the time! And then I find myself thinking, why don’t I tell myself that? Or believe it? Still a work in progress. And hey, I didn’t do the dishes tonight, either.


  3. I know that guilty feelings serve a purpose, but I overdo them and it sounds like you do, too. I feel guilty if I write instead of crossing things off my list and guilty if I don’t write. I can’t win. I love how you’re finding a way to balance it all out. Fingers crossed that I can do the same.


    • Oh, I didn’t even get into all the guilt when I don’t write! As you said, we can’t win. We need to come up with some sort of mental ear plugs to drown out that voice of guilt. My son has started coming up to me when I’m in the midst of chores and telling me to go write. And then of course I can justify doing so because my son wants me to. The silly mental games we play.


  4. You are a tough taskmaster. How about if you plant one plant? Or do chores one hour max, then write? With me, it’s the other way around. First write, then chores, and that’s why my house is a disaster.


    • That’s pretty funny about the house. I wonder why mine is still a disaster anyway? The chores are never ending so it should be easy to walk away from them. I compromised today. Spent a rainy afternoon in our rustic cabin setting up my writing desk. Getting the kerosene lanterns and candles in place, the chair cleaned and just so, the container of pens and pencils filled. One corner of the cabin is now ready. Think I’ll try your plan of timing the chores so I can take advantage of that waiting desk.


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