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