They say that guilt is like pain: it’s there to tell you something’s wrong, so you can fix it. And this is true – or at least it can be. Sometimes, though, you feel guilty for something you really shouldn’t feel guilty for.

Eating, for example. Unless you’re eating in a self-destructive way, you shouldn’t feel guilty for eating. Eating food with more calories than celery is how you fuel your body, not a transgression that requires penitential exercise to exorcise. As it were.

Donut of DOOM

(Speaking of celery, I’ve heard that it takes more energy to consume than you actually receive from it; which suggests it’s only good for three things: carrying dip, making loud crunchy noises, or wearing on your lapel.)

Generally speaking, I avoid food that’s labelled “guilt-free!” because a) I don’t want to fund that kind of thinking, and b) they might as well label the food “taste was not our priority”.

I admit, eating is not something I tend to feel guilty about. But, as the Caped Gooseberry gently pointed out to me the other day, I do tend to set goals or targets for myself and then feel guilty if I don’t meet them.

As guilty, mark you, as I would feel if I had broken some more important rule, such as “Do Not Kick That Puppy”. Now there is nothing wrong with having a moral code (the puppies of the world thank you) but to put everything at the same level lacks perspective.

Weim Pups 001

On the other hand, setting goals can be good, and having targets is about the only way to reach them. The problem is when the goals become, as it were, a measuring stick to beat yourself with.

What to do?

I have set myself the goal of finishing the first full draft of my WIP by the end of the month. I’ve rearranged my daily round so I have two blocks of writing time each day: three hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon; and this has definitely helped kick the productivity into high gear. But there’s still no guarantee that I will reach the end of the story by the end of the month.

So I have to keep reminding myself that it’s ok; that I will have made a huge and pleasing amount of progress even if I don’t write “The End” on the day I desire, and I do not need to feel guilty if I don’t.

The End Book

This goes hand in hand with reminding myself that I haven’t “failed” for the day – or the month – if I start a little late or don’t manage as many pages as the day before. Guilt can be crippling, and that leads to further failure – the genuine failure of giving up altogether.

It’s worth asking yourself, the next time you’re feeling guilty: have I really kicked a puppy? Or is this guilt a false friend who should be shown the door?

The Wasteland

Not by T S Eliot – I refer to the reading deprivation of last week.

Barren Wasteland

I made it about 158 hours without reading anything (apart from my exceptions, as mentioned earlier). The mathematically acute among you (or those of you who have read this post or this one) will realise that this is ten hours short of a full week.

On The Seventh Day I Rested. (There’s good precedent for that, although history is silent on whether or not God was reading at the time.)

Putting my feet up after a two-mile hike up to the top of Stonewall Peak

You may also have noticed that this post is a few days subsequent to the actual end of the Wasteland – I’ve been making up for lost time, like a camel just back from the Sahara and stopping by the pub for a drink.


So, in the absence of any faintly humming enlightenment, what have I learned?

1) Reading is very, very important to me. Next time I need to go without something for a week, I think I will make it something easier, like talking, or food.
To whip out the ultimate cliche, reading to me is not a hobby, it’s a way of life. I may not eat sleep and breathe reading, but I can do most of those things reading. (Not so good at reading while I sleep – that’s when I do my talking.) I can cook while reading, and walk while reading (although the average standard of driving in New Zealand makes this a hazardous practice).

Reading While Walking

2) You can do lots of other things when you aren’t reading. Most of these are not perhaps as enjoyable as reading is, but there is a place for productivity. You may have noticed the increase in blog posts, for example.
Also under this heading: finishing off a project I started months ago. Six hours on ANZAC Day resulted in 6,002 words under the OTHER heading in my spreadsheet (minus those parts which were direct quotes – about a thousand words). It wasn’t quite what I had planned for my day, but on the plus side, I’ve already met my writing quota up to the middle of May.

3) I get grumpy when I can’t read. Withdrawal? Maybe. Reading is my mood-balancing mechanism. Commendations to the Caped Gooseberry for bravery and compassion in the face of danger. There may be a medal.

Medal Sholokhov

So thank you very much for the insight, Ms Cameron, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.