Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 9:

“I feel so guilty about not writing.”

It’s ironic that the very tool most of us use to spur ourselves into action can also prevent us from acting.

Guilt can be a useful goad, but it can also be a terrible obstacle.

That is, some feel so guilty about not writing that it actually prevents them from writing.

My speculation about how this thought process works is this: If you already feel guilty about not writing, you do what you can to avoid feeling even more guilty. And actually writing makes you feel more guilty because it proves that you could have done writing if you had set your mind to it. As a result, the longer you go without writing, the less guilty you have to feel, because writing is clearly an impossible task.

So, don’t try to guilt yourself into writing. As crazy as it sounds, a better motivating feeling is pride. To get yourself going, try to remember a moment when writing went well and you were proud of some line or paragraph or paper. Spend a minute dwelling on that moment and push away any negative thoughts about it (e.g., “that was when I was twelve years old!” or “I only write well to deadline”). Try to connect to that feeling of pride alone and then turn to writing.

The carrot often works better than the stick.

Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 9, one of the emotional obstacles listed on page 31 of Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (University of Chicago Press, 2019).