I feel guilty for writing this, but I also feel guilty for taking so long to write this.
As a writer with a day job, I often struggle with competing guilts. One is the guilt I feel when I take time away from my family to write.
Regardless of the hobby, I’m sure most people feel similar twinges of remorse when taking time to pursue their passions. Any time spent chasing your interests could be time spent fulfilling responsibilities.
There is, however, another guilt that may be more exclusive to writers or other creatives. I call it the guilt of the hustle.
Every writer has heard about those people who’ve written novels while raising six kids, having five jobs and only sleeping four hours a night on alternating Saturday.
This type of hustle is constantly commended as the only way to get things done and the only way to truly be a writer. In essence, you aren’t a real writer unless you sacrifice everything else in your life to write.
For those of us who write, but aren’t doing that, we feel guilty. We question if we have what it takes. Should we give up unless we can devote every waking moment to writing? Can we do this if we don’t have that famous hustle?
But the guilt of the hustle is built on a lie. Every creative is not the same, so what is required of us will be different. We are called to be faithful, not identical. It will look differently for each person.
To be clear, loving something does require sacrifices. Writing will most definitely require sacrifices, but so does parenting. So does marriage. So does being a friend. So does serving at church. So does everything worth having or doing in life.
But the guilt of hustle calls us to sacrifice everything for writing. Viewed through guilt, writing becomes a demanding god commanding us to place the rest of our lives on its altar. Writing should require sacrifice, but not idolatry.
We have to evaluate where we are in life and how much time we can realistically put toward extracurricular writing. Yes, put in the work to be a writer. Write every day. You can do that. This is not about being lazy, but having a proper perspective on life and writing’s place in it.
You can only sacrifice so much until there’s nothing left. You can only hustle so long until you’re exhausted. Burning the candle at both ends only gets you in the dark faster.
During some seasons of life, the type of hustle commended to writers could only be idolatry. For some people at some points, writing a book would require undue sacrifices of other more important commitments.
I’m currently in a place where most extracurricular writing is impossible, but that won’t always be the case. I will have more time to write. I will not always have more time to parent my kids while they are at home. I have to choose where to invest my time and what my most important legacy will be.
I’ve been writing this post for weeks—interrupted numerous times to help 2-year-olds on the potty, look at dozens of drawings from a 5-year-old, play video games with a 13-year-old, and pick up 16-year-olds from swim practice.
Most writers write because they love it, but they continue because they hope their words will leave a mark in the world. Whether their legacy is best sellers and bookshelves or blog posts and banter, writers want their words to have an impact on the world around them.
But my most valuable legacy will not be this blog post or any other thing I’ve written or will write. It won’t be any future books that eventually flow through my fingers onto a keyboard. It won’t be the words I write, but rather my legacy will be all the “interruptions” to my writing.
My children. My wife. My family. My friends. My church. I can view those things as the “enemy” of my writing or I can recognize them as the worth more than all the words I could ever write.
I will reject the guilt of the hustle so that I don’t have the remorse of a parent who missed the life of his children, the husband who neglected his wife, the friend who never had time, the church member who never served.
By all means, write and hustle. Wake up early. Stay up late. Skip out on binging that show everyone is talking about. Miss reading the book you’ve been dying to read. Write during every free moment you can muster, but don’t feel guilty when life won’t let you.
It is not a loss when you choose listening to a little girl share every detail of her day instead of writing words on a page. Don’t feel guilty when you put down the laptop and pick up a video game remote to spend some time with your teenage son. You aren’t a failure as a writer when you take time to make a friendship a success.
Don’t give up on your dreams, but don’t sacrifice everything else on the altar of those dreams. Find the approach that works for you—with all of your aspirations and responsibilities—and dump the guilt of the hustle.