“As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you.” – Elizabeth Gilbert.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am in need of this self forgiveness.   If I were Catholic and went to confession, right now I think it might go something like this:

Father forgive me for I have sinned.  I have been lazy and self indulgent.  I have spent far too many hours on Twitter and blogging and Facebook when I could have been writing.  I have cherished words that do not further either plot or characters in my writing, and have been profligate with adverbs.  On two days of the last week I neglected my novels altogether, and did not write a word.  I have worshipped vainly at the shrines of agents and editors before my manuscript is ready.  I have been envious of the success of others and I have entertained the demon of despair.

I’d like to think that perhaps, even without a priest, there is absolution.  I am human after all, and there are so many factors that go into this process of writing: emotional, psychological and physical, as well as the unfortunate need to abide by the laws of our physical reality.  I’d get a lot more writing done if I could only adjust the space-time continuum at will. 

Self immolation is futile:  every thought you indulge about failure, every self doubt you entertain, every bit of energy spent on the counter productive process of beating yourself up, is energy taken away from forward motion. This doesn’t for a moment mean that we should ignore our faults and failings.  What I have frequently suggested to clients who practice the art of despair is this: stop talking to yourself as though you were the enemy.  Talk to yourself as you would to someone you love who is struggling.  This doesn’t mean sugar coating reality, it just means that you speak with love and a little understanding.

Reframe:  I have been brave enough to go back to a novel I thought was finished and begin restructuring the entire thing.  I have studied the art of the query and researched agents appropriate to my work.  In good faith, I acted on this information and began my collection of rejection letters.  I have taken myself seriously as a writer, and registered for my first writing conference – Write on the River, coming up next month. My brain is a creative and busy place, and I have allowed myself to take pleasure in the act of creation rather than worrying excessively about where I will publish it.  I have, on occasion, turned up at the page when I was exhausted, distracted, and sick at heart.  I continue to believe, against all odds, in the power of story and words and that somewhere in this upside down economy there is still a market for what I write. 

How are the rest of you faring with the art of self forgiveness?  It’s been awhile since I posted a writing challenge, and today’s is a little bit different. I challenge you to comment positively about the current status of your writing:  time spent, temptations overcome, courage shown in the face of your own doubts, a brilliant quote from your own work, some kind of forward movement on the road to publication.  

As always, keep your fingers moving, and may your muse be kind.

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