On To-Do Lists & Guilt

I love making to-do lists. Lists of goals that I will accomplish by such-and-such a time. Lists of dreams for my career and my life.

Ideally, these lists motivate me to get things done. They keep me from reading the internets all day and remind me of what it is I value. Then they provide me with a sense of accomplishment. I *love* crossing things off my lists. I have been known to write down things I’ve just done, for the joy of slashing through the words with my little purple pencil.

But lately I’ve noticed that these goals feel less like inspiration and motivation, and more like a seething source of guilt.

I have not scrubbed our three bathrooms, though it has been on my house to-do list since…I’m not telling when. There are cat-hair tumbleweeds in the corners of the stairs; "vacuum stairs" has been right beneath "scrub bathrooms."

My birthday is coming up in 6 weeks. My 30×30 list is languishing. Among other things, I have not visited more museums, spent a day exploring in Georgetown, or made ravioli from scratch. I haven’t lost weight, though I have started counting Weight Watchers points, and that seems pretty reasonable. But I feel bad about this.

I set wordcount goals that I don’t meet. I’m not a write-every-day writer. I binge. Today I didn’t write any new words on Thrice; instead, I wrote out Garolass revision ideas and sent them to my agent in preparation for a phone call tomorrow. I had planned to finish my rough draft of Thrice by my birthday–20k a month. I’m at 43k and it’s totally doable–except that instead I’m going to stop working on it to do these revisions. That makes sense, but…somehow I feel guilty.

Steve reminds me I can’t do everything every day. I haven’t made any money from my writing yet, but in effect we’re both working two jobs–day jobs and building writing careers, and things have to give. And I know that, logically, but emotionally it frustrates the hell out of me. Sometimes I have to choose between writing or having a clean house. Sometimes I have to choose between time with friends or seeing a show and writing. Sometimes I just want to nap, or watch mindless tv for a few hours, without feeling guilty that I’m not being a better person. I am so behind on Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries. Sometimes I feel like the internets are this horrible time-suck, and sometimes I feel like I’ve learned so much about publishing and the YA market from reading my eleventy-million blogs, and the idea of being a tiny part of the community makes me happy.

Exhibit A: Temper tantrum.

How do you balance motivation and inspiration with guilt? How do you balance all of the things you want to do and be?

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