Making Writing a Priority & When Helping is Hurting

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The weird thing about the new paradigm of publishing is the Digital Age Author is a very different creature. She might be a single mom trying to squeeze in a couple hundred words before the kids wake up or a husband struggling to fit in a writing burst during a lunch break. It can be a dad striving to finish his book while still caring for his family. Maybe it’s a retired person balancing FINALLY pursuing that dream of writing…while caring for grandkids.

Which is to say that a lot of part and full-time writers are also caregivers. Many of us wrestle with guilt. I do. I love writing SO MUCH and it is SO FUN.  But if I write instead of finishing laundry I am “bad” 🙁 .

I’ve learned a rather weird lesson lately and I believe it’s worth pondering. We talked about workaholics the other day. It is no great feat for us workhorses to take on MORE WORK. The true challenge is when we’re given the choice of a great opportunity and a nap and we are directed to take the NAP.


I am learning the same thing with givers. WANA is truly unique and I don’t say this because I started it (because frankly, I didn’t). WANA was actually birthed by people who took my classes. They were natural givers. The only “special” thing I did was spot this phenomena and then nurture it. WANAs are SO generous and kind and supportive and it is the greatest collection of amazing individuals one can find.

But lately I’m starting to see the dark side to giving. Every strength has a blind spot. Remember this when creating characters 😉 .

And the easy blind spot for givers is that we overdo it and wear ourselves out. Yeah, I saw that too. But one that snuck by me is that giving is not always good. NOT GIVING can be the greater gift.

I grew up with a Scandinavian mom and Norway is the motherland of OCD. Work was what we did and we made it fun. But I recall being 4 and making my bed. Mom would praise me, then remake my bed so it didn’t have all the lumps and the bedspread was even. Later, when I was 8, I loaded the dishwasher. Mom would thank me…then rearrange the dishes to wash more efficiently. I’d organize a closet and she’d be THRILLED…then redo it. Finally, in 2009 I made a Christmas dinner and Mom tasted it, and then reasoned everything and I snapped.

Why must you redo everything I do? Why isn’t what I do ever good enough?

My mom was speechless (which she’s like me so that’s actually a HUGE deal). In her mind, she’d been “helping” me.

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I have family and friends who are in real rough spots these days, people I sacrificed A LOT to “help.” In retrospect, I should have left it alone. By helping, I didn’t allow them to fail and learn lessons when the lessons were far smaller and the consequences for failure far less painful. I also stole the possible victory they might have enjoyed if they’d accomplished “whatever” on their own.

I didn’t mean to. I was “helping.”

So what I’m challenging all of us to do is to look for ways to give by NOT GIVING. Write the book. Don’t “fix.” Don’t “do” beyond the writing. Once the words are down, have at it.

The other day, I sent Hubby to the store instead of doing it myself. Did he shop the way I would have shopped? No. I can make a penny scream. Hubby pays retail *twitches* But he did it and I kept my mouth shut when I SO wanted to tell him how he could have saved money by doing this or that or go to this store instead of that one and NEVER THAT one, they gouge!

I also asked Hubby to help Spawn with his martial arts in the evening so I can write. And this is excruciating because I taught martial arts for years. I need to mentally duct tape my mouth shut and not correct how Hubby’s teaching him and show a “better or easier way.”

Me doing everything is not a gift. It’s control. It can disempower others. It also steals the joy of contribution and the thrill of accomplishment.

When a friend has a problem, resist the urge to fix. Instead, say, “Wow, that’s a huge challenge, but I know you can figure this out. You can do it!”

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This morning, I let Spawn make his own PBJ sandwich instead of making the “perfect” sandwich served on an adorable clean plate with decorative garnish. I even said nothing when he piled on half a jar of jelly. I merely smiled and exclaimed, “Great job!” ….then walked away before I scraped most of the jelly lump back in the jar.

Writers crumble at building a brand or doing social media and writing. Why? We fail to see we have help. Outsource. Maybe see if there are ways that we can make our family part of our publishing team. Let the teenagers find the funny memes or videos to use on a blog. Let them be part of the success instead of shouldering everything alone. Let Hubby go check out book covers and see which ones catch his eye. Maybe let a family member do some research for you. Also, let them know that when they leave you to write, they are helping write the book. They are helping the creation process.

This is a lot to ask. Of you of me…and OH DEAR GOD SPAWN IS NOW MAKING A JELLY SANDWICH WITH NO PEANUT BUTTER! HOLD ON! ….*breathes* I’m cool. Still here.

What are your thoughts? Do you suffer from Compulsive Helping Disorder? Are you struggling to let others help YOU, to ask for help? GASP! Did you ever think your helping could be hurting? I didn’t until recently so it’s okay. We are all friends here and I have jelly in my curtains and I am OK with that.

****Please pray for me *head desk*

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Will announce July’s winner later this week.


For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE here’s my newest social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

I have a new class series GOING PRO—Craft, Business and Brand. Take one or all three for a discount. Also use WANA15 for $15 off. Each class discusses the CORE ESSENTIALS. What is the essence of great writing? What is the heart of a brand/social media? What are the basics of publishing when so many options are available?


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  1. Thank you for sharing this. As always, you talk about what’s on my mind. Recently, my nephew and sister moved in with me, and being a single woman used to having all the time I need to write, this was a shocker. I feel so guilty when I choose to write over playing with him or when the laundry stacks up because I’m completing edits.

    Thank you so much for sharing and caring, Kristen!

    1. Your post has inspired me…. I realize it might be counterproductive to replying on a blog, but I am going to try to spend some time…. maybe even a month, off the net and get my stories sketched and committed to a document page/USB ‘flashdrive’.

      It’s good to know I’m not the only one who has these issues (trying to find your writers place with life’s obligations) . But I’m tired of piddling on places like Youtube and talking on my google chat, only to find that the weekend is over without my having accomplished anything. No more excuses! After I’m moved into my new place, the internet will be disabled for a month and I will write! I have no choice. Having the net available and saying “I won’t use it.” is about as realistic as having chocolate cake in the house and saying you won’t have a slice of that.

      No, it’s better to keep my distance for a while and finally DO the work I’ve been promising I’d do.Here’s to hoping.

      1. Ooops. I forgot to add your name +Kristen Lamb.

    • Aften on August 6, 2014 at 11:02 am
    • Reply

    As a mom and an indie writer this post may very well save my life 😀

  2. I loved this post for two reasons, Kristen. It reminds me that I have the “fixer” & “helper” genes big time. It also makes me grateful that I’ve been trying to step away from the gloppy PBJs and messy beds. One of the best things I have going for me as I write a fantasy series, is the knowledge, talent, character traits, and all around support of my family and friends. Yes to asking for help! Yes to knowing when to stay on the sidelines and cheer, as someone you love doesn’t cross the finish line first.

    • Ron Estrada on August 6, 2014 at 11:11 am
    • Reply

    Oh good grief I do. Especially when it comes to websites and marketing, because I do that for companies as a side venture. When I see my author friends with a website that doesn’t properly funnel sales, I want to offer my free advice. Must. Show. Constraint. They’ll be fine. They’ll figure it out. They’re probably writing much better books than I am because they don’t waste time on their websites (I spend hours searching Flickr for the perfect photo). I see no issue with half a jar of jelly on a PB&J. Men shop for speed and efficiency.

  3. IKHYF!! (I know how you feel!) BTW…can you help me with……LOL!

    • Carrie Kwiatkowski on August 6, 2014 at 11:16 am
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    I’m fairly certain you wrote this with me in mind. 😉 Thanks a bunch. I needed this!

    • Larissa on August 6, 2014 at 11:17 am
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    Yep. I have three kids. Walking away to let them do something on their own is THE HARDEST THING. O.O Thanks for the great post!

  4. Reblogged this on Tina Bausinger: Southern Mom and commented:
    Kristen is the blogging guru!

  5. Yes, I admit, I have been a control freak through the guise of “helping.” It’s amazing how difficult it can be to step back and let people you care about fumble through hard times. It will make them stronger. Of course, it can humble hose of us who think we have the perfect answer to every problem *cringes*
    Thanks for another smile, laugh, and lesson.

  6. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  7. OH, yes, I have compulsive helping disorder. Technically, I’m on mat leave, but I’m finishing transferring my projects over to help out the clients before I go. I. Have. A. Problem. My friend thinks I don’t know what leave is.

  8. Wait….helping is HURTING??? I know….the text does not convey the sarcasm I’m trying to convey. I DO understand what you mean though. I’m a little guilty of it myself. I see Husband doing something that is the “wrong” way….I kinda snap & try to tell him how he SHOULD be doing it….I give him the LECTURE about this that or the other thing. To his credit he sits there & listens….he nods at the appropriate times…he even contributes a key word here or there….but then he smiles & does it all HIS way again. Our biggest battle ground is the dishwasher. I have a CERTAIN way that I MUST load it. It MUST be loaded this way. Husband tried to be nice & load it for me. I smiled….twitched a little….& when his back was turn hurriedly rearranged the silverware into their proper holes. He turned around & saw what I was doing & said “You mean you have to have them a CERTAIN WAY?? Not just separated by what they ARE?? FREAK MUCH??” You’d think that would have been a wake up call. NO….not so much. I now have sole dishwasher duty….but I have let other things in the house be “cleaned” by him. It’s a little painful… times I wait til he goes to work & redo it. But I TRY.

    Moral of my story….I’m soooooooooooo glad that I’m not the ONLY one. 😀 Thank you for sharing!

    1. Dishwasher TETRIS. I am SO WITH YOU. Just walk away….

  9. Jelly in the curtains? Snack for gnawing on later. C’mon, it’s all good. *ducking*

  10. Oh, wow. It’s like you’ve been spying on me. Yes. Guilty. I have refolded the laundry and re-swept the floors. I have “helped” to the point of soul numbing control. Must. Stop.

    Holy Mother of Pearl, I really DID think I was helping.

    Must go ponder this further while staring at the wall and rolling back and forth. What the Fudge am I going to do with all my time if I stop “helping?” Oh…yeah. Write.

  11. Reblogged this on The Word Peddler and commented:
    Imagine all the writing time I will have if I can conquer my Compulsive Helping Disorder?!

  12. One group I was in called compulsive helping disorder (CHD?) “Helium Hand”. You can’t quit volunteering because you hear your inner crazy woman say “I can do that, I can do that too, ohhh, yeah, let’s add that to the list.” I was so famous (infamous) for it that when no one else volunteered when I tried to step back, everyone in the room would turn to me and ask “Helium hand?” I had to take myself out of the group entirely to save my sanity (and body).

    And I still do it with my kids, and they are in their early to late 30s with husbands/wives and kids.

    Maybe we need a 12-step for CHD?

    1. I’ve been using your term lately. Helium Hand. PERFECT!

  13. Another one here. Wow. Even reading this article – and I so needed it, thanks, Kristen! – I cringed inside. I do with with my students. So much so that I’ve had to bite my hand, literally, to shut up sometimes. Grrr…I just want to make it easier for everyone!!! I hate seeing people stress…

    Got room on that table for another head banging session? (I can’t use my table – I threw it away. A whole ‘nuther story and the explanation of why I work at Starbucks so much…)

    I’ll try to dial it down now.

  14. Many moons ago I had a creative writing teacher who, if she didn’t like your work, would tell you that you needed a “session at her house.” This meant she was going to re-write your piece before your eyes to show you how it was supposed to be.

    1. I used to do that early on *hangs head*. And with the 5 Pages, there are sometimes sections I will rewrite just to demonstrate the concept. Like if an author isn’t getting POV. I will revise where they can see their work without all the head-hopping. But I now work REALLY HARD to maintain THEIR writing and only repair the technical stuff. Before? I was rewriting their work and that was just being egotistical and unhelpful.

      1. learning how to best critique is tough; I have to remind myself to step back a lot.

  15. I was caregiving for my grandma before I wrote a word, but when she quit driving, my workload went way up. I now have to do all her grocery shopping.
    I don’t mind a bit. She’s 90 and still healthy, so I count my blessings.
    It’s the day job that’s the killer… 😛
    Thank you, Kristen, for showing us caregivers that we are not alone! 🙂

  16. another insightful post. While I lost my job this summer which you would THiNK would allow me to focus more on my “career” as an author, I sold my house, bought a house that I like to call “money pit renovation project” and Mr. Wench had knee replacement surgery, oh and I have another “job” that of getting my soccer Wenchling a D1 college scholarship so I’m about as frazzled as I always was.

  17. My ‘spawn’ is 34 and in trouble right now and I am so tempted…so tempted….to help. He doesn’t want it, by the way, but darn….I really needed this reminder today–that when he gets out of this (he will) he will know the pleasure of that accomplishment. My problem is that I want him to get out of it MY WAY. And that he will not do. Half a jar of jelly looks different in every situation, doesn’t it?

  18. OMG! You’re talking about me. 🙂 I learned the hard way about “helping”. My son gave up trying to do anything himself and just expects me to do it. ACK! Not making that mistake with my daughter. My hubbie puts me in my place and tells me to back off. Lol!

    One year my mother-in-law rearranged my cabinets to make it more efficient. Within a couple of days it was back the same way thanks to the hubbie and kids. I patted her shoulder and said, “That’s why it was done that way. I gave up that fight a long time ago.” Victory to me. 🙂 But seriously, she’s great cause she cleans when she comes. Works for me.

    • prudencemacleod on August 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm
    • Reply

    Hmmm…CHD… Yup. Sadly, I learned this as a child and sixty years later I’m still at it. I’ll try to quit, but if I freak out completely I’m coming to your house to help that boy make another sandwich. 🙂

  19. Toxic “help” so easily becomes abusive, even when your heart is in the right place. I could give you an essay on my experiences on the receiving end of that, which leave me VERY considerate and conscientious in how I help others. (I actually ask friends, “So would X help you or no?”)

    It’s good that we can trick ourselves. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to believe that certain people I’m currently out of contact with are well-intended, because they display pretty much every “This behavior is intentional!” red flag.

  20. I’m guilty of pretty much everything you said. Rearranging the dishwasher. Refolding clothes. Redoing the setting of the table. You name it. I’ve done it. AND–I go it alone when writing. I do my own research. And marketing. And blog posts. ALL of it. Gosh I’m tired. You hit the nail on the head.

  21. Speaking for the men, we need validation, respect, and support. Without our better half providing them we turn ugly and are half the man we could be. My wife is probably the reason why I write in the first place. Her praise for my work is ridiculous. She’s my biggest fan; my muse. She brainstorms with me. She gets excited with me, and between the two of us, I think I’m the one who needs more of this “mental duct tape.” My kids will be the first to tell you that I have the hardest time letting them make mistakes and not giving them a half hour lecture of advice (mind you..these are lectures and pearls of wisdom that they’ve usually already heard from me and could probably recite along). I always want them to just learn from my mistakes, but it just doesn’t work that way. All I can do is set the example and of course pray.

  22. I’m totally with ya on the grocery shopping thing. I’m of the sort that buys 8 papers a week for the coupons. So yeah…

    But with the kitchen, I just can’t let that one go. I’m hypersensitive to gluten, and my boys aren’t. If I feel adventurous (or just plain exhausted), I’ll let hubby do the dishes, but when I go to put them away, there is all kinds of residue on them. Then I think of the wasted soap, water, gas, energy…etc. Yeah, I’ll just do them myself, thanks.

    • shanbam3 on August 6, 2014 at 12:53 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for this great post, it’s something I identify with SO much. It’s helpful to read about this now, especially as I close out my twenties and begin to think about starting a family with my partner. It’s already really hard for me to outsource anything — I like to control even writing the grocery list, because it looks nicer when I do it — so turning a wise eye toward this now will go a long way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  23. I have a two yr old, live with my parents, and my computer broke….I get it! I also try to control everything, and so does my mother. But my biggest issue is the writing, because they only help if I don’t ask. If I ask for help with time management or book covers or editing, they either have too much to do of their own (it really didn’t seem like that 5 minutes ago!) or they just never do it. *facepalm*

    Oan-my cat eats jelly and my dog likes vegetables now. Really helps with the clean up.

    • Sarah_Madison on August 6, 2014 at 1:06 pm
    • Reply

    This is yet another interesting post from you, Kristen, thank you! I definitely have a problem with over-commitment and taking on more projects than I can handle. That whole ‘eyes bigger than your stomach’ thing? Yeah, I seem to think my back is stronger than the weight of the load I keep putting on it. Pile on the work and commitments. I won’t say no. I’ve worked full time while pulling the six pm to midnight shift as a caretaker. I’ve worked 60+ hours a week to make ends meet. Now that I’ve been forced to cut back on hours and I want to give my writing career a chance, I somehow seem to be taking on more things that keep me from making writing a priority.

    I think sometimes the need to over-commit stems from fear. Fear of failing. Fear of finding out you’re not as good as you think or hope you are. Because if you don’t have the *time* to succeed at your dream, it’s not really your fault, is it? It’s just that you were too busy. So this has been enlightening in several ways. Not only do I need to stop committing myself to projects (that really, can get by without me) but I also need to pare down what I’m already doing to the bare essentials. I can’t be all things to all people anymore. But I can be more to the people that are in my life now–and less to the people I don’t really owe anything to. Then maybe I’ll feel less guilty when I sit down to carve out a few moments of writing! 😉

  24. Nooooooo – I’m not home during those classes! They’re so what I need. My blog has been stagnant.

    Anyway, I definitely suffer from a need to control everything. And I complain a lot. Sometimes silence is gold.

    • Marcianne Miler on August 6, 2014 at 1:45 pm
    • Reply

    Wow, thank you so much. I think it’s hard for a lot of people who were raised in certain religious communities–Catholic, in my case–to get out of the Helper mode–and boy do we need to do that –for ourselves. As I learned to say sometime in the past–what is the best for YOU, is the best for everyone else. And I have to remind myself of that every day. THANKS again!

  25. Wow. I’ve been so stressed and weepy lately and the whirlwind of it all has kept me from figuring out why. You just hit the nail right on its glaringly obvious head. If I’m writing I feel guilty that I haven’t done the dishes. If I’m doing the dishes, I feel guilty that I’m not writing. I sent the husband grocery shopping yesterday and didn’t handle it nearly as well as you did. Instead of gratitude, I lectured him on how to save and plan my way. Thank you so much for this post! It’s such an eye opener.

    • Cat Lumb on August 6, 2014 at 2:50 pm
    • Reply

    Ha! I am reading this to distract me from “helping” my partner fill put a job application! With every sentence I was nodding my head and rolling my eyes at how familiar each situation was! I also suffer from CHD and often downright refused help myself.
    (Un)Fortunately that all changed when I was diagnoses with a chronic illness that had me unable to get put of bed for a few months and housebound for almost half a year! I’ve since leant to let a lot of things go and am able to recognise some of those controlling situations I need to remove myself from. Still, it takes a conscious effort so it’s good to be reminded, and to know I’m not alone! (WANA rocks!)
    Thanks Kristen. X

  26. You know… I have a 5th grader and a 7th grader that are JUST discovering the joys of the internet. You just inspired me to put them at task for finding videos and meme’s for my blog! lol this should be a blast!

  27. This is gold Kristen. I always enjoy your blog and thanks for this reminder to let others work it out and to perhaps accept their help sometimes. xx

  28. Yes! This is so me. And I’ve crashed this week. Not for the lack of trying. Going to step back and rethink stuff. And I actually scraped the half of a pound of butter from my kid’s bread this morning….I…um…it would have made him sick, right? *head-desk*

    1. But if it made him sick, I doubt he’d do it again. Unless he was like me as a kid and then it might take three of four or ten tries. But we’d “get” it eventually 😀

      1. We’d hope, right? I tried it again that evening, letting him butter his own bread, but this time my hubby stepped in and fixed it. Ha!

  29. Wow – I’m not as unique as I thought I was (at least in terms of overdoing it with the tendency to want to help). Like many of the others, I needed to be reminded of this. I just agreed to do too much for someone yesterday, and I’m going to start practicing the art of saying that I am going to wait a day or two before making a commitment.
    Thank you for writing this!

  30. Thank you for the offer of putting our names in the hat for the drawing…I just really wanted to comment on the subject of “Helping”, though, as I’m not in the process of writing much these days that isn’t work related (I’m in Marketing) or the occasional blog post.

    I am a Recovering Fixer (or Helper). It’s taken years of blood, sweat and tears to learn not to jump in with help immediately whenever someone I care about is having a problem. I learned awhile back it really is All About Me. I spent so much time caring for, fixing, rescuing, correcting others rather than caring for, fixing, rescuing and correcting myself. Most of it stemmed from feelings of powerlessness…fear… which is why I am also a Recovering Control Freak. These days I’m much better at weighing in on my impulse to help. Sometimes what I have to offer really will contribute to the good of the person. Sometimes (as you mentioned), as difficult as it may be, it’s better to let them deal with things themselves as part of their own learning process.

    That being said, it’s still very tempting to redo some things that my husband does around the house. My biggies are the dishwasher, and how he folds the towels. I try to keep in mind that he IS doing the work – which is major progress over the early years! – and, in the end, does it really matter if all the towels are exactly the same size on the shelf? 🙂

  31. Enjoyed your post. Like others, I too have found myself the “helper” or the writer that feels guilty when I spend the day and night at my keyboard. But lucky for me, I figured this out about myself a few years ago and I’m STILL a work in progress.

  32. Yes, yes, and heck YES. I’m a (recovering) control freak. I used to believe I could fix everything and anything. It took burnout to make me take a hard look at myself, and realize that I was harming others and myself by “helping” them.

    It was a jolt to discover that I wasn’t the kind and thoughtful person I thought I was. I was a menace. Mind you, I suffered for my helpfulness along with others — “no good deed goes unpunished” after all.

    Great post, Kristen. Made me shudder, thinking about what I used to be like. 🙂

  33. Loved this post! I am taking it to heart. I don’t know that I am OCD, but I am certainly codependent, and have compulsively helped where I shouldn’t. I’m working on it! I recognized myself in almost every line.

  34. I definitely have Compulsive Helping Disorder, but I found the PERFECT job…IT Help Desk. 😉

  35. I hear ya! I’m trying to pull back from “help mode.” It’s killing me—and my writing. I’m getting better. Thank you for letting me I’m not alone. 🙂

  36. I recently got a job at Target. I am working on a book right now and I notice myself thinking about my book while I’m at work. Tomorrow I will write and then check social media. It seems to be a distraction.

  37. I actually don’t have a problem asking people for help if I trust they’re the right people to do the job. Like my friend-I’ve-had-for-years who is an artist agreed to do my cover. And another friend is illustrating for advertising and such. It just takes a while for me to know a person enough to trust them like that XD

  38. Reblogged this on The W-Card and commented:
    Ah, helping. My 55 year old brother just moved out of my house. I am not sure if I am more relieved (that I have my space back and I can write again) or guilty (guilt is my middle name).

  39. Hello. My name is Susan and I have CHD.
    I honestly didn’t realize how many suffer from the same need to help as I do. Good to know there are others out there who might understand things like taking in your 55 year old brother (and then feeling guilty when he finally moves out)…..not to mention the wee bit of anger at losing your writing solitude due to this act of helpfulness. Ponder time.

    • angael0 on August 6, 2014 at 10:21 pm
    • Reply

    Guilty as charged.

    • DeAnna Pearce on August 6, 2014 at 10:56 pm
    • Reply

    As a mom and a writer, I agree. There is a fine line that is hard to navigate between helping and hindering.

    • Annabelle's Floppy Paw on August 6, 2014 at 10:56 pm
    • Reply

    Hey Kristin! Long time reader, first time commenter…One of my favorite things about your blog is that you give great advice on writing, but even better life advice. You help me navigate my own life even when I don’t know I might be struggling. Even if you never typed another word of writing wisdom, I would still continue to read your blog just for the open and real conversations you bring to light about life. Thank You! 🙂

  40. I too have helped where I should have held back. I’m better these days, but I need reminders like this. Thanks again for a great post.

  41. In our house, suggesting how it ‘should’ be done will be interpreted as an offer to take the job over in perpetuity. Ain’t nobody here got the energy for that…

  42. You’re so right. Sometimes it seems more difficult to not do or say something than to do it, but we must try…I live by myself (although my family circumstances are a bit complicated at the moment) and even with that I’d try to keep up ridiculous standards until I realised it was completely unnecessary and there are other far more important things.

  43. I remind myself – is this ‘helping’ to satisfy my need to help, or am I indeed needed to help? Everyone deserves the opportunity to ‘work it out’ themselves. 🙂

  44. I’d say you have more than control; you have patience 🙂

  45. Wow, this one hit home. Maybe we need a new catchphrase: “It puts the helping hands in its pockets or it gets the hose again!”

    • pashortt on August 7, 2014 at 9:32 am
    • Reply

    This is amazingly timely for us, but perhaps not for the reasons you’d expect.

    We’ve been having a pretty hellish time at home with childcare. There’s been a big falling out with my father in law after he and our au pair said things to the au pair agency that are not true, resulting in us losing our childcare. We’re not relying on friends and my family while we figure out where to go from here.

    You’re right about control. My father in law, for all the time he spent in our house looking after our girls or advising us on home improvements, wasn’t helping us. He was controlling us. And when we started to need him less, he lashed out against us.

    It’s so hard to see the difference between someone helping you and “helping” you while actually hindering.

  46. Kristen, I just love your blog! It’s such an awesome combo of hilarity, honesty, helpfulness, wise words, and encouragement. I always am excited to read your posts.

    This one in particular, because I’m definitely a “helper/fixer” when it comes to my kids though I *try* not to. Reading this reminds me to try harder! I’m not super OCD about cleaning (sighs my husband), in truth I’m kind of a slob, but I am a straightening addict and I am not a fan of kid messes 🙂 which is tough since I have two! A trick I try to use is the “look away” technique because if I stare at the culminating mess I either jump in to clean or scream. But if I look away or pretend not to notice, or better yet walk away, I can pretend it’s not happening 🙂

    But I should really take my own advice, right?!

    More of yours anytime, though!

  47. I had a wonderful writing teacher once. He never tried to teach me how to write, and he certainly never tried to help me do it. He just said what he liked about what I’d done already, and encouraged me to do more.

  48. Reblogged this on Tea Talks.

  49. Wow! This post hit home. For now, I’m sitting on my hands and am swearing off helping…or at least over helping

  50. Love this post. I was a hard lesson, but I did learn it. I’ve been castigated for not being the helper someone thought I should have been. I once heard that the difference between “sympathy” and “empathy” is– “I see your problem, I’ll help you fix it,” and “I see you problem, and I get it, but it’s your problem, and I’ll stand by while you find how to fix it.”

  51. Wish I could edit the grammatical errors: “It was a hard lesson” “I see your problem” Oh well. *Sigh* You get the drift. 🙂

  52. I think I may be unique here in not being a compulsive over-helper. As a kid, my mum was pretty much incapable of teaching anyone how to do something; she’d do it for you rather than figure out a way to show you how then let you get on with it. As a result, I loathe being *helped* and will fight against it in every way possible. I’d rather figure out my own way of getting it wrong until I get it right. I taught my own child at home for four years (long story) so I showed the how, and stepped back. When I was teaching English to overseas students, I used the same basic principles.
    The long lasting effects of my mother’s *helping* still cripple me but my mistakes tend to be very creative ones and end up as art of some sort.

    • Rachel Thompson on August 8, 2014 at 8:24 am
    • Reply

    Helping others is good, helping to the exclusion of your own well being, not so much. ( Unless saving a life) What’s at the core of this? Allowing emotions rather than logic and reason dictate your actions. Best way to get off this treadmill is to use your head more and your heart less. In other words: think first.

  53. Reblogged this on Lynn Reynolds – Author and commented:
    A wonderful post for all us Over-doers out there.

  54. Thank you for reminding me of this. I have “helped” friends in the past on things that I probably should have left alone. I am in a unique household in that I have two kids, I work full-time, hubby works full time, I write, hubby does freelance color comics and is working on animation. Sometimes I think the kids get the short end of the stick. BUT we’ve managed to balance things out. I sometimes have to remind myself that I can’t do EVERYTHING myself and I need to let people help out once in a while.

  55. When my girls were little (quite a few years ago) it took me a long while to learn that when they were done making their beds, they were done making their beds – I didn’t have to go in and straighten up after them. That was somehow a very difficult thing for me to let go of. I mean, come on, not only were there wrinkles in the sheets and the bedspread wasn’t straight, but one side was longer than the other – seriously? You want me to walk away? But I learned to do it, and there was a wonderful freedom for not only me, but my girls as well.

  56. I needed to hear this today! Thank you! Shared on my Facebook page!

  57. No PB? – maybe he’s expressing some British ancestry, we do not have jally&PB sandwiches over here, it’s one or the other 🙂
    Seriously, though, I’d go back to teaching him martial arts. All those real PITA habits he’ll have to unlearn will not make him thank you…
    That might be deciding factor, actually – help when the consequences of not helping are harmful?

  58. Reblogged this on cicampbellblog and commented:
    Are you a compulsive helper?
    A hard lesson to learn. When helping is not helping.

  59. Thank you, Kirsten, for a great post. Yes, I am guilty! I am a compulsive helper. Must stop! Must bite my tongue when I see a ‘better way’ of doing things.
    Have reblogged this on

  60. Sometimes, I feel like you’re in my head (but in a good way). I am very very guilty of trying to “help” others in my life. It’s co-dependency for me, a way to avoid dealing with my own stuff by dealing with other peoples’ instead. And of course, what I find, is that they don’t need me to fix things, they can do that themselves. They may not solve their problems in the way that I would, but they solve it in a way that works for them. A show of support from me is usually enough.

  61. I used to do this with family members. I would talk to them for hours, daily, on the telephone, listening to their problems and offering disaster-averting suggestions – all of which would be summarily rejected. Then I’d spend hours obsessing about that, aloud to my husband (who, thankfully, didn’t divorce me!), and pages and pages of writing – I know the sheer volume because I’ve been looking over some of my writing notebooks from that time in my life – and wow.

    I’m not sure that my choosing not to help has made them stronger or more capable of handling their lives, but it has freed me up to focus on things I really want to be involved in – my life here with my husband, kids, and critters, writing, unschooling, and connecting. I didn’t have any idea how much of my life I was investing until I had it back…

    Hooray for the Spawn! Making sandwiches for oneself is a huge step toward independence! OK, huge and sloppy mess involving many many goppy knives and surfaces (Including your curtains, and, more than once, my dog!). It gets less goppy as time goes by…maybe not in a hurry, but eventually.

    I like to chant the mantra, “It’s evidence of learning” when I really want to pull my hair out…

    And there I am, trying to help you. I promise not to spend hours dwelling on it, though, because I’m pretty sure you’re going to be OK. =D

  62. Yes I’m a compulsive helper. With three kids I’m only just now learning to ask my husband for help. I’m learning that I don’t have to prove to the world how remarkable I am. I’m ok not being super mom these days. It’s beautiful to watch my husband forge deeper relationships with the kids as a result.

  63. I’m more neurotic than OCD. My wife accuses me of being OCD cuz everytime she sneezes, I make use hand sanitizer. LoL! But the truth is, I was a custodian for three years. I’ve seen how gross things are, believe me, that’ll make anyone a “clean freak.”

  64. I am that retired person — finally pursuing a dream of writing (what I really WANT to write, that is), who runs back and forth on 80 miles of road at least once per week to see and sometimes care for that precious little granddaughter. And even as I try to write this, I am getting texts from her mother 🙂 Downstairs I still have boxes to unpack from my move to a new state, in which I have already taken on some responsibilities. Meanwhile, I am trying to get a blog going (2 posts so far), but I’m a confused human author in a digital world, and have just ordered your book 🙂

    1. Awesome. I feel your pain and I hope my book will bless you and make social media manageable. The babies take up so much time and they need it, but we kinda do too ((HUGS)).

  65. I had already planned to reblog. And now I get my name in a hat? Double score. This post was so helpful… Especially the part about choosing between a great opportunity and a nap. I have a potty training 3 year old and a breastfed 6 month old, two part time jobs and a husband. Where does writing fit in?? Only when I choose to forgo sleep in favor of a few words on paper. Thanks for the post!

    1. Sure, I’ll put you in the hat! Go you for taking care of those babies!

  66. I definitely am too helpful very often… it’s not that I don’t want to help, or that I would generally say I shouldn’t… but I do have to stop letting people using me… it got me into trouble several times in my life already. Thanks for this wonderful post, Kristen!!

  1. […] Making Writing a Priority & When Helping is Hurting. […]

  2. […] Making Writing a Priority and When Helping Is Hurting by Kristen Lamb.  […]

  3. […] « Making Writing a Priority & When Helping is Hurting […]

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  5. […] almost two years (WHAT?!), I’ve been blogging. A few of us Hotel Californians from Kristen Lamb‘s penultimate Blogging for Brand class, were at the conference and another was in town […]

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