What is the Should? It’s the name I gave to all the things people and society tell you that you should be doing. Socially acceptable behavior that we carry around with us in the back of our minds, that becomes so ingrained we don’t even realize it’s there. That voice that pipes up when you’re making a decision and makes you feel bad for what you want to do because it’s not what you should do. It’s not what everyone else expects. We all want to be unique but are worried about not fitting in. Why is that?
Example: I turn 30 this month. I mentioned this to a woman I barely know and guess what her response was?
“It’s time for you to have kids.” She nodded, a serious look on her face.
I furrowed my brow and grimaced.
“You don’t want kids?” Confused.
I muttered something unintelligible and changed the subject.
Is my biological clock going to combust on my birthday? Will springs and gears fly out of me, cutting down anyone in their path? When did it even become acceptable to tell someone it’s time for them to have a baby without asking if they even want to? Worse, how many children are born just because someone felt like they should have them?
I decided from then on I’d tell people I don’t want kids when they ask. It’s fun. You should try it some time.
They look at you like you’ve just sprouted a second head because what kind of almost 30 woman doesn’t want kids? And you sit back and enjoy it. Why? Because it’s about what you want and not what they want. And who gives a shit if their brain is exploding because they can’t wrap their mind around the fact that a grown woman may choose not to have a child?
Now, you’re wondering where this is going and how this applies to writing. I’m getting there in my own meandering and probably annoying way.
It Started with Panic
I was in a swirling, shit storm of writer’s panic last week. And the week before come to think of it. I couldn’t figure out why. I’ve been in slumps before where I don’t feel like writing. I spend days willing myself to want to want to write, slogging through hours of free writing that is horrible, tedious, senseless crap. Where is the goddamn light at the end of the tunnel?
This was different. It felt more hopeless. It lasted longer too.
What went wrong? I was listening to the Should. Too many posts, articles, and books on writing. The only voices in my head were conflicting, screaming, telling me I was wrong and wasn’t good enough.
How did I manage to pull myself out?
Pretty obvious. It’s a question you’re told to ask yourself over and over. Numerous books and articles on writing tell you to do this.
But we forget sometimes. It’s easy to do that in this age of information we live in. We spend our days and nights constantly bombarded with the thoughts and opinions of others. Sometimes we’re so busy ducking for cover, we forget to consider ourselves.
What do I think? What is my opinion? How do I feel?
It seems silly. They’re such simple questions. But so important when you forget to ask them.
When you’re feeling lost, sit down and write about you. Start with your childhood and work your way through your timeline. Remember all the things you’ve forgotten. Childhood hopes and fears. Your favorite books and movies and songs.
If you don’t want to skip down memory lane, start with what is bothering your now. What scares you as an adult? What pisses you off? What fascinates you?
You’ll feel weird at first. I did. Most people do when they’re forced to talk about themselves.
But it’s important.
Why Should We Know Ourselves?
Because the writing starts with you. Because if you know yourself and accept yourself, it’s a lot easier to avoid the Should. You have to know what you think before you can worry about what other people think.
It’s your book and your time being spent to bring that book to life. It begins with you. As you progress it branches out, moves away from you while still retaining that essence that’s just you.
Your hopes, dreams, fears, etc., will all fuel this book. They kindle the creative fire. Choose something impersonal with little meaning and that fire flames out.
You can tell the difference. The books that people have poured their heart and soul into are always better than the superficial thing someone wrote for money.
But Sometimes Other People Are Right
Sure they are. More than likely a published author is going to know more about publishing than you do for obvious reasons. If they offer advice, you might wanna pause to listen.
I’m not saying disregard every piece of advice that comes your way. I’m saying be particular and don’t accept every piece of advice that comes your way.
Learn to discern the difference. It’s a lesson that’s taken me nearly 30 years to learn.
There are people, probably a large percentage of society, that think I should have a baby because of my age. But they are wrong because it’s not right for me. Not right now at least when I can barely afford to support myself let alone a helpless baby.
If it’s not babies, it’ll be something else. You should have a better house, better car, make more money, have achieved all of your hopes and dreams by now.
At 30? Really? Isn’t it the new 20? Or is 40 the new 20? So that would make 30, what? The new 10? I’m confused.
Who makes these rules? How many of the people saying this shit have actually accomplished any of it? It’s been my experience that if someone is looking down their nose at you, it’s not because you’ve done anything wrong. It’s something that’s gone wrong with them and they’re using you as human Xanax to lift their spirits.
You also need to remember that people are opinionated when the decision is being made but tend to disappear once it’s done. They don’t have to live with your choice. It doesn’t really affect them.
Remember that when you’re making decisions. Remember that when you’re writing. We don’t all follow the same path. If we did, we’d be living in a dystopian novel on the brink of a rebellion.
Life and writing are about doing what you need to do for yourself. And anyone that tries to make you feel bad for that can be damned.