What beliefs do you hold about how you think your life SHOULD be going?
Those “shoulds” are often what keep us from taking action.
“I should’ve gotten up at 4 am to write.”
“I should’ve written 3000 words today.”
“I should be more prolific”
“I should be a better writer.”
“I should be higher up on Amazon rankings.”
“This should be easier.”
When we step in a pile of should, we can get overwhelmed and give up taking any action at all. Why keep working when we’re not living the life we had planned?
But what if we were able to give up the life we planned with SHOULDS so we could get to the life that is waiting for us NOW?
I’m a big fan of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces and Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, which is based on Campbell’s ideas of the monomyth. They have both helped me greatly in my writing, especially when working on the middle grades paranormal adventure series I’m in the throes of. (I “should” be farther along with my pages than I am, but I am further into the story than I thought I would be.)
I’m also a big fan of letting go of the past to get ahead and this quote reminded me of that today.
As a writer who also has several other jobs to pay the bills, I have to remind myself of this quote all the time.
You see, the life I often have planned is the one where I wake up at 4 am to start writing and get 10,000 words done that day and feel amazing and like the super writer I know I secretly am. I can picture myself at the keyboard, coffee steaming on my desk, listening to the early morning buzz and hum of appliances and no other sounds but my fingers clicking across the keys.
But more often than not, life gets in the way. I’m already up until four catching up on work I didn’t get done during the day. My four-year old will wake up before me no matter how early I decide to set my alarm and he’ll demand my attention for the rest of the morning. My wife decides to get us involved in a project with our production company that she desperately needs my help with. I get a cold because my four-year old sneezed directly into my mouth. (Ew!) My teaching responsibilities become overwhelming and I have to use that time I wanted to use for writing to catch up on grades or re-do a lesson plan or correct papers.
The life I planned doesn’t happen. The temptation is to say, “Well, that didn’t work out. It will never work out. I might as well give up.” I have many times.
But when I see this quote and think about the idea of the writer’s journey, it reminds me that I have to let go of those plans sometimes to live the life I am currently living. By doing this, I accept the life I have, state my gratefulness for that life, and find the time to write when I can, no matter how little or how much that is. By making even a small amount of progress on my book, I am still making progress toward the life that is waiting for me. The quicker I get at letting go of the SHOULDS the quicker I get back to the LIFE that is waiting for me.
When I hold on to the life I had planned, I feel regret and sadness and beat myself up when I look in the mirror.
“You’ll never finish this book. You should take up bowling.”
“You’ve failed in the past, you’ll probably fail again. You should work at a bowling alley.”
“Why do you kid yourself? You should give up. Bowling seems like fun.”
“You look terrible and should feel terrible and should never write another word again. It should be easier. Why don’t you listen to me and take up bowling?”
Mr. Should, my inner critic, is so mean to me all the time and his recommendations don’t make any sense. I’m a terrible bowler.
The only way to shut him up is to take action.
No, not by bowling.
What I do is walk over to the laptop, open up Scrivener, and keep writing. Word by word, bird by bird, I get the project done. Some days I do get to wake up early and get those thousands of words in and some days it is a struggle to finish a sentence or two. On those days I surrender and let go as quickly as I can. But with each actual written word, I get closer to the life that is waiting for me at the end of the story, whatever that may be. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to do it all over again as I rewrite and again as I start the next book.
Creation of something from nothing is not an easy thing to do no matter what Mr. Should says.
Be kind to yourself. Let go of the life you planned and start living the life that is waiting for you.