Don’t Should on Yourself

Want vs. Should“Don’t Should on Yourself!” People told me this all the time when I used to go counseling and Al-Anon meetings. It means don’t spend time beating yourself up over what you think you should be doing, according to other people’s definition of what you should be doing, or not doing.

Sometimes I’m the master at this. I learned it from a long line of shouders and then, of course, I married a Master Shoulder. The even uglier side of the shoulding is the dreaded Should Notting. Should not do this, want this, think about this, or even let it creep into dreams.

I came home from my trip and turned into a vegetable. I should not have done that HA! See there it is again. Now I realized that what I was doing was taking the time to grieve grandson’s poor choice to leave the Guard and thereby forcing me to eject him from my home. Got past that and spent the next week feeling like I should be doing…something.

Finally, I put my foot down and said. OK dammit, Self, stop it right frigging now! Give yourself a chance to figure it out. You are retired and now you have all the time you need to let it all bubble and boil in your subterranean thoughts. It will come, you don’t need to force yourself into an activity just because you should be doing something. Sez who!

Then I got to investigating the annual NaNoWriMo contest coming in November. All you have to do to win is write a 50,000 page novel in 30 days. The purpose of doing it in 30 days is to force you to just bang it out without editing or rewriting or any other way fiddling it to death. The mere thought of this paralyzed me so severely that I didn’t write a single word for 5 days.

What happened? Well I know exactly what happened. The inner critic that sits on my shoulder started whispering in my ear. “Bleh, you never finish what you start.” Not true. “Anyone who reads the first draft of your novel will shout ‘what utter drivel’ and organize a nationwide draft burning party.” Yea, hows that for insecurity and hubris in the same fear? I will be invited to speak on CNN as the world-renowned author of the worst novel ever written. English lit teachers will buy it with the purpose of using in class as an example of how not to write.

I guess it is obvious how ridiculous my fears can get. The thing to do is switch from should to “so what?” So what if I write a 30 day novel and don’t even read it myself. So what? Just doing it is the accomplishment.

11 responses

  1. You have my respect and admiration, my friend. Keep up the good work.

  2. Best wishes with your challenge!

    1. Thank you. I’m looking forward to it.

  3. Just nominated you for the Versitle Blogger Award! See my site at
    to accept your award! Congrats!

    1. Well thank you Countess. I am honored 🙂

  4. I say, if you write it, they will read! Me included! Good for you! Great post. I’m the worst shoulder there is, so have empathy for you!

  5. I’ll do it if you do it. 😉 I am trying to convince my dad to do it too. It’s both less terrifying and more terrifying, for me, to try NaNoWriMo in a pack. Safety in numbers? 🙂

    My fav line so far from the NaNoWriMo website talking about why to do it: “To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties.” 😀

  6. How different Hamlet’s soliloquy would have been had Shakespeare written ‘should I? or shouldn’t I?’

    When I get caught up in the shoulds, and I do try to be conscious of it I substitute WANT. And if it doesn’t work with want, then forget about it… A real pet peeve is advertising that says I should try something… right…

    And I think writing a NaNoWriMo is a brilliant idea. I am considering it myself as the biz has settled into a good routine, there are no crises eminent and I want to do it… We could compare results when we have finished. 50,000 words isn’t really that much for a real writer…

    1. oh that sounds like fun 🙂

  7. I would happily read your novel! Sometimes I fall victim to the “shoulds” too and it makes me crazy!

    1. Cool 🙂 I hope I follow through with it.

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