“I should be writing.”
Every writer, blogger, or idealist has thought this at least once… a week. Ok let’s be serious, I may have thought this more days than not. But the sentence does more harm than good and can actually kill my ambition to write.
And let’s be clear, I am a writer. I maintain two blogs for myself and write ghost blogs for other lawyers and I have six novels in various stages of not-finished. And yet there are days, even weeks when I have trouble writing a word. Why? Because “I should be writing.”
I think about writing a lot. I’ll find a “blog-able” article while browsing the internet or come up with a fantastic plot while driving. But the moment my brain shifts from wanting to write about something to the dreaded should be, all bets are off.
That’s because suddenly the desire is an obligation. It gets added to the list of all the things I really ought to get to, most of which I really don’t want to do.
And along with that sense of obligation comes the feeling of shame. Shame on me for not doing all those things. Shame on me for not writing every day like I’ve been told by every writing teacher or coach I’ve ever had. And that makes it even worse.
The only thing worse than “I should be writing” is “You should be writing.” Then my inability to put pen to page isn’t just a personal short-coming. It is a failure in a duty I hold to someone in authority, or even the world (remember, writers tend to have big imaginations, that means we can blow things out of proportion sometimes). After I’ve let all those writing teachers down, I couldn’t possibly make amends just by picking up a pen now, could I?
Yes, I could. Every word on page or screen is better than no words. Every thought memorialized is better than the blank page. Better, not because I’ve satisfied some obligation but because I actually do enjoy writing. It’s fun and it energizes me. I feel better having done it.
The challenge is to keep that feeling stronger than the shame I feel for not doing it. The best way to do that? Start writing. Not because I “should be” or because it will make me a better writer, and certainly not because I might maybe make some money off it, but because I enjoy doing it.
I am a writer, I just need to remember that I like it.
I intentionally wrote this piece in first person to eliminate any ‘self-help’ vibes it might have. If you have any suggestions for the “should be” writers out there please add them in the comments!