There are way too many things we think we should be doing. At this point, at about 4:45 a.m. as I write this, I can think of about 199 things, off-the-cuff. They range from deep, soul-growth ‘shoulds’, like “I should meditate everyday”, “I should volunteer at the old age home next door every Sunday”, “I should be gentler on myself” … to more mundane ‘shoulds’ like “I should change the wi-fi password so my son lives more in his books and less on Facebook”, or “I should start making sprouts from scratch at home!”
There is something about the word ‘should’ that almost always makes me want to mentally suffix the word ‘but’.
‘I know I should, but…’
So let’s come back to the start. Who said you should write? Nobody held a gun to your head and said “Hey! <<Insert your name here>>, you should write!”
Why should you kill yourself and not watch ‘Gone girl’ before it’s gone from the theatres? (Reviews notwithstanding). Why should you have to wait till the dog is walked at night, the doors are locked, the rajma soaked and even the neighbour’s TV has gone silent so you can finally hear yourself think? Because you think you should write?
‘Should’ in my experience is a word best used to get teenagers to do the opposite of what you want them to do. “Sweetie, you should stay in bed all day today.” There’s a very good chance the kid is going to demand to know why.
So when that annoying voice in your head stopped you from meeting your friend for coffee, because it said you should write, did you ask the voice “why’?
Let me share a short true story. Some months ago I agreed to write a screenplay for somebody. After the initial delight and disbelief that somebody wanted me to do it though I’d never written one before and was even willing to wait for me to be freed up from my existing commitments – a delayed reaction set in. “I know nothing about writing screenplays!” “Aren’t there all sorts of rules about formatting…text that must be centralised, words that need to be capitalised?” What on earth was I thinking!?
“I know!” I told myself. “I should order some books on the craft of it and get educated.” Books, bought, speed reading initiated. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Heavy underlining. No words put down yet. “I should attend a workshop on it and fast track the whole thing.” I did. Only, another idea kept popping up in my head and on my pages. Seducing me with its possibilities and distracting me constantly from the screenplay I was supposed to complete by November 15th! The ‘hauvva’ or bogey-man of the unfamiliar format grew bigger. I was now waking up in regular cold sweats. “Silly silly me. I should get that software they all said is so brilliant at the workshop.” I did. It spoke in Geek to me. More tick-tock. Tick-tock with wings!
Any of this sounding familiar yet?
“I know I should write, but…”
But, but… I’ve gone and planned the story with characters living in countries I know nothing of. And none of these characters are even Indian! Of course! “I should research everything about these totally foreign characters, even the flavours of ice cream popular in these places!”
I should remember to back up. I’m sure I did. Yet – the software gobbled up most of what I’d done, one night before the deadline.
Every single ‘should’ that had built up into a series of obstacles merged and immobilized me into a ‘deer caught in the headlights’ reaction.
‘I should just quit!’ It was like a chant in my head. It would be so simple to call the guy, say, ‘I’m so sorry, here’s your advance, please take it back, please.’ Then I could sleep. 0h, I so wanted to sleep. Also, I wanted to cry. So I did. I had a quick, alone, why-me, poor-me cry.
And then I forced myself to write. Just one sentence, I told myself.
I sat back to look at it. “I should finish this screenplay.”
I heard my inner voice ask, ‘Why?’
Tentatively, I struck out the word ‘should’. Above it I wrote another word. ‘Could’
It felt a little liberating. That word ‘should’ carries so much pressure.
Maybe. “I could finish this screenplay.” Hmmm…
It felt better but still sounded iffy. I wasn’t convinced.
I added some more words to the sentence.
I made one last revision. Struck out that ambivalent ‘Could’ and replaced it with a decisive ‘Would’
This is what I finally had.
“If I really wanted to, I would finish this screenplay.”
I tell you, it was an epiphany!* Now when I saw that statement, I knew with a deep knowing that of course, I really want to! I knew when I took the assignment on, it excited me. In a good, scary way. It challenged me to do something new and actually I had grown to like these people in my story. I wanted to see them through to the end. To that last Credits Rolling shot.
I’m guessing you signed on for NaNoWriMo for a similar reason. Because that good scary feeling when you decided to challenge yourself is something you chose to do. Because you really wanted to! Tell yourself this, with love, as you make those words appear on your page. Tell yourself…
And you will!
From someone who wrote and lived to tell the tale,
About Milan Vohra:
Milan Vohra is an author, advertising consultant and an insomniac. She enjoys writing ad campaigns by day and fiction by night. One of her short stories won a nationwide Harlequin contest and brought her into the international spotlight as the first Indian Mills & Boon author. Her book “The Love Asana” became an unprecedented bestseller and also brought her priceless experiences like being on a BBC show with the legendary Penny Jordan. The Love Asana is now being translated into several languages. Milan has also written YA (Young Adult) stories for Penguin in ‘Love like that and other stories’ . She has written short stories on subjects like sexual abuse and its genesis, transgender identity conflict for Unisun Publishers in ‘Vanilla desires’. And another soon to appear in a Harper Collins anthology. Milan has written a musical comedy called “Maid in India’ and scripts for Season 1 of the Emmy award winning show Sesame Street for Indian TV. Milan’s latest book is ‘Tick-Tock, We’re 30’ by Westland Publishers, It is a fun, reflective rom-com about old friendships, new chemistries, and imperfect urban relationships.
Milan’s real claim to fame, she says, is that she is the world’s best worst dancer.
* thanks ‘Heal your life’