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Why You Should

Let’s talk about the word should. My therapist told me once to remove the word from my vocabulary, my brain, my whole life. She told me many times, “By saying should, you are inviting guilt, shame, and, sometimes even, regret into your life.” She’d remind me constantly, and I’d always moan and groan.

But lately, I’ve been thinking she might have a point. A point that extends not only to life in general, but also specifically to the great creative struggle.

Let me give you some examples of the way I have used should in my life:

I am twenty-seven years old. I should have already figured this out.

Or maybe: I should have done that when I had the chance.

I should have not eaten that piece of cake.

I should have tried harder in school.

And so on and so forth. That’s how our brains work. We spend our lives on a hamster wheel, fueling ourselves with I shoulda, I woulda, and I coulda, but we miss the point, I think.

So, what is the right amount of should?

My therapist would say the right amount is zero. But I am going to disagree (because I’m hard-headed and a rebel). I’m going to rebuttal by telling you there is one instance in which should, should be okay. And that is one that comes to your writing. Don’t get me wrong though. I don’t mean for this to be a weapon you use against yourself, but rather a tool to hurtle you closer to “the end.”

My one and only exception (sorry to my therapist): You should write even if—especially if—no one will ever read it.

And why should you? (This is my favorite part, by the way.) The reason you SHOULD write is because: no one else can say the things you need to say. I mean think about it. Even though the human condition and experience is fundamental and universal, no one is you but you. And the things you have to say are important.

So, something I have been working on lately when I am feeling like writing is pointless and life is pointless, etc etc, is I try to tell myself that regardless of all the voices in my head that are discouraging or rooting against me, that I’m going to write anyway. Because I should. Because what I have to say is important, even if it is just for me.

So, try to catch yourself hanging out with the word should, and see if you can’t redirect your should to my only exception which is a big change. I know it was for me. But I think you’ll find that if you release yourself from the pressure of what you should be or should accomplish or should have or should feel— if you eliminate all that— you are left with unburdened potential. And that’s truly what writing is all about, potential. It’s what is to come. It’s what will become of my work and me.

So, by allowing me to only use should as a motivator to write my own stories because no one else can, I have found I write more, and that’s the number one goal.

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