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Get Rid of “Should” Once and For All

by Jennifer on November 3, 2009

By Jennifer Blanchard

Over and over again, procrastinating writers tell themselves, “I should be writing” or “I should find time to write.”

The problem with telling yourself you “should” do something, however, is that you are forcing the task on yourself, which is the main reason why you procrastinate on it.

The word “should” has a very specific feeling. It feels like you’re not in control. It feels like someone or something else is making you do things you don’t really want to do.

When you tell yourself you “should” be doing something (like writing), you are ultimately telling yourself you have no other options. After all, the definition of the word should is “must.”

But by using the word “should” (or the word “must,” for that matter), you are taking your power away. You are giving your power to tasks that are now being forced on you, rather than tasks you are consciously choosing to take on.

Words like “should,” “must,” “have to,” etc., are poor word choices when it comes to getting writing done. Telling yourself you should be writing or you must write or you have to write makes you feel pressured to write.

And the most pressure you feel, the more you’ll fight the task at hand. This is when procrastination rears its ugly head.

Change Your Self-Talk For Good
Two of the most effective ways to get your writing are to believe in yourself and to change your self-talk.

Though you might not realize it, your self-talk is a huge part of what holds you back and keeps you procrastinating on the writing tasks you want to complete.

By making better word choices, you can easily change how you feel about writing.

For example, instead of saying “I should be writing right now,” tell yourself, “I want to be writing right now.” Or instead of saying, “I have to write for two hours tonight,” tell yourself “I choose to spend two hours of my time writing tonight.”

Words like “want” and “choose” are powerful words. They put the power back in your hands. They make it so you have the ultimate say-so in your life.

When you say that you want to write or are choosing to write, you’re making a conscious decision about how you are going to spend your time. You’re no longer forcing yourself to do things you really don’t want to do.

By making writing a choice—rather than a forced task—you are taking control. You are choosing what you want. You are becoming the creator of your own writing destiny.

That’s very powerful stuff. 

 About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Laura Lee Bloor of Tenacious Me November 3, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Yep — this post hits home. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve said or thought, “I should be writing right now.” I try to replace it with “choose” or “want” and sometimes that helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. Plenty of times that’s been followed by, “Oh, who am I kidding — I just want to veg!” And so then I do, and feel guilty later. Hopefully NaNoWriMo changes that!

2 Sandra S Richardson November 4, 2009 at 2:46 pm

I was told years ago by a counselor that my life was controlled by “shoulds” and “oughts” and that I needed to get rid of them. I wish I could say I’ve conquered them, but I have not. 🙁

Sandra

3 Stormy November 4, 2009 at 2:52 pm

This is a great point and probably exactly what a lot of us need to hear right now, four days into NaNoWriMo. I WANT to write 50,000 words!

4 Karla, a.k.a. notadimwit November 4, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Great insight into the world of shoulda,coulda, wouldas. If we are writers by trade or wish to become writers, why is it that we procrastinate on something that is pleasureable? We rarely procrastinate on the things that MUST be done that aren’t pleasurable (laundry, dishes, getting the oil changed), so why do we delay something that is gratifying?

You’re so right on the power of self-talk. Your conscious knows that hopefully you will write, but your subconscious simply understands that writing will always remain in the future, leading you to find ways to keep it that way. Maybe we should speak to ourselves in the present tense so the subconscious gives us an extra nudge to do it NOW.

Karla

5 jblan November 4, 2009 at 7:14 pm

@Sandra S Richardson It takes time and practice to make a habit of NOT using certain words (ie: should). Keep at it. You’ll get there soon!

@Karla I agree. We do need to speak to ourselves in the present tense. Because saying “some day” causes a specific feeling–it’s not here and now, it’s in the future. And that’s a problem. So yes, let’s try to speak to ourselves in the present tense and say, “I am a good writer.” “I want to write a novel.” “I choose to write a novel.” Thanks for the awesome comment!

6 S. Megan Payne November 17, 2009 at 4:09 pm

I think I need to glue this to my forehead. That’s me all right. :nods emphatically: Boy, is that me.

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