Watch out for any belief that starts with "I should"

When I decided to stop working on a novel and set it aside, possibly forever, it didn't come easily. I had invested a lot of myself and my time into that book. But the writing had become more than a struggle—I was forcing it.

My choice was actually very simple: continue to struggle and feel stuck, or listen to my gut. That small voice that was telling me there was something more, something different I could write.

I've realized since then that I struggled for so long because I believed something that wasn't true: I shouldn't give up. I should keep going. It would make everything I'd done a waste of time. 

The real waste of time? Failing to listen to my own intuition.

This is the final shift in a series of eight changes that can transform your writing. But the conversation will continue in the WritingStrides newsletter. Subscribe todayIf you're just joining us you can start at the beginning with the first shift HERE

Shift #8: Watch out for any belief that starts with "I should."

As soon as I set that novel aside, my writing flowed again. That one story was replaced by five, some short, one long. And I've used many of the lessons I learned writing that first novel:

  • I don't have to know what happens next. I can write to find out
  • I have methods for getting to know my characters
  • I get input along the way so I know I'm on the right track
  • I map the story in addition writing so I know where I am and where I'm heading

I've also adopted the most important guiding principle of writing: if it's forced, flat, or a continued struggle, I look for another way.

When you're writing, it's all too easy to get caught up on the idea that there's a right way to do something. That you should do X, but you shouldn't do Y. You can do A, but forget about B.

Turns out that when it comes to showing up at the page and finding your way forward, there is no right or wrong way. There's only your way.

Now, every time I start to avoid my writing, things feel too hard, or I stop making progress, I take a step back and ask myself two questions:

  • What do I think I should be doing?
  • What would I rather do?

Without fail, my next steps lie in the answer to that second question. 

It means I do some things differently. I write out of chronological order. I write something even if I'm not sure that it will end up in the final draft. I map the story instead of writing, just to get a feel for where I am. 

But it doesn't matter. Even thought the writing process is less orderly, and sometimes trial by fire... I'm having fun. I've replaced that novel with a story I truly LOVE. I love the characters even more. And I'm doing the one thing I want to be doing: I'm writing.

Grab a pen, and try the prompt below. 

When it comes to my writing, I think I should... Or I think I need to...

P.S. Ready for a writing breakthrough? Break free from writing rules that don't work and find your way with my FREE three-part series: Inside the Writers Mind. The first insight (and writing prompt) could be yours today.

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