I Can’t OR I Can?

The other night, I had a conversation with Book Worm that went something like this:

“I can’t go to sleep. I’m not tired,” she said.

This is a familiar refrain at bedtime because it does take her a long time to fall asleep. Although, if she will just get herself quiet and still, it happens much quicker than she likes to think.

“Of course you can’t,” I said.

That prompted a perplexed look on dear daughter’s face.

“Well, if you believe you can’t, then you won’t be able to, right?”

And that’s when it hit me…

Ah, mothers! We spout Do’s, Don’t’s, and How To’s at our children, but would be ashamed if we sometimes listened to ourselves. I know I am. How many times have I thought: “I can’t write like that.” “I’ll never be that good.” “I can’t find an audience for my work.” “I can’t understand why this scene isn’t working.”

Yikes! My vocabulary is often peppered with the word “can’t”, and how can tell her not to perceive things that way when I’m the one setting the bad example? Not good. My mother told me once that the things she was afraid to do often failed, but the things she forced herself to do while pretending a confidence she may not have, most often succeeded. Being shy like me, I knew she’d stumbled onto something very profound.

When I think back there are many things I’ve thought I couldn’t do that I actually did. Have children (which is why I call them my miracle babies). Finish my first book. Sell my first short story. Final in RWA’s Golden Heart contest (c). A handful of times I’ve even said, “I can’t do this anymore,” but a week later I’m back at the computer because the characters won’t shut up.

I recently received an important revision for one of my submissions – one with a quick turnaround and very specific instructions. I was shaking in my boots when I called my mama! The minute I said, “What if I can’t do this?” she stopped me. “None of that,” she said. And she’s right (as mamas usually are!). So every time I wondered, “Can I do this?”, I stopped and told myself, “You can do this. You’ve been training for years. Just take the direction and run with it!”

I could tell you something profound, like “I vow to change my ways from here to eternity” but that’s simply not going to happen. I know myself. I’m pessimistic by nature and struggle with these kinds of things. But I do think I’ll be much more aware of my use of the word “can’t” from here on out and try to use it as a trigger for something positive.

What things have you told yourself you can’t do, but in reality, you simply needed to find a way to get there?

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2 thoughts on “I Can’t OR I Can?

  1. Hey, Dani!

    Thanks for the reminder. ^_^ It’s hard to watch what we say, especially as moms. Sometimes it’s the subtle things that stick and take a lot of deprogramming to shake. I like to think of myself as a pessimist masquerading as a realist. (i.e. The glass is neither half-full, nor half-empty…it’s simply twice as big as it probably should be.) >..> I’m not usurping God or physics.) One of the few things that stuck with me about ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki was the idea that it’s not really productive to cut your kids off by telling them you ‘can’t afford that.’ Instead of instilling the thought of ‘can’t’, the suggestion was to get them thinking about what they could do in order to be able to afford what they wanted–how they could set a goal and work for it, or what they could potentially give up in exchange for it.

    I’m sure I paraphrased that to death, and I apologize to Mr. Kiyosaki. >.<

    While he meant it in regards to financial situations, I had a lightbulb moment over that principle applying to many other areas of life–including my writing. It's not that I 'can't' write a book . . . I just have to decide what it's worth to me. Money for workshops and memberships, years of time out from most things recreational to hone my craft, days of emotional anguish and moodiness over tough scenes . . . Yeah, it's worth all that to me. 🙂

  2. Very cool analogy, A.N. And that’s a great way to look at things! I know that’s something I’ve learned over and over again with my writing (I’m a slow learner, sometimes it takes a time or two!), and hope that I’ve passed along to my children. I want this enough to sacrifice and work had for it!

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