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?