Wednesday 3 August 2016

The "Shoulds" of writing

Lately, I've been letting so many shoulds get to me.

  • I can write a draft of a book in 2 weeks, I should be able to write/publish more books
  • I should be writing more on my blog
  • I should be promoting my books to get more sales
  • I should be entering competitions
  • I should be writing for anthologies
  • I should be...
The problem with these shoulds is that they creep up, slowly, silently. At first, I can knock them aside and tell them where to go, but over time, they increase and expand until they become overwhelming. Usually they hit me when life is particularly busy and crazy, leaving me with little time to think about them logically.

Instead of spurring me on to write more, I find these shoulds make me freeze and not write much at all! I will start writing a draft and not get past the third or fourth chapter. My blog comes to a complete standstill, I do nothing to promote my books, I don't enter competitions or write for anthologies. The shoulds get completely in the way of any writing tasks! These shoulds also have me questioning whether or not I'm a "real" writer.

These should also get in the way of my faith. I should be praying more, reading my Bible, should be able to write a Christian book... and so on.

When I can take a step back, I can acknowledge that I am a working, single Mum with two teenagers with chronic health conditions. I need to be kind to myself and, at time, go with the flow of periods of not writing. It's also at these times that I reach out to others to pray for me as I find it difficult to pray. And this doesn't make me any less of a writer, or a Christian.

Taking a step back may not send all the shoulds on their way immediately, but it does help. Often, it starts with ideas flowing again, which sends me to a notebook or computer to write them down. These ideas could be for blog posts, new books, current works in progress, competition entries, or any number of other things. I also find myself going back to simple prayers that were prayed when I was a child. 

The shoulds are still there in the background. I haven't been able to get rid of them completely, but being realistic about my goals and my life helps a lot to keep them in the background, and keeps the words coming.

Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne with her two teenage boys and pet blue tongue lizard. She writes flash fiction as well as middle grade novels.

You can follow her writing journey at


  1. Great post Melissa - ah, that mountain of 'shoulds'. I think you're spot on. If we allow it too, it can paralyse. Better to do what we can & leave the rest with God.

  2. Totally agree with you Melissa. If we did everything we 'should' we wouldn't have time to breathe!

  3. Thanks Melissa for sharing openly with us. The "shoulds", yes! Arrrggghhh.

    We're all standing alongside you. We forget how Christ came to bring us freedom. It's in that freedom we can do … (wish it was as straight forward to realise as it was writing those 2 sentences)

    Great that you reach out to others to part for you. Well done.


  4. Couldn't agree more. Thanks for the reminder X

  5. Hi Melissa,
    I know where you're coming from. And interestingly, some of those 'shoulds' you mentioned have less to do with our actual writing of our books, and more to do with peripheral extras. I'm not saying that's not all important too, but if we tackled all of it, we'd have time for nothing else.


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