Can’t Never Could

Over the past few days, I’ve run into a couple of unexpected situations (some would call them opportunities) to perform a little author outreach in my local area, all to aspiring authors. One young woman said she enjoys writing, then tacked on, “Oh, but I could never write the way you do.”

I looked her straight in the eye and told her a truncated version of this story:

When I was younger, my mom was friends with a woman named Katie W., who had children the same age as me and my siblings. Mom and Katie would exchange babysitting services on a regular basis. One would take care of all of us while the other was out working or running errands. The next day or weekend (or whenever), they’d switch turns and so on. I was as at home at Katie’s parents’ and in-laws’ homes as I was at my own grandparents’ and vice versa for her children.

One day, and I don’t even remotely recall the situation, I said something to Katie (probably in a not-quite-respectful tone, as young people are wont to use), and she snapped back, “Can’t never could.”

I promise, it stopped me dead in my tracks. Not only that, it was one of those little gems of wisdom that stuck with me over the intervening decades. Can’t never could has done as much to inform my attitude and outlook as anything my parents ever said, as hard as they worked to knock some sense into my granite like noggin.

When I related the above tale to that young woman, I added, “You’re already throwing barriers in your way, sweetie. If you think you can’t write, I promise, you’ll never be able to.”

It’s advice I’d love to offer to every aspiring author. Too many times, we’re the ones placing barriers between us and a dream, between a dream and reality, and between reality and success. Society is no barrier, when the will is strong and the focus sharp, and that is particularly true in today’s publishing world, in which the Big Company gatekeepers of old have been replaced by individual readers. Authors define their own success, and now more than ever, they are defining that success as a real, tangible, full-time income.

To do that, authors cannot dwell on the fear of failure, the costs of publishing, the time it takes to fully develop and write a novel, or the amount of work needed to be successful, in whatever way success is defined. All of these barriers have actionable solutions, if one is willing to devote the time and effort it takes to overcome them.

The biggest barrier, though, is simply our mindset. When we approach a task as inherently impossible, we rob ourselves of the ability to complete it. Instead, we should take a huge step back, break the problem into small, easily-accomplished goals, and gnaw our way through them the way one eats an elephant: One bite at a time.

What one step can you take today to apply a barrierless philosophy to your writing?

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