“I try to…really I do… But…It’s just that…”
Almost every time I hear that word “try” (except when I use it, of course), the same memory springs to mind. I can’t recall where I was or when it happened:
A man, perhaps a teacher or dinner companion, placed his hand on top if mine and said, “Try to lift your hand.”
I lifted my hand.
Shaking his head, disapprovingly, the man pressed my hand back down onto the table. “I said, ‘try to lift it.’”
Puzzled, I lifted my hand again.
He pushed it down again. “I didn’t say ‘lift your hand,’” he said. “I said ‘try to lift it.’”
Try. The three letter loophole.
Yes, this includes Mount Everest.
I tried to climb Mount Everest once—well, up to the Base Camp anyway. The plans were set. We had our gear. We had been training. But, at the last minute, our VISA requests were denied. It was a good try, and at least I tried. Spit in one hand, try with another, what do you get? One either climbs the highest peak in the world, or one doesn’t. One might start climbing and not reach the top. But that is not trying, that is climbing—doing. And yes, it is semantics. Some might say I’m “splitting hairs” even. That three letter loophole.
I do things. Lots of things. Most importantly, for purposes of this essay, when I say I’ll do a thing, I do it. For example, I said I would brush my teeth twice daily; floss; pay bills; babysit my grandson; eat leafy greens, and I do (except on rare occasion).
I try to do things, too: Return extra pounds to whomever owns them; exercise daily; stop using the word “cute”; call my mother . . . Try-schmy. Nobody ever does anything they “try” to do.
We do what we do. (Sally Bowles singing Mein Herr popped into my head as I typed that. I tried to resist, but…)
Where is this leading? To a confession: Since the beginning of the year I have been trying to finish several manuscripts. I’ve tried, really I have. And although I do spend several hours per day writing and/or on writing-related activities, despite all my trying, I have yet to succeed. After 10 frustrating months I have finally come to a decision: I am going to stop trying!
As of today, I am doing. One hour each day I am going to write. No excuses. No hall passes.
Mom’s Three Day Rule:
My mother always says it takes three days to make or break a habit. “Three days to make & three days to do & three days to set” she says (which is actually nine days, but somehow breaking it into 3 parts makes it easier.) If Mom’s three day rule worked to help her quit smoking, surely it will work to help me get back to creative writing.
And if, like me, there’s something you’re ready to stop trying, and start doing--and yes, I am talking to YOU! Writers who might be gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). And YOU, too! Everyone else who wants to stop trying. Why not join me? Let’s do it!
To Do List:
First Gather Tools. We’re on a Hero’s Journey and heroes needs tools!
- Calendar: Hang it in a prominent place.
- Happy Jar: Choose a happy jar/vase/pail to serve as your “Reward Jar.” Keep it on the smallish side so the vast emptiness of the vessel won’t be discouraging. (You can always upsize.)Decorate it, if desired.
- Reward Token: Decide on a reward token of choice. It might be money, chocolate, toffee, jewels, lotto tickets, marbles, shells (or a combo of several).
- Set: “To Do” Goal.
- Commit: I will Do It each day. (Fill in the Do IT with your Do)
- Track Progress: None of this X stuff; mark progress with a smiley face (mine’s red) on the calendar each day you DO IT!
- Reward! (No hard work should go unrewarded): Each day of Doing It earns one token
- Accountability counts! Miss a day/Lose a token. Take one out of your Happy Jar (No, you may not eat it!) Most importantly, tell yourself: Tomorrow, I’m back! I will Do It!
Do It for 3 days, then 3 days more, and three days after that, just think what we will have accomplished!