Why I Can’t, Why I Can. An Exercise for the Stuck.


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I did this exercise on New Year’s Eve by accident. I was feeling stuck, angry with myself for not just SITTING DOWN TO WRITE, my mind whirring with excuses and self-doubt.

Rather then griping, I sat down and ended up writing fourteen pages or so, and I felt great when I was finished. This will work for you no matter what it is that you “can’t” do. It can be “Why I can’t sing,” “Why I can’t make my art,” “Why I can’t go to school,” etc. Simply sit down and write all the reasons why you can’t. If you’re anything like me, this will feel great! Then go on back through and re-write it in a positive- “Why I can,” or whatever suits your fancy.

I am all for gratitude and affirmations, but in this case I find it extremely helpful to write out all my excuses. As if putting them onto pages gives them the voice they need, helps me to see a little more clearly, and clears the mental space that they were occupying. I also found that the further I got into writing why “I can’t,” the more the real reasons revealed themselves.

Writing the positives really gave me a boost, and I have looked back on them many times already to give myself some motivation. I have posted both below, just so you can get an idea of how to do it. There are no rules, just clear that brain-space out, no matter what is in it!


Why I can’t sit down to write.

I can’t sit down to write- because I don’t have the right notebook, I don’t have the right pens. Because I have to do it a certain way, with a certain penmanship, at a certain time of day that is always unavailable. I can’t write because I don’t have a writing studio, or the perfect office, or because the office isn’t heated. I can’t write because I must clean and organize first, because I must do things by the moon, because I am too tired.

I can’t write because I must make dinner, or think about dinner, or look up a recipe. I can’t write because I haven’t read my horoscope, because I never made that phone call. You know, the one I don’t intend to make.

I can’t write because I must make a list of things “to-do” and on that list I will write that I must write. I can’t though, because the baby might wake up and he’ll want to eat, and I can’t write while he eats. I can’t write because there are crumbs on the floor, and because I need to paint the baby’s room, and because the laundry will rear its ugly head if I don’t beat it down again.

I can’t write because I have nothing to say. Because I am not interesting enough or wise enough or funny enough. I can’t write because I don’t know how to be myself, because my own voice is not good enough. I can’t write because my hands hurt. THIS IS WHY MY HANDS HURT. I can’t write because I have bad posture, because my head hurts (again, THAT IS WHY) and because my coffee has gone cold.

I can’t write because no one will read it. I can’t write because someone might read it. I can’t write because I didn’t write enough before and because that person is a writer now so who am I to call myself one? I can’t write because I won’t make money doing it- at least not right away, so why start?

I can’t write because I need to go back to school, because I need a master’s degree, no, wait- a PhD. I can’t write because I still live here. I can’t write because life is not perfect. I can’t write because there aren’t enough followers and not enough comments and because all of that shit makes me uncomfortable anyways.

I can’t write because I need to take a walk. I need to do yoga. I can’t write because I should meditate instead. I can’t write because my mind is a mess, because clarity is fleeting, because of what I might find out if I do.

I can’t write because I’ll fail, though the only failure would be not writing. I can’t write because I’ll regret it if I don’t write and so I can’t start in case I stop.

I can’t write because life gets in the way. Because I don’t want to offend anyone. Because I want to offend EVERYONE. Because I don’t want my family TO SEE ME. Because they might see something other than what they thought was there.

Because I am not the achiever.

I have no perfection.

Because some of my opinions are stronger than I ever let on.

Because I know if I write my voice will get stronger and my words will be clearer.

I can’t write because I will become a working mother, a writing lover, an exposed woman. I can’t write because you will know my insecurities, you will know that my demons and doubts are as strong as yours and beating them down doesn’t necessarily work. I can’t write because then I must face them. I can’t write because my words are naked. I can’t write because I’ll say things about sex and drugs and I’ll reveal the power of my righteous anger.

I can’t write because then I will be responsible for what words I choose, and in what order. I can’t write because not everyone will agree and then I’ll shed the peacekeeper persona (Thank God).

I can’t write because I don’t want you to analyze me and see that I have flaws. I can’t write because it makes me feel whole, because it brings me joy EVERY TIME I do it.

Because I feel it in my bones, and who am I to question bones?

I can’t write because then I must realize my own strength and resilience, and that I am not broken- just broken open.

And so I can’t do it, because who will love me then? Because who will I become? Because who will I leave behind?

I can’t write because then I must call myself ‘writer’ and ‘poet,’ which is what I’ve always wanted to call myself. So instead I’ll look on Craigslist and apply for a job as a proofreader because I know I’m good and that will be easier than facing all this “I can’t” bullshit.

I can’t write because there will always be someone better than me. My name won’t go down in history. I can’t because the steps to get there are overwhelming, even though to see my words in print is a great joy.

I can’t write because then I must edit/cut/paste. Because who am I to say it’s good? Because I know that many times, it is. And I can’t do it because I judge myself when it isn’t. And so I’ve written all the reasons why I can’t write, and now there are no more excuses.


Why I Sit Down To Write.

I sit down to write no matter the paper or pens, and I do it in no certain way. I sit down to write in any place, leaving all the mess and ‘to-do’ lists to wait for me, OK that they may even grow in my absence.

I sit down to write by the sun or the moon, with a mind tired or fresh, with or without the inspiration that is made available to me on a daily basis. I write to let go of the gnawing thoughts, the sharp doubts that deflate my best ideas like balloons that would have soared up high beyond the clouds had they not been pierced to the heart with those blades of doom. I write to understand. Myself, the world around me. I write to leave behind the cotidiana, even though there is glory in the mundane.

I write to name the glory.

I write because I have so much to say and this is my way to say it. I write because I am interesting and bold and wise and funny, and because it is OK if I am none of those things sometimes. I write to know myself, to develop my strong and clear voice, to relieve my body of its pain. I write and in the process of being swept away by the beauty of words, I care not that my coffee has gone cold.

I write no matter who might read it, and I write even if no one ever will. I write because even when I can’t, I am still a writer. And even though there are lapses, that is the cycle, and the cycle always moves.

I am motivated by the sheer love of the written word, not the promise of money- thought I know that I can use this beautiful craft as a lucrative means to support myself and my family financially. I write, grateful for my education and knowing that more learning is available to me. I write no matter where I live and what my life looks like. I write whether I am recognized or not.

I write even if I am distracted by other things, and I know that filling my cup by walking, reading, meditating, playing, making love, sleeping, eating, doing yoga, will give me fuel to live a full life in which I have the space to write.

I write when the mental chatter won’t stop, and it helps me to get clarity.

I write even though I may fail, knowing the truth is that as long as I am writing I am not failing.

I write to speak my truth, To be seen, To be Me.

I write because it is a part of who I am, because along with mother, lover, woman I am writer, creator.

I write to expose my own insecurities, demons, doubts. I write to face myself. I write when I am FEELING, no matter what that is.

I write and I am responsible for my words, and I reserve the right to change my mind, always. I write no matter the opinion of someone else. I write to shake it up, rather than keep the peace.

I write even if you can analyze me and see through to my core. I write because when I do it I am made whole, because to write brings the joy all the way deep into my bones.

I write because I am strong and resilient and broken, open.

Because I know I am love and am always evolving. I write because I am a writer and a poet. Because, simply, I can.

I write even though someone else is better at it- this means there is always more to learn. I write when it is good and when it is bad, and because a true craft must be practiced.


What about you? What is it that you can or cannot do? Why? Get to the heart of it, clear the space and you will feel more freedom.


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