I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…
I don’t think I ever read a story about a little engine that could, a little engine that pushed itself forward with positive thinking. Did you ever read that story? But it’s so ingrained in our minds and culture. It’s the unofficial mantra/slogan for the “Don’t Give Up, You Can Do It!” Campaign.
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…
But truthfully, doesn’t it sometimes seem like you can’t? If at first you don’t succeed, why bother again?
Failure is a bitter horse pill to swallow. So we don’t continue on and do the things we would want to do, like take on a career/major, start up a company, ask a girl out, or witness Christ to an unbeliever. We don’t even have to fail at something to not attempt it; it’s the fear of failure that immobilizes us.
Sometimes, however, we’re forced to press on. When I was in middle school (and high school too), I seem to remember having to write many papers and essays and short answer questions. We would have to write papers for English class, and sometimes even for the standardized tests, like TAAS and TAKS. One of the sections had a writing component, so we would have to write a composition (2-3 pages) on the given prompt. Prompts like, “Write about a time you learned a lesson from someone you admire.” Or it would be the AP Economics test with a free-response question like, “Explain the mechanism by which an increase in net investment will cause long-run aggregate supply to change.” I think the people who come up with these tests really enjoy writing these questions/prompts.
I would write away, and write fairly well. But sometimes, I would get to the middle of a paragraph or a thought or a point… and I didn’t know where to go from there. I mean, how much can you write about a movie that taught you a valuable lesson on ethics? But I had to finish it! My grade was on the line! So let me tell you what I did two or three times: I would let my handwriting get kind of sloppy, like I was getting tired or sleepy, and then I kind of scribbled things that looked like they might be words but were unintelligible. I would do that for a line or two and then finish off the paragraph or jump right back in with another thought. I hoped that the rest of my writing and the rest of my points would carry the paper and the grader would assume that what I had scribbled was something equally impressive and legitimate.
I’ll admit, not some of my proudest moments. But in that twisted reasoning, I knew that if I could just get over one hurdle, I could do it, I could finish strong. I was not going to let this apparent roadblock slow me down. I was not going to admit failure.
I’m not saying we should bend the rules or do something underhanded in order to move forward. History is full of examples of men and women that tried to cheat the system to success. And History calls these people frauds, fakes, and criminals.
But there is the idea of not letting a lull in creativity slow you down. In that moment, you work out and flex your other creative muscles.
There’s an idea that’s been tickling the back of my mind lately, an idea to write a story. Not a novel, and not something to litter the Best Sellers shelf. But a story non-the-less, and a story in parts. I’ve already written how writing let’s me understand me. Maybe that sounds out there and too hippie, but it jives in my head. The thing is, I’ve already started several stories in my life. Sometimes I’ll get a paragraph in, sometimes I travel along for several chapters. But then I get stuck or I don’t know how to finish it, or some other problem will loom. And I’ll leave it there, a young sapling that never gets to see its limbs rise to the sky in brilliant maturity.
I’m not sure why the story idea is coming to me now. I don’t even know what it’s about fully, or how it will end, or even the middle. A big part of me doesn’t want to put the pen to the paper because I know my track record of finishing these things. I know I can’t just scribble something unintelligible when I don’t know where to take the story. Part of me fears writing it and then hating it. And a tiny part of me is screaming, “I think I can? I know I can!”
And so I think I’ll begin this literary venture, not sure of where I’ll end up, if I’ll finish it, or what the result will be. But I don’t want it to collect dust with the other what if?’s of my past.
Sure, we all get a bit of writer’s block in life. Life likes to throw us curveballs and sliders and quicker-than-you-can-blink fastballs. Do you stand by and stare at them dolefully, pitying your woeful batting average? Or do you step up to the plate and swing with all you got?
As long as you’re at bat, the balls will keep coming. Sooner or later, bat and ball are bound to connect.
And as long as you keep trying, you’ll get past your own writer’s block.