Monday, July 13, 2009

Combating the Can't-Do Attitude

Yesterday we had another bout of torrential rain. Hubby and I spent a couple hours playing tagteam against the growing leak in the basement. Good news: we kept the waters to a limited area and nothing was damaged. Bad news: I hurt like hell. As I was laying in bed, waiting for the Tylenol to kick in, my mind drifted back to fifteen years ago and I congratulated myself for doing a bunch of things I didn't think I would ever do.

If you've been around here long enough, you've heard this story before, so bear with me.

In 1994, I was in a car accident. A pretty nasty one that left me in a hospital bed for 2 months. It also gave me the questionable gifts of a broken body and a traumatic brain injury. Throughout it all, I ran into people who tried to impress the Can't-Do Attitude upon me and the other patients who were going through this at the same time.

Someone somewhere along the way told me I'd never walk right again. Several others implied I'd never think right again. One social worked encouraged me to find another line of work because I would never be able to handle management again. I ignored them all, and I fired the social worker. (Even fifteen years later, I'd still like to slap the stupid out of that bitch.)

Since then, I walk as well as any able-bodied person - except when the weather is bad or I'm really tired, then I limp a little. My mind is about 99% of what it was pre-accident and in some ways, it's better. I've learned memory tricks I never would've thought about if this hadn't happened. And since that twit told me I would be better off working with plants than people, I've worked my own territory as an Manufacturers' Representative, I've been shift manager for a major telemarketing company, I've worked as the Executive Assistants for both a VP of Operations and the President of a private school corporation. I've also written a boatload of novels. So there, Ms. Silly Social Worker Person. =op

But I wasn't the only one... A few weeks after I started out-patient therapy, a new gal was admitted to the group. She'd been hit by a car while jogging, and she had a lot of the same problems as me. One leg was smashed, and her head injury was causing both speech and thinking difficulties - which truly sucked because she was a lawyer. A few of the well-meaning staff told her she would never be a lawyer again - that she shouldn't even try because the certain failure would be a major set-back in her recovery. She told them to go pound sand, and last I heard, she was studying to retake the bar. There was no doubt in her mind she'd pass it, and there's no doubt in mine that she's practicing law today.

The point here is there are always people who will tell you you can't do something. When I started my first book, a so-called friend of mine laughed at me. His attitude was that I would never write a whole book. Until I did it. Then his attitude was that I couldn't get published. Well, the jury's still out on that one, but not for lack of trying. I didn't let his can't-do attitude stop me.

I can't let the same attitude coming from myself stop me either. Trust me, there are days when I feel like I can't do this anymore. Like when a particular rejection comes in and throws me for a loop. Or when I'm so friggin' tired from life's daily chores that I can't envision sitting here for ten minutes, let alone the hour or so I set aside for writing. Or those times, like last night, when I just ache. (Okay, last night's a bad example because I really couldn't do it then. Instead I rested and thought about where the story is going so I can write gangbusters tonight.)

In the end, we should all have a Can-Do attitude, but the reality of it is no matter how much we tell ourselves what we can do, there will be naysayers telling us we can't. Ignore them. Fire them if you have to (either literally or figuratively). Either way, give them the attention they deserve.

Which is to say, none.

Your turn. What's something someone else has said you can't do? Did you do it anyway? If not, what's holding you back?

ETA: I can't believe I misspelled the title. D'oh! I fixed it, but it stills appears as the filename. Sorry about that, folks. I blame it on being tired.


  1. You'll be published. I've read some of your stuff on your other blog and there is no doubt in my mind. You are a very talented writer.

    For me I've faced the same issues with my writing. A lot of my family (not including my wonderful parents) just laugh and tell me that my dreams are worthless. They've also told my parents that they shouldn't be encouraging me and that I should be doing something with my life. Which brings me to my next point.

    College. In Sept I start my 3rd year. For the past 2 years I've heard nothing but negative comments from my family and a lot of my friends. Here in Alberta we have the oil fields and farming... and to be honest you really don't need a degree to get a 12 dollar an hour job. In fact with the oil fields you go up there for 6 months and come back a millionaire- if you survive.

    Anyway, I'm an english major, history minor... which no one takes seriously. But regardless of how they feel, that is what I am doing. I have goals. I'm only 19 and not only am I on the Dean's list in school, but I'm also finishing up writing my first novel. If that's not doing something with my life, I'm not sure what is.

    But anywho, keep up the positive attitude. It's refreshing to read a blog that is so inspirational both in writing and in life.

  2. Keep at it, Natalie. Of course you're doing something with your life, and most important, you're remembering that it is your life. If others can be happy with $12/hr doing manual labor, that's their thing. You do your thing and you'll do fine. I was making $38K a year before I quit to be a full time writer and a homeschooling Mom. Other people may think that's stupid, but it's my thing, and I'm happy with it. =o)

  3. I don't think that's stupid at all. I think people put too much emphasis on money and not enough on what makes them happy.