It’s that time of year again and out come the resolutions. I should/will/must:
go to the gym
cut down on the wine
be nice to my enemies…
Oh, and if you’re a writer, there’s lots more you must do in 2012:
write a chapter a day
kill your darlings
give up adjectives
rewrite, rewrite, rewrite
write four books by next Christmas…
Those pesky modals. Should, could, would, might, need to, ought to, have to, must, not to mention their merry cousins, the shouldn’t-couldn’t-wouldn’t-MUSTN’T brigade. When I listen to most of the writers I know, their talk is littered with such wretched compulsions and obligations. And these are people who are supposed to be aware of the power of language.
Listen up, writers, here’s a thought for the new year:
Willpower gets you nowhere except into a trough of guilt and procrastination.
So, try Wontpower, instead.
No, I haven’t lost an apostrophe. Wont is a lovely word which we are wont to use when in historical mode. What we are wont to do, we are accustomed to do, we are in the habit of doing and, best of all, when we do our wont, we do it without stress or anxiety.
The roots of the word lie in Old English gewunian, past participle gewunod, which means to dwell, to live habitually in a place.
And that’s exactly the place where we writers do best, a place where we flourish, where we feel comfortable with our inspiration, our art and our craft, where we never have the willies, a place where the evil inner critic dare not show its sour face, where words flow and characters grow and facts are servants and never masters.
Think about it as the shining year lies before us.
Meanwhile, I really have to go for a walk and I must get the ending of that chapter right and I really should. . .
Happy New Year!