Would-a, Could-a, Should-a

by Nancy Casey

Would-a. Should-a. Could-a.

Those are the words we use when we imagine a different past. We’re often advised not to use them—neither out loud or when we talk to ourselves. And when we do, we get reminded that we would-a, could-a, should-a said something different.

Sounds exhausting. It’s terribly hard to refrain from thinking certain thoughts. Because you have to think them to remind yourself not to think them.

Today in your writing, let ‘em rip. Open the gates and let them in. There will be a few other requirements, too, but first, set up your page while you allow yourself to imagine some of the things you wish were different about the past.

Draw a line at the top of the page where you can put a title when you finish writing. If you want to set aside a space for doodles and illustration, do that next. Then draw lines to divide the remaining space on the page into four roughly equal parts.

Write the words Would-aShould-a, and Could-a as headings at the top of three of those spaces. Leave the fourth one blank, at least for now.

In each of the spaces, write about something that would-a, should-a, could-a been different. Maybe about something that you did or didn’t do. Maybe about the actions of someone else. Perhaps one event will fit in the small space, or maybe more than one.

Each time you tell a little Would-aShould-a, or Could-a story, add the words, “But, oh well, …” and write at least one more sentence that places the event(s) in the past and says something about the present.

You might say something about how you survived, what you learned, or what doors wouldn’t have opened without the events you (sort of) regret. Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe you had fun, or it worked out well for someone else. Maybe it was the best way to learn what not to do the next time.

When you have filled the three spaces with Would-aShould-a, Could-a stories, write anything you would like in the fourth space. Maybe some more Would-aShould-a, or Could-a stories, or some comments about what you wrote, or what you thought about writing it.

When the page is full, look it over carefully and make small changes if you like. When a title idea floats to the surface of your mind, write it at the top of the page.

Write the date on the page too, along with a signature or your initials.

Here is an example of what someone could write.

You can share your work by posting it as a comment below. You can type it in, or take a photo of it and upload the image.


Nancy Casey has lived in Latah County for many years. You can find more of her work here. If you would like some help or encouragement with your writing, contact Nancy or the Latah Recovery Center. In-person Write-for You classes have been suspended for now, but when Covid recedes, they will return.

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