Shut Up, Voices

innercriticI’m not someone who normally struggles with writing. Making the writing good, that’s different, but producing the words on paper, nope. I was a journalist in my early career, and if there’s one thing such a program of study beats out of you, it’s the whole “tortured artist” game.

We weren’t allowed to have writers block. Words would come or you would go. Journalism is also great training for book writing because it keeps you from feeling you’re saving the world. You are producing infotainment, setting it down for people to read, and tomorrow you’ll do it again, when today’s words are carrying out the coffee grounds or scooping puppy poop. Words is words; even though they can ignite, there are a million more behind where those came from.

In other words, don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t for one minute believe you’re the reason the earth can heal, now that you’re here.

So I’ve never struggled with getting a rough draft down. Until now. For the past two weeks, I’ve been working on just setting out the basics of a story. The whole while, my inner critic has been howling like a banshee, tearing like a panther, raging like a stuck bull.

Usually I’m pretty good at turning off those voices, sotto voice just beneath the surface of creativity: “This is crap; you don’t know what you’re doing; ‘you have made the mistake of thinking everything that happens to you is interesting’ ” (a succinct and heart-sinking sentence sent to Anne Lamott in a rejection letter). As Nora Roberts said, “You can fix anything but a blank page.” I always adhered to that.

Yet it seems lately as though each finger is burdened with a ghost, clinging as I type, all muttering a non-stop cacophony through which every word can be clearly heard: “You can’t do it. You can’t write any more. This is boring. This is bad grammar. This is bad writing. You are bad.” Tiny little ghosts, grinning an evil grin, unrelenting.

Shut up, I tell them; shut up. I would like to say that, with each word that fights its way out from under the babble, their voices diminish. But they don’t.

So, if this is the new phase of writing I’m entering, the “fight for your life” phase, one might call it, so be it. Eventually the shrieking voices will have to give up out of sheer boredom, I suppose, from being ignored.

But gol-amighty, I wish I knew where they came from so I could send them back there. I’m busy, here, and they’re taking up energy.

10 thoughts on “Shut Up, Voices

  1. It’s no good my saying ” you can do this, you can get through this” because you’ve already done it, people liked it a lot, and you’ll do it again. You have a big community who thinks much of you. (Perhaps after Halloween, those evil spirits will disappear.)

  2. Don’t you know that the reason so many enjoy what you write is because you’re just like us….except you say it so much better! Ignore any other voices!

  3. Try Anne Lamott’s suggestion. Take a few moments. Put faces to the little buggers. Now shrink them down to about an inch tall, listening to the vouces shrink with them. When they are just tiny sqeakers confine them in a jar. Screw the lid down. (You get to decide whether to punch holes in the lid). Watch them scrabble at the sides and see the tiny mouths still opening and shutting. Nowk Go back to work.

      • I really love your commenter’s word picture!! Then you did it in real life and the pic of the little jar pulled me in!
        “Watch them scrabble at the sides and see the tiny mouths still opening and shutting.” Wow, such a creepy and perfect picture!!

  4. Reblogged this on cityofleedsrose and commented:
    When the voices start shouting and the blues start raging find comfort in knowing that everyone has their battles.
    Then dust yourself off and get back to fighting.

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