Slaying the Beast Within
Do you have that little annoying voice in the back of your head that points out your mistakes? I think most people do. Sure, it can rear its ugly head during your every day life, but I find mine surfaces more while I’m writing. (And don’t read that last bit as if I don’t make mistakes in my real life, only in my writing, because that just isn’t the case!)
“You write like craaaaaaaap! Even when you’re trying to write about me you suck!”
Ah yes, there it is. The little Voice. The beast–
“Who are you calling ‘little’?”
It can get out of hand quickly if I let it.
“If you ‘let’ me? Wow, look who thinks he’s in control…”
I think you get the point and I’m sure if you’ve written anything longer than a grocery list you’ve suffered from the distraction that is…the Voice.
“That’s right, show me some respect. No more ‘little’.”
As I was saying…
“And don’t think I can’t mess you up on a grocery list either. I’ve seen how poorly you spell.”
What do you do to shut that voice down?
“You can’t. I’m in-VINCE!-able!” (Every time I hear someone say that word now, I can’t help but think of the scene near the end of the James Bond movie “GoldenEye” when the brilliant computer henchman stands and shouts that word….just before he was (spoiler alert) killed.)
So. How does one go about slaying that beastly voice? Well, in the case of my fantasy novel, The Penitent Assassin, I used it as a model for one of the characters — the Voice of the corrupted Magic. Of course, I can’t do that in every novel (can I?) though I suppose it would work perhaps for some annoying villain sidekick who…
“Sidekick? Sidekick!?! I AM the villain!”
Outside praise helps quiet the voice, but really, how much outside praise can you safely handle before your head swells too much and you start walking around with it held so high rain starts falling into your nose?
Belief in yourself and your talent works too.
“Oooooo….you said ‘talent’! Ha ha ha. You wouldn’t know talent if it came up and–”
Of course, to many who have ‘talent’, that is an obvious solution. People who regularly succeed likely have mastered a way to shut down that negative voice. But I can’t imagine it remains quiet all the time. Even successful people have setbacks from time to time. Even successful people have to put their pants on one leg at a time. Even successful people have off days…
“Are you sure?”
The point I’m trying to make is (“Oh yes, let’s FINALLY get to your point!”) there’s not just one way to shut down that little voice. (“LAME!”) I can try to ignore it and sometimes that works. I can use it to enhance my writing (“ENHANCE” What a joke!”). Or, I can tell myself writing is subjective. There will be people who enjoy what I do and say and write (“Really? Who? Give me names….and not people you know! ‘Mom’ doesn’t count!”) just as there will be people who don’t. (“My kind of people!”) And if I accept that neither side is completely right or wrong, that I am not completely right or wrong in my approach to my life and to my writing and especially if I don’t take myself so seriously, the LITTLE voice can’t take the opposing side.
“What the hell…?”
That’s right. You heard me. I’m going to use you to motivate me to write better. I’m going to use you to keep myself grounded, balanced. When I hear praise, I’ll let you slip in a critique or two to even me out, and when I hear criticism I’ll be reminded that I’ve heard worse from you millions of times before. And you know what, thank you for pointing out that I suck at spelling. I know I do. It’s why I love dictionaries and spell-check. And I’ll tell you something else, I’m happy with The Penitent Assassin. I’ve spent a long time working on it. I’ve edited it an extra time or two just because you told me it needed it and right now, it is the best version I can make it. And despite all that, I know there will be people who dislike it (just as I believe there will be people who do like it) and that’s okay.
I also know the more I write, the better I will write, and I owe that in part to you, little voice. Because I am stubborn. I want to prove you wrong. Not always wrong….just wrong enough to set me free to be the writer I want to be. I can’t be like the famous writers already out in the world. I can only be me. And I am striving to be the best version of me I can be. So for that, little voice, thank you.
And I’ll go out on a limb here and say the same is true for each of you too. All each of us can hope for is to become the best versions of ourselves possible. So use the voice to motivate you to become better. Don’t let it only tear you down.
So take a moment to thank that little voice, because though it won’t admit it, it’s really there to make you better.
Yeah….when I was rereading this, the little voice insisted I add that last bit.
Have a great day, All!