The Voice

Over the last few months, I've been thinking a lot about what Geneen Roth calls The Voice.

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No, this is not voice in the way we usually talk about it in literature, as in that special, sometimes elusive thing we writers are all seeking.  It is the critical, harping, nagging, unpleasant voice that tells us how stupid, ugly, untalented, lazy, fat, and silly we are.

It is The Voice that most of us spend far too much time listening to, and worse, believing.  Because this voice lies.  This voice is the sum total of every authority figure or adversary you've ever encountered in your life and it is simply mimicking those people.  It doesn't know what it is saying, it is just programmed to say it.  And we're programmed to listen.

But it doesn't have to be that way.  With some effort, you can get The Voice to be quiet.  First of all you have to become aware of what it is saying.  You're a shitty writer, it might whisper.  Or, you're never going to get published, so why bother writing? Like that.  Often worse.  The Voice can get very personal, as in, you blew your diet again, no wonder you're so damned fat.  And so on.  We all have our individual versions of The Voice.  Whatever your version of it is saying, become aware.  Pause and listen.  Half the time, acknowledging is a huge part of the battle.

Then realize why The Voice is whispering this crap to you.  The Voice is part of your ego, dedicated to protecting you at all costs.  And part of that protection means to resist change.  Because change is scary and might hurt you.  Change includes things like committing to writing every day, or publishing your novel at long last.  Good things.  Desirable things.  Your ego just doesn't see it that way because it involves, well, change.

Finally, talk back.  Quit letting The Voice rule your life.  You've already allowed yourself to become conscious of it.  Now it is time to get it to shut up.  This is not the time to worry about being nice, because The Voice, although it thinks it has your best interests at heart, is not nice to you.  Often what is needed here is some aggressive action.  Like every time you hear The Voice whisper those words you hate yell at it to "Shut up!"  You can get even harsher, as in, "Shut the F*&^ Up!"  Do not feel bad about this.  Harshness is necessary here.  Another trick you can use is mental imagery.  Give The Voice a shape, like an evilly-grinning amoeba, for instance, and then imagine opening a door to a closet and locking it inside.  Or dropping it into a jar and sealing the lid.

If you do this every time you become aware of The Voice talking to you, after all you'll start to notice a lovely silence in your head.  A silence out of which stories can grow, goals can be accomplished, things can start to happen.  It is quite remarkable, actually.  I invite you to try it.

**A couple of unrelated notes:

1.  I'm off to Nashville tomorrow.  Hoping to keep the posting schedule up; will post oldies but goodies if not.

2.  Poets and Writers came out with their list of the top MFA programs, mine made the top 10!

3. I am busily developing new coaching programs.  They are going to rock!  I'm very excited about them, so stay tuned.

And have a great Labor Day, everybody! 

Photo by Xenia, courtesy of MorgueFile, via EveryStockPhoto.

 

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2 Comments on "The Voice"

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Derek
Guest
09/09/2010 01:33
What an apt post for me at this time. I have been having huge inner arguments with my voice recently. At one time, it/he/she even stopped talking to me! Just left me with the feeling that I should quit on my latest blog/site venture about Wales. I mean… I’ve lived here in Wales all my life. Got countless photographs and ideas for Welsh posts and lots of other ideas too.. But… The voice has told me with thoughts (and silence) that it’s a waste of time continuing.. Who wants to know? Who cares? So after having spent many hours blowing… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
09/09/2010 13:13

Yay! I’m so glad that you stood up to the Voice and told it what was what. You’ve got a great start on that Wales site, and I think it will be of interest to a lot of people.

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