This one goes along with a post I did a few weeks back about being careful which people you choose to listen to (find it HERE). But this one’s about possibly your worst critic: your own self.
Anne Lamott, in her fabulous book Bird by Bird, calls that voice in your head the radio-station KFKD. You know the one. Your own voice saying: this stinks, it isn’t good enough, no one’s going to like it, I should quit & go get a real job . . . and on and on.
Here’s the truth: You listen to that voice & you really will be in a heap of trouble. You’ll deflate faster than a stuck balloon, you’ll stop writing (or doing anything toward whatever your dream is), you’ll slink off defeated. And the book you were writing (or whatever you’re pursuing), the one that might’ve been wildly successful, might’ve won awards, might’ve been a critical darling, will sit in a drawer gathering dust.
Don’t do that to yourself.
Yes, I’ve heard that voice, too. More often than I care to admit. It usually shows up on the days when the writing’s tough & not flowing & I’m sitting in front of my computer watching a blinking cursor. What I’ve learned is that if you nip it in the bud early on (say, the first time it roars up) then it won’t run rampant, won’t feed off itself until that’s about the only thing you hear in your head.
Tell it to shut-up. Yes, you might feel like an idiot saying it out loud, but then again there’s power in words. Tell it that it’s wrong & to shut-up. Don’t argue with yourself. Just tell it to knock it off, mean it, & move on.
ANOTHER THING THAT HELPS:
- Make a list of 10 good things about your writing (or whatever it is you’re pursuing). And if you can’t think of 10 good things, make it 5, or even just 1. Something good to combat the bad. For example:
- My writing is grammatically correct.
- I can use the word flagrant correctly in a sentence.
- I love my characters.
- I am pursuing my dream.
- I am happiest when I’m writing.
- Post this list somewhere you can see it so when that voice starts up about your inadequacies, you have a visual reminder that no, you are not all that bad at all.
- Add to your positive list daily.
OR HOW ABOUT THIS:
- Go for a walk.
- Or hum a tune.
- Or light a candle.
- Or take a deep breath.
- Then take another.
- Whatever it takes to calm down.
- You can’t make good decisions with all that noise crashing around in your skull, so just calm down.
- Calm. Down.
- Then start working.
These are things that work for me. How do you combat your own negative voice in your head?
Want something yummy to serve for breakfast? Got 10 minutes & a crock-pot? Here’s a recipe that, so far, has made everyone who’s tried it happy. Serves 8 – 10. Costs less than $10.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups blueberries (if using frozen, make sure they are thawed, rinsed with cold water, then well-drained)
- powdered sugar
- fresh blueberries to garnish (optional)
- In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
- In another bowl, beat egg then stir in milk, melted butter, and vanilla.
- Add flour mixture to egg mixture & stir until blended.
- Add in blueberries & stir.
- Coat crock-pot with non-stick spray.
- Add mixture to crock-pot.
- Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until edges start to brown & a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let cool for about 10-15 minutes then remove the bread from the crock-pot.
- Serve warm with powdered sugar sprinkled over top & fresh blueberries as a garnish.
Please keep in mind that cooking times may vary so the first time you make a recipe, keep an eye on the crock-pot. You may need to adjust the amount of cooking time.
So I guess this is kind of a eulogy for Borders, but I loved going there and being that I’m over 30 & grew up with paper books, I have a soft spot in my heart for any bookstore. But Borders, in particular, because any time I was having a rough time writing, I would leave my kids with my husband and take off for Borders cafe.
I loved the solid wood chairs and the feel of the tables. I loved the warm, inviting atmosphere and the banks of windows letting in the light. I loved being around other writers and book lovers. I loved sipping iced coffee and having time enough to myself to think.
The best memory I have, though, comes from last summer. I’d been working on my latest novel ~ a World War II story from the point of view of the Germans ~ for over two years and had some 500 pages that were mostly disjointed scenes and jotted ideas. I had a vision for it in my head, sure, but that wasn’t coming through on the page. I was beyond frustrated. Exasperated might be a better word.
So I spent nearly every weekend ~ props to my husband for watching the kids ~ sitting in Borders cafe at a little table by the window, wearing the seat down in the shape of my rump. I wrote long-hand on a legal pad, molding and fixing and rewriting and editing. The barista, Vicky, got to know me by name and, since I always ordered the same thing, started making my drink when she saw me in line. I don’t know how much time I logged there, but I filled 8 legal pads by the end of summer.
Most importantly, I fixed my story.
For that, I am grateful that the lovely people at Borders let me stay for hours and hours on end for no more than the cost ~ less than 2 bucks ~ of a cup of coffee.
RIP Borders. You will be missed, at least by me.
That’s my Borders memory. What’s yours?
My husband & I did this exercise once at a motivational seminar:
He stood directly in front of me, telling me: you’re capable, you’re intelligent, you’re driven, you’ll succeed. Two other people from the seminar stood on either side of him saying things like: you’re going to fail, it’s too hard, you’ll never make it, you don’t have what it takes. When I looked my husband in the eyes and listened to him, I believed. My faith in myself ticked up a notch. But when I took my eyes off of him (so as not to be rude, ha!) and looked at the other people, listened to their negative voices, I could just about feel my heart drop. My energy level & enthusiasm took a dive, too.
So what’s the point?
Be careful who you listen to, who you let rent space in your head. It’s hard enough to write (or follow any dream for that matter) with people around you demanding your time & attention. It’s nearly impossible if you don’t believe in yourself, don’t believe that someday you’ll make it, don’t believe you have the strength & determination to finish what you started.
Take a lesson from me: Be rude if you have to.
Unfortunately, there are probably some people around who, for whatever reason, don’t want to see you succeed. Or maybe the negative voices banging around in your head come in the form of a reviewer who didn’t like your work. Or an agent who said no. Or, maybe, an editor who carved up your manuscript. Or, perhaps, an old disgruntled teacher. Whatever the source, the worst thing you can do to yourself is to start listening to them. Take your eyes (and ears) off them & listen instead to the people cheering you on. (Here’s something interesting to note: at that seminar, when I listened to my husband intently, I barely heard those other people’s voices at all ~ they were more like static in the background.)
Change your focus & you can, truly, change your life.
What voices do you listen to? And, more importantly, what are they saying?
Grand Prize Winner, Grant Winner, & Silver Medal Winner