Do You Hear Voices In Your Head?
Bob Sands here for The Writer’s Life this week.
Over the past 25 years, I have found it necessary to practice what I preach!
Let me explain.
During my career, I have given at least one new presentation every week. I have produced copy for radio broadcasts, commercials, sales letters, and advertisements. And I have also written speeches for and coached political candidates, elected officials, CEOs, and entrepreneurs.
Thus, I need to generate new ideas and concepts on a daily basis.
And that’s my focus this week. I want to talk with you about how to free the writer within so you can get better ideas quicker and write faster than you ever thought possible. Before I do that, I have a confession to make: I hear voices in my head. That’s a tough thing to admit.
But before you assume I’m certifiable – wait. I bet you hear voices too.
As writers, we all do. The voice I hear is that of my elementary school teacher. Let’s call her Ms. Smith. I vividly recall her telling my mother, “Bobby will never be able to write.” Her commentary wasn’t just a criticism of my penmanship; it was a slam on my lack of writing ability. She used to mumble about my dangling participles, split infinitives (after years of college I still can’t tell you what these are!), and misplaced modifiers.
Here’s the problem. Often, when I sit down to write, I hear her voice in my head telling me that I will never be able to write and suddenly I can’t. A sort of temporary paralysis sets in, quickly followed by panic, which only serves to make the situation even more unbearable.
Am I alone in this? I don’t think so. The voices from our past will often try to influence our present. They are the inner critic. For you, maybe it was parent or teacher. For others, it might be an ex-lover or former boss. It makes no difference. They all say the same things. “You’re not a writer.” “You won’t succeed in your own career.” “You can’t do it!” “You aren’t good enough!” What do you do when those voices get loud?
First, kick your critic to the curb! You can go as far as writing that critic a letter ending with the word “goodbye” if that’s what it takes (I know some who have done it and swear by it!).
The point is to find a way to evict that inner antagonist so that it no longer lives rent-free inside your head. It’s time to put the past behind you. Dr. Tony Campolo put it this way, “Your past is important, but it is not nearly as important to your present as is the way you see your future.”
Second, write through it so you can get past it. I have noticed that these negative voices seem loudest when I’m moving slowest. So my answer is: write faster! That’s where tools like timed free writing in short bursts really make a difference. You become so focused on the output that you don’t have time to listen to negative input. If you want to know more about the benefits of free writing and how to do it, see my article “How to Become an Idea-Generating Machine – Part 1: Free Writing.”
Third, take a walk. Physical activity will do wonders to give you a mental break. Motion shifts momentum and physical changes impact our psychology.
Last year, I finally decided it was time to begin getting healthy. I’ve shed over 41 pounds and work out a minimum of five days a week. Hitting the gym gives me a needed mental break. When I come back to the keyboard, I often have a new perspective and am able to write without the inner critic barging in.
So when the voices get overwhelming, take a walk. When you come back to write, you’ll notice it’s just you and the keyboard.
Yes, we all hear voices of negativity and failure. But it’s important to realize that we don’t have to listen to them. So the next time that inner critic begins the chatter, kick it out, write through it, and take a walk. You will not only be a better writer but also a more peaceful person.
If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you have no doubt dealt with the “inner critic.” Tell me what you did to silence it so you could get writing again. I’d love to get your feedback in the comments section below. Your thoughts could also help another fellow writer!
Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s issue for more tips on unleashing your inner writer. I’ll be sharing with you why bad writing is the best writing.
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