Sunday, January 29, 2012

Silencing Your Critical Voices

Working my way through revisions, I start to hear critical voices--voices that aren’t kind, voices that aren’t helpful.

Each time I wade into the water to resume a draft, I have to swim past inner doubts about the worth of the story, as well as my own uncertainty about my worth as a writer.

Sometimes I can find the passion that prompted me to start working on the story days or weeks or months earlier, and that passion can help buoy me against the voices for a while.

But then the voices of doubt and uncertainty become louder, and it's hard to ignore them:
You’ll never finish. You’re working on a worthless story. It’ll never amount to anything. You’ll never amount to anything. You’ve wasted your life, your gift, your days here on earth.
These are the voices that we’ve all heard. And we know that if we give in to them, these voices can sabotage our best efforts, undermine years of work, reduce to ashes all the time that we've spent swimming through draft after draft, fine-tuning our strokes, learning to breathe more efficiently, kicking hard to reach the other side of the pool.

These voices, like phantoms, lure us onto the rocks, tempting us out of the water. As we do our work, we need to learn how to resist them.

Sometimes we can offer resistance by making an effort to ignore them.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that the voices are false assessments of our work or our talent.

And sometimes we simply have to swim through them the way we’d swim through a storm or rough waves. We need to put our heads down and kick harder and move our arms steadily and keep breathing.

If we listen closely enough to our breath, we can hear our hearts beating and remember the story and the passion that drew us to the story, and that is sometimes enough to carry us through the voices to where the water is calm and still and where the voices are silent again.

Friends and family can cheer us on from the edge of the water, boost our spirits, keep us from flagging in our work. But we’re the ones who have to find the energy and the desire to keep swimming past these voices.

Each of us has our own critical voices to confront or elude. No one told us when we first set out from shore that dealing with these voices would be part of the writing process.

But it's part of the writer's job, and we have to learn how to deal with these voices if we want to stay in the water and keep swimming.

What's the best way that you've found to deal with critical voices? Write and let others know when you get a chance.

For more on managing critical voices and doubt, visit:

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