Sunday, October 13, 2013

3 Tips for Stifling Negative Voices

I hear voices. All the time. In my dreams, when I'm reading, when I'm watching tv, when I'm driving down the road...

Before you begin to doubt my sanity, let me qualify that by saying...I'm a writer, and it's okay! All writers hear voices. Heroes, heroines, villains, even plot events and settings have voices.

Fictional voices are great for a writer to hear. It's when those voices stop that we get worried.

But there are other voices, too. Ones that are not fictional but psychological, and if these psychological voices start talking at the same time, it gets pretty noisy and chaotic.  For me, there are three main voices that can crash around in my head and bring my productivity and contentment to a gear-grinding halt.

The first is the Voice of Writer's Doubt. This, I believe, is the source of most of my procrastination and writer's block. I begin to doubt my ability, my story, my decision to even try to write choice of hair color, and the color of my socks, and so on. When I'm in the throes of a bout of doubt, my creative process dries up, and I feel as if I can't trust the merit of any thought, much less produce anything worth reading.

The second is the Voice of Writer Talk. Sometimes when the Voice of Writer's Doubt is shouting in my ears, I seek refuge in instructional materials to get me out of that funk. Writing books, writing articles, how to write fiction blog posts, webinars full of tips and ideas, etc. If I can't write fiction, at least I can feel busy and productive by reading about the craft, right? I try to immerse myself in 'writer talk' to stifle the Writer's Doubt, but often what I wind up with is a squish-squash of noise. I find myself picking up ideas and laying them aside, unsure of how to apply what I've learned to the story at hand. I overload my brain with techniques and prompts and how everyone else is doing things, and I am paralyzed.

The third is the Voice of The Writing Industry's Imminent Demise. This is the voice that can scare me rigid. I heard it said a few months ago that traditional publishing is in love with its own death since every couple of weeks there is another naysayer, gloom-spreader, croaking-Cassandra who says books are dead, nobody is reading anymore, only A-list authors will ever get published by traditional houses, and the market is shrinking into oblivion. Bookstores are closing their doors, publishers are afraid to take risks, and if you aren't writing Amish, bondage smut, or epic fantasy, you might as well give it all up. Not exactly the stuff of which dreams are made.

When all three of these voices get to yakking in my head, it's hard to hear anything else, especially the voices of my story.

So what's a girl to do? Here are a few things I do to quiet these voices so I can hear my characters:

1. Be still. Listening to the noise and negative voices means I can't hear the answers and solutions when they come. Spend a little time remembering why I fell in love with my story in the first place. Relive some of those emotions that came when the story idea first emerged. Give myself permission to not write for a few days if necessary and just let the story marinate. Stop the frantic chasing and let the story come naturally.

2. Step away from the Internet and its wealth of information. Don't read the writing blogs and articles, and don't watch the YouTube videos on writing. Everyone has their own process of creating fiction, and by trying to follow too many other voices and processes, I can lose my own. Instead of seeking to fill myself up with more noise, I work on something else, like crocheting, cross-stitching, watching a movie, things that jump-start my creativity (as discussed last Monday in THIS post.)

And most importantly:

3. Put things back into perspective and priority. When the voices grow the loudest and I find myself at the most chaotic point of writing despair, that is when I frequently realize that I've made an idol of writing and I'm serving that idol rather than worshiping God and serving Him with my writing. I've blown things out of proportion and put my desire to write above my desire to serve God. As much as I love it, fiction-writing isn't what I was placed on this earth to do. My primary purpose on earth is to glorify God. If writing fiction gets between me and that process, then things are out of step with my purpose for being and an adjustment is necessary. It isn't until I get to this point that I can truly quiet the voices that I shouldn't be listening to and focus on what I should.

Do you ever listen to these negative voices? What do you need to do to dispel them?


  1. I think the best idea to stifle the inner critics is the exercise you told me about from a workshop you took. Draw a quick picture of your inner critic and stuff him/her in an envelope. Then get your sass up. (-;

  2. Great comments Erica!

  3. Loved this post so much, Erica! I had some negative voices in my ear over this weekend and I find that when that happens I can't seem to run fast enough to the Word and drown myself in truth. The Lord always leads me to verses that are like salve to my sore heart. Then I take a day or so off of writing to simply glorify God (which is what we are meant to do love that line in your post). That always helps. :)