When Bad Voice Returns….
Bad Voice is a familiar figure in many people’s lives. Not just a haunter of writers and artists, Bad Voice is that broody black hole of a spectre, sucking light and joy, sapping creativity and hope. Bad Voice likes to stand a couple feet behind you, peering over your shoulder, telling you you’re doing it wrong.
What Bad Voice Might Say: You’re a bad parent. You’re the stupidest person in the office. You’re selfish. You’re small-minded. You’re a failure and almost anyone else can do it better. Why did you think you could do this? You’re too negative (Now isn’t that a weird little conundrum!!!). You’re a loser.
Bad Voice is such a sabotaguer of writing! Ohhhhh, Bad Voice! Get thee behind me! Oh…, yes, you are, aren’t you?
I used to think that after I’d reached “a certain level of writing” (this is very subjective, and, ultimately pointless), i.e. say, more than three books, or, say, several grants, or an award, etc.; external “markers” of “success”, that Bad Voice would not come to me anymore. Those other writers, more professional than me, I’d think… how liberated and free they must feel. So confident and secure in their ability and their material. Ohhh, to one day be like them!
I still catch myself thinking this. How those writers, the ones who have made it, how much easier it must be for them…. That’s Bad Voice too! I was at a writer’s festival and met a writer I’d long-admired, and congratulated her on her most recent book. And I heard the oh-so-familiar Bad Voice coming from her lips…. Oh, I thought. Oh. She still feels those same things. And she had been one of the writers I had thought who had made it. The idea of some day reaching the state that is definitively made might be a mirage. That’s not to say one ought not to have goals. Goals are useful things, and I find them enormously useful.
I’m trying to be more present in the experience and enjoyment of the moment. And to not groove my own self into greater negativity (as much as possible) because this IS IT! This here and now, it can’t get any more NOW than this!
Don’t Panic! (Very pragmatic advice from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe.) Take a deep breath. Slowly exhale. Slow down the breathing.
My daughter sometimes tells me I think too much. Clearly, this is an occupational hazard. But from the mouth of babes, it’s not a bad reminder to get ourselves out of our heads and back to experiencing the body.
When Bad Voice sets in (and, believe me, no matter how much confidence I can affect professionally during readings and Q & As, Bad Voice always comes back– sometimes for a short visit, sometimes for longer) I find it impossible to write. And then this negativity can snowball, making it even more and more difficult to write.
When this begins, it’s best to get out of your head. The earlier you can step sideways out of this groove, the better. Although you might feel that you must sit in front of the computer, to meet that deadline, or finish that story, etc. if Bad Voice is blocking you, you can find that creative space better by doing something physical.
I like swimming. I love water, floating, the meditative quality of laps, the sauna, the whirlpool, all of it. Sometimes swimming laps will open up my mind and I’ll make creative connections I hadn’t even tried to make. These are like surprise presents from my body to my mind! Nature hikes are great, too. The brisk air, the trees and birds. Awesome. Bad Voice fades away when I get into these places with my active body. I think we need to be active somehow for there to be balance. Writers often have such sedantary lives– I could spend over 10 hours at my desk, my right eyelid twitching, like Bill the Cat…. Sometimes it’s a huge struggle to get out, break the thinking pattern, and move away from the computer! But I always feel enormously better when I do.
Whatever works for you… something that’s physical and slightly meditative…. It can work wonders! I have friends who are deep into yoga. Others cycle. Some are runners. If there’s been something you’ve been considering, like archery, or ki aikido, go for it! Dance class, speed walking, tai chi. Check it out. It will truly help with creating calm and dealing with Bad Voice.
(Now, Bad Voice could be part of a greater and long-term depression. If that’s the case, the right counsellor can do wonders. Low-budget government subsidized counselling has a long waiting list. Get your name down on the list.)
Don’t despair…. Everyone experiences Bad Voice. You’re not alone. (>_<)
Sometimes it’s good to have a long cry, a hot bath, and a fourteen-hour sleep. Then open the door and head outside.
Note: Bad Voice is not currently haunting me, so dear friends, not to worry. ~__~. I’ve just been wanting to blog about this for a while! Taraaaaa!