Down with Negative Voice

It seems that every time I sit down to write or edit, this voice in my head says, “What you’re working on isn’t good enough.”

This week was no different.  I took Friday off from work, in part to relax and in part to work on my book.  I did both.  However, when I sat down and got ready to focus on my novel, that voice perked up.  It said, “None of this is any good.  Sure, you edited that last section and it’s coming along.  Maybe you feel good about the two pages you wrote this morning that you needed to add in.  But I’m pretty sure this next section is going to be a complete disaster.”

I reflected on the fact that, no matter how well or how badly the work is going, that voice always seems to have a similar comment.  Just because you’ve done something you feel is good work before is no reason to believe you can do it again.

Actually, it is.  And I’m starting to talk back now and remind this negative, nagging speaker that I’ve done a lot of good work so far.  Maybe even some great work.  That every day, as I write or edit, this book will continue to become a little bit better.  It doesn’t have to be perfect right now; it just has to be in process.

Maybe you recognize this voice.  It seems to me that every person I know who is striving for something and who is close enough to share their passions and progress with me, they all seem to hear this similar voice.  And as I doubt that my close friends are part of a special group of the only ones with voices in their heads, I’m willing to bet others have heard it, too.

I don’t know how you fight this voice, but I know that you should.  Nothing positive comes from listening to it, as it only holds one opinion and isn’t seeking to change its own mind.  It doesn’t even really make me want to be better, it just makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and walk away.

Now, I’m not saying that my writing is perfect.  Much of it needs improvement, and I’m sure some of it that has already been improved will need further improvement still.  But the point is that every day I come back to the table and keep working on it, it gets a little bit closer.  If you’re fighting for something, I bet it will work that way too.  Inch by painstaking inch, we can get to where we want to be.

Sometimes the voice likes to throw publication in my face.  After all, I’m only in charge of creating the best work I can.  I can’t fully control whether anyone will want to publish it, or whether anyone will want to read it.  Maybe it really never will be good enough for that.  It’s a big if in my life right now – although I truly appreciate the friends who have the faith in me to say when, whether they’ve read a word of my work of not.

But the truth is that even that doesn’t matter right now.  All that matters right now is working.  Refining.  Striving.  Sculpting with my words, and then changing, changing, changing until it feels right to me in that moment.  Even if I change it again later.  And with every step, every change, knowing that I’m moving closer to the place where the whole thing is good enough – for me, at least.

That voice is always going to say, “This isn’t good enough.”  You know what?  Either it is, or it isn’t and I will fix it.

Do you ever hear a negative voice that tries to hold you back?

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