By Debby Giusti
Happy Birthday, Seekerville!!! Four years of blog fun calls for a month-long celebration and a move to our new Seekervillage. We’re bursting with excitement and so glad all of you are making the move with us.
There’s only one problem. A few folks—I won’t mention names--have been concerned the revelry may get out of hand and asked me to serve as temporary Sheriff of Seekerville. I’m honored to accept the position, at least until a permanent sheriff can be elected. (Some say the newcomer in town, Mary Neely, may be interested in the job. Although rumor has it she’s a Connealy wannabe and a bit weird.)
For the time being, I’ll keep the peace and promise to go after any troublemakers or hooligans or unsavory characters that disrupt our writing time, steal our creativity or hold us back from following our dreams.
The biggest offender on my Most Wanted List is a nasty character I call the Negative Voice. He’s a stealthy guy who hides out in the back of our minds. Silent for long periods of time when we’re going about our daily routines, he’ll make himself known the instant we find time to write.
Verbally abusive, the Negative Voice attempts to convince us we can’t write or can’t write a story that sells or a story readers will like or the next story or a different type of story or...
You get the idea.
The last thing a writer needs is criticism. Rejection and sorry-it’s-not-working-for-me are part and parcel of this business. We shouldn’t heap more disapproval upon our shoulders and certainly not from a self-generated source that knows where we’re most vulnerable.
“Who do you think YOU are?” the Negative Voice asks. “You got a ‘C’ in sophomore English.” “You’re only a housewife.” “You never went to college.” “You can’t spell.” “You’ve got a full-time job and two kids to raise, and you don’t have time for some foolish pie-in-the-sky dream about seeing your name in print.” “You’ve been rejected 35 times. Get a life!” “You’ll always be a midlist author.” “You can’t switch publishers or agents or genres.” “You’ll never sell another story.”
Before I was Sheriff of Seekerville…before I sold my first book… before I wrote my first book…before I even knew I could write a first book, I was very aware of my Negative Voice.
I started writing short, slice of life vignettes when my children were young. We lived in rural Missouri where long, snow-bound winters provided ample opportunity to take pen to paper. I published a few pieces, including “Sisterhood,” a short tribute to Army wives. (Just a side note: Sisterhood still circulates throughout the military community and will be republished in a book coming out next month by Hachette Book Group, entitled, 1001 Things To Love About Military Life.)
After making those first few sales back in Missouri, I thought my publishing life was ready to skyrocket. Then we moved. Kids went to school, schools needed volunteers and I raised my hand.
Granted, I wanted to help, but I also wanted to write. The Negative Voice kept selling me a line of goods about how I needed to do “normal” things, like be a room mom, coordinate the wives’ club luncheons, be program chair for my ladies’ group at church, all important jobs that I enjoyed doing. I was making a contribution, but I wasn’t making room in my life for my own dream.
The few times I attempted to scratch out a story, the Negative Voice quickly critiqued my rough drafts. “Ha, ha, ha,” he laughed. “Who are you kidding? Why start something you can’t finish, and you’ll never finish as a writer. Stick with all the other volunteer jobs you’re currently doing.”
The Negative Voice also told me I was too busy to write. “You’ll have time to write later in life,” he promised. So, with that carrot held over my head, I closed the door on what might have been.
Don’t get me wrong. I had a wonderful life. I traveled the globe with my military husband, ran women’s organizations, worked on quality of life issues within the military community, organized and led church ministries, helped in my kids’ schools and raised my family. But my desire to write—to write fiction—continued to tug at my heart.
To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t have traded those years or what I accomplished for any amount of publishing success, but I wish I had fueled my spark of creativity in a productive way during all that time.
Things changed when we moved to Georgia. Might have been the grits that gave me the courage to finally start on my journey to publication. Yet even then, I struggled to still the Negative Voice. “You won one writing contest, but it was a fluke.” “You submitted to an agent, but she won’t like the story.” “Your first three chapters work, but the middle doesn’t.” “You’re getting close, but you’ll never sell.”
Morning pages – write three pages of free flowing, steam of consciousness every morning, shortly after rising. Don’t critique or rewrite, just jot down the thoughts and baggage and struggles that stand in the way of your creativity. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But Morning Pages work. Give them a try for a few weeks and see if you don’t notice a difference.
Affirmations – Whenever you hear an internal negative, flip it into a positive, and write it ten times. “You can’t write,” the Negative Voice whispers. Counter that inner pessimism by scribbling the positive affirmation: I am a writer! I am a writer! I am a writer! I am a writer! I am a writer! I am a writer! I am a writer! I am a good writer! I am a productive writer! I am a successful writer!
Using Cameron’s ideas, I soon realized that the only one holding me back from my dream was me. I set aside time each day to write. I joined a committed critique group that met weekly. I stopped thinking of writing as something that took me away from my husband and children and regarded it as a necessary part of life that made me a more joyous and vibrant member of the family.
Bottom line, I pushed, I worked hard, I finally sold. You can too.
I didn’t entitle this blog, “Kill the Negative Voice,” because he can’t be silenced. At any time, he’s apt to raise his ugly head, but when we recognize his tomfoolery for what it is, we can capture the slimy varmint and send him to jail. Will he escape? Eventually, yet knowing he has lots of tricks up his sleeve is half the battle. The other half is believing we can succeed.
Can you recognize your own Negative Voice? If so, how do you overcome the way he tries to hold back your creativity? What strategies do you use to turn negatives into positives? What keeps you from realizing your dream? What is your dream, and how are you working to make sure it comes true?
Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for one of two gift boxes, containing the first two books in my Military Investigations Series: THE OFFICER’S SECRET and THE CAPTAIN’S MISSION. Both books and the Officer’s Prayer T-Shirt, size XL, will be mailed along with a canvas tote to two lucky winners. In addition, I’ll send each winner a copy of THE ARTIST’S WAY, by Julia Cameron.
Breakfast is served: scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, assorted pastries, fresh fruit and, of course, grits. Enjoy!
Wishing you abundant blessing,