Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Jail the Negative Voice



By Debby Giusti

We’re living in unusual times to say the least, and there are many distractions that can disrupt our writing time, steal our creativity and hold us back from following our dreams. If your productivity is down and you’re struggling to write, the pandemic could be to blame, but something else might play a role as well.

Do you know about the Negative Voice?

This mixed-up time is the perfect environment for the Negative Voice to surface. 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.

Spewing verbal abuse, 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.



Although rejection and sorry-it’s-not-working-for-me are part and parcel of this business, the last thing a writer needs is extra criticism, especially in the time of Corona. The stress of living through a pandemic is hard enough. 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 three 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 sold my first book… before I wrote my first book…before I even knew I could write a first book, I was 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, was performed to musical accompaniment at the White House and has been republished in a number of military publications, including 1001 Things To Love About Military Life, a Hachette Book Group release.)

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 succeed 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 writing creativity in a productive way during all that time.  

Things changed when we moved to Georgia.  Perhaps it was 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 and his incessant buts. “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.” 

As luck (think God!) would have it, I stumbled upon THE ARTIST’S WAY, by Julia Cameron.  Working through the book helped me identify the Negative Voice and override his destructive influence.  Two effective strategies for me were Morning Pages and Affirmations. 

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 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 his maliciousness can be transformed into an affirmation.  When we recognize his tomfoolery for what it is, we can capture the slimy varmint and send him to jail.  Will he escape?  Eventually, but 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…even during a pandemic?



Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a copy of my Publishers Weekly Bestseller, DANGEROUS AMISH INHERITANCE, digital or print, and a digital copy of Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY.

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessing,

Debby Giusti

Dangerous Amish Inheritance
By Debby Giusti
“Move off the mountain. No one wants you here.”

Can this Amish widow survive her dangerous stalker?

Someone wants Ruthie Eicher off Amish Mountain…enough to terrorize the widow and her boys. Now Ruthie must rely on her former sweetheart, Noah Schlabach—the secret father of her eldest son—as they figure out why. But Noah has turned his back on love and the Amish way of life. Can he shield Ruthie…without breaking her heart again?

Order HERE!

“Jail the Negative Voice” was first published in Seekerville on Oct 19, 2011.

51 comments:

  1. Hi Debby:

    I don't have a negative voice, per se, besides she is actually a woman…a siren to be exact. She has a beautiful voice and she well knows better than to tell me I can't do something. She knows it would only make me double down and work harder to prove her wrong.

    She's very clever. She even talks at times in positive affirmations she gets out of my Daily Word! She knows I'm into Unity and often thinks in terms of the same affirmations I would use.

    Oh, yes, she'll say something like this:

    "You're a great writer. You’re very creative and talented. I think you deserve a reward. You should spend more time living life, stopping to smell the flowers, and doing more research. You know you love learning and learning has served you very well all these years.

    "Let's go for a walk. We could pretend we're back on the beach in Santa Barbara. Remember how happy we were back then? Come on. What would it hurt? I'll even be your muse when we get back. You know we make a great team."


    I call her the cruel mistress. She's read every psychology book I've read and she's very good at staying one step ahead of me. If only she would put up some resistance, I could at least push her away. But she's too smart. And she knows I love her so.

    Vince

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh man, this could be a story basis right here..... I'm just saying.

      Delete
  2. Debby,

    My negative voice has several effective tactics to break my focus and steer me away from doing the work, but his mantra is and has always been "You've got time." It's unfortunately getting worse now that there aren't as many appointments on the calendar and days when there's no choice but to sprint from one task to the next. The delayed gratification of writing gets delayed even further, because tomorrow is going to look a lot like today, so I'll just do it then.

    In six days, it will be a year since I quit my job to write full time. It's so clear, and I remember the urgency so well, when I was chained to a desk with a to-do list a mile long, aching for the freedom to be creative all day. In reality, there is just as much urgency now as there was then, and it would even stand to reason there is more. I mean, I am a year older, right? But that urgency isn't as tangible, and the negative voice preys upon the peace I've found.

    You've certainly given me something to chew on today--I'm especially intrigued by "morning pages." I also don't have a solid answer to the question you asked about how to turn negatives into positives, so I think I will add that to the agenda today, at the top of the list, because this voice does indeed need to be dealt with--urgently. Thank you so much, Debby.

    Rachel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rachel, folks say they're more productive when they have a full-time (outside the house) job for whatever reason. Maybe because they know they don't have extra time. I am much more focused when I have a deadline. Give me lots of free time and I'll find a million other things to do. Then my Negative Voice berates me for not being productive.

      Delete
    2. Debby, exactly. I must say, it's 11:00 where I am, and I have actually been super productive today, because I read your post first thing this morning. Thank you for it!

      Delete
    3. I'm so glad, Rachel! I'm hoping to have a productive afternoon!

      Delete
  3. Debby, that negative voice and self-doubt trip up so many authors/writers and just people in general. Doubting ourselves and our abilities gives too much authority to negativity.... Great post, and I hope folks see themselves in it. Letting the negative voice (or the temptress in Vince's example) take our time and our power is like giving up the battle line. Let's not do that, folks.

    We don't have to surge, but if you re-take lost ground foot by foot, you end up with more ground. You don't have to be a hare... if you're a daily-writing turtle, you can come out A-Okay.

    Signed,

    Daily Writing Turtle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I love this, and I think it's going up on my inspiration wall beside my bed. I want to be a daily writing turtle! :-D

      Delete
    2. You're proof that writing daily pays off, Ruthy! I admire your strategy and wish it worked for me. I use the "just in time" model, but it sometimes drives me crazy.

      Delete
    3. Ruthy, I like the idea of "foot by foot." And the turtle concept is one we can apply not only to writing, but to other aspects of life.

      Delete
  4. My favorite line: "Perhaps it was the grits ..." Yes. Yes, perhaps it was. Grit, in the chicken world, helps to crush up larger items a bird eats to make them easier to swallow. Chickens have no teeth, see? Grit, therefore,is necessary for proper digestion, where the body takes in, makes decisions about what to keep and what must go, and then processes or eliminates accordingly. Same is true for that negative voice. If we don't have the proper grit, we'll never eat right.
    My personal favorite grit tastes of chocolate and tea and requires a nap from time to time tucked snug and warm under the covers of Philippians 4:8.
    Thanks for writing this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing the info about grit and chickens. It applies, doesn't it! Phil 4:8 does as well! So glad you could be with us today in Seekerville!

      Delete
    2. Kristy, a brilliant analogy. You can never go wrong with chickens.

      Delete
  5. Ooh, that nasty negative voice is definitely one I hear loud and often. I still don't have great strategies for jailing mine up, but when someone tells me that what I have written spoke to them or encouraged them, I hold on to that and let it inspire me to get back to work. This has been (and continues to be) a very stressful season on all of us and in my family right now, so writing is a welcome distraction. I love the idea of Morning Pages and the Daily Writing Turtle! Thanks for these words, Debby. Perfect for me today!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glynis, we all need to hold on to the good stuff. I had an "encouragement file" for years and I think I will dig it out before this is over.
      Good for you for using writing as a distraction. Whatever works, and hope things get better for you.
      Kaybee
      Hanging on to hope in New Hampshire

      Delete
    2. Glynis, I like your mention of this being a "stressful season." It is a season, isn't it! A season of our lives! I'm hoping it passes quickly...and never returns. Stay strong and stay safe!

      Delete
  6. Debby, thank you for this. It seems to me that Seekerville blog posts are even more encouraging than they are in non-COVID times. Is that deliberate, or just the way it all shakes out?
    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,"" as what's his name famously said. It is the best and worst of times for writers. Some of us have more time to write than we ever did, but publishing faces an uncertain future, along with independent bookstores and Christian bookstores. This time is not for the faint of heart.
    If we isolate ourselves the negative voice becomes louder. We need to stay in fellowship.
    Right now I'm trying to think of ways to keep "Westward Hope" out there, waiting for a pub date for "Settler's Hope," and finishing a draft of the third book, "Redemption's Hope." I'm a little stalled on finishing "Redemption" because the last two chapters are the big fight scene/climax/resolution, and it has to be just right. But honestly Seeks I think I'd be stalled on that anyway, pandemic or no pandemic. It has to be just right. And when I sit down to write it, it will be.
    This is such a watershed time and I am grateful for so many things. Dave and I are still working, neither of us has COVID even though we are in our 60s, and I don't have to homeschool a child. It could be a lot worse, at least for us. My heart goes out to those for whom it IS worse.
    I like the Julia Cameron tips and will probably try them some day. "Free-writing" is a time-honored tool to get the words flowing.
    I'm looking at this time as an unprecedented time to write. And write. And write. I'm not cleaning closets, baking bread or doing any more yard work than I usually do in the spring. It will all be there when this is over...the house, the yard, the chance to make bread. Time to write like this will never come again.
    Oh, and Debby, grits WILL give you grit. There have been scientific studies on it. (mine.)
    Kathy Bailey
    Making it work in New Hampshire

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy, I'm glad you're using this time to be productive! Good for you! I have an adult daughter living at home during this shutdown. I may have mentioned that her fridge broke when the governor ordered us to shelter-in-place...so she came home and still needs to buy a new fridge. She's a teacher and has been working here. I love having her around and we've spent lots of time cooking together, which has been fun. In fact, the day always centers around what we're preparing for dinner. Maybe she's gotten me a bit off track with my writing, but I'm enjoying the time together.

      Delete
    2. Good for you Debby. That's something else that is precious and may not come again, this much time with an adult daughter.

      Delete
  7. Ahhh, Debby. I know the negative voice well. This post spoke to my heart. I loved reading a little more about your writing journey. It gives me hope. :) And I appreciate your practical, intentional way of dealing with that negative voice.

    COVID has made it harder, in some ways, to stay productive. But, once I figured out what our new normal was shaping into, I began time-blocking my days so I had time to write.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom here today. It was really helpful for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeanne, that is so wise, if we don't schedule it it will never happen. Even if we have all the time in the world.

      Delete
  8. Jeanne, it seems strange to me that the pandemic has sapped so much of my energy and attention. I'm forever researching new meds and treatments and the latest stats on the outbreak, which requires time. Ordering food for grocery pickup takes me a lot longer than shopping in the store. I'm calling my children each day and FaceTiming on the weekends, and then calling friends who might need a little friendly hello. So the days are filled! The afternoon is usually when I produce more, but I'm getting to my computer later and later. And, of course, the Negative Voice likes to wag his finger at me and tell me I'm flunking Corona Time. My thought is, if we remain healthy, we're doing something right!

    Hugs and love!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I haves battled the negative voice all my life’s I’ve learned some similar strategies to quiet it. Bury that heckler in the dirt with the affirmations of who my God is and just what I’m able to accomplish through him. Also remembering that the negativity is smoke and mirrors used by an unseen enemy to lure me away from the wide, open possibilities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lovely, Dalyn! You wrote: ...smoke and mirrors used by an unseen enemy to lure me away from the wide, open possibilities. That's beautiful and so true. The Lord always provides more than we expect or could ever imagine. That truth will dispel the Negative Voice, for sure!

      Delete
  10. Hi Debby! I attended an online writing conference this past weekend. One of the speakers was Steven James. This is what I wrote down from his presentation: "I need to keep writing stories, submit them, and collect rejection letters." He read from a stack of his rejection letters, which inspired me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rejection letters are a positive, Sally. They prove you're working and submitting. Remember any positive comment from an agent or editor is huge! Hold onto those golden nuggets. Anything beyond a form letter means you've caught their eye and they see promise in your writing. Also remember anytime they mention ways you can improve your story, send a thank you reply and ask if they would like to see your manuscript when you make the changes.

      How was the online conference?

      Delete
    2. Great tips! Thanks! The conference was great. Mary Connealy and Julie Lessman were presenters as well. I couldn't have gone if it had been in person. Kentucky Christian Writers Conference is online as well. I've gotten to take advantage of a lot of things now that online has become an option. It's been fun to see what's out there. I have learned a lot.

      Delete
    3. Thank goodness for technology, especially at this time. So glad you have been able to take part in a number of online opportunities!

      Delete
  11. Ive had the negative voice as long as I can remember. More times than not, it has ruled. It starts with saying my ideas aren't any good & moves in from there.
    Ive been able to ignore it to write some but Id like to become better at quieting it. It helps to know other writers have it, too. Its hard for me to believe its as mean to them but Im sure it can be.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Tonya, my Negative Voice can be very mean! I don't like him, and unfortunately, I sometimes listen to him more than I should. I have to remember that God gave me the desire to write. It's a gift from him so I need to embrace that gift and keep working!

    Jail your Negative Voice, Tonya! You have wonderful stories that need to written and read! I'm sure of it!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Debby, what an amazing post! And perfect timing for me as I'm darting around trying to accomplish three things at once (things that can wait until later after I've written my words). My negative voice is always active. Right now, I'm going to put that thing in jail. Thank you for your wise words!

    BTW, I did morning pages and had artist dates many years ago. My husband would watch our babies (who are all grown now!) while I would spend an afternoon at a bookstore or take some sort of creative class like flower arranging to fill my well. I should do that again--minus the babysitting, of course! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love The Artist's Way. It gave me permission to write. At times, I revisit it and always see something new. I remember those Artist Dates! I had mine on FRI afternoons after a week of productive writing. That time for myself was so special!

      Delete
  14. Great post, Debby. I have a loud Negative Voice that I must work to silence. I have had lots of time being home the last two months, but still haven't made the best use of my time for writing. I am working on it, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I call it Corona Brain. With everything that's happening, some folks--including me--are having trouble focusing, especially on writing. Are you venturing out, Sandy?

      Delete
    2. Debby, I have actually gone back to the bookstore this week for a few hours in the morning. No customers--just shelving and doing inventory. I am wearing a mask there. The store will open a few hours a day the next three days as a trial run. I am not going in with customers just yet, though. Otherwise, I have not been venturing into any stores. Hubby has been doing all the grocery shopping. I will slowly start to get out more. I have some appointments scheduled in June. Just waiting to see what happens.

      Delete
    3. I went to the beauty salon today, which was my first outing. After three months, it was a necessity! :) Only eight people were in the salon, and we all wore gloves and face masks. Everyone's temp was checked when they arrived so lots of precautions.

      Delete
  15. As a reader I found this very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lucy! You don't have to be a writer to have a Negative Voice. I think most people have an inner Negative Voice, unfortunately. The voice becomes more demanding when we're stepping out in faith or trying something new.

      Delete
  16. Thank you for this great post, Debby. I think we all struggle with our negative voices, and he'll wear us down if we let him!

    ReplyDelete
  17. So true, Jan! I try to ignore mine, but at times, he's very insistent.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Debbie, my Negative Voice tells me I’ll never publish my book, but...“shameless plug“....reading and learning from Seekerville kills it...or at least keeps it quiet. I am making progress.

    Like Sally, I’ve found the switch to online conferences to be attainable. Though I couldn’t “attend” all the sessions, the Mt. Zion Ridge Conference last weekend had great information. Thanks, Julie and Mary! Next month I’ll “attend” the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference for the astounding price of $20.20. I appreciate the ways many groups have overcome the challenges and adapt to new affordable venues.

    Not to be deterred by the situation, friends of my DIL are having a virtual baby shower via Zoom, complete with games and gift opening. I admire the creativity of those stopping the Negative Voices which can freeze us from doing the things God intends for us to do to extend His love to others. Thank you, Debbie, for your prayers and voice of calm!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How fun to have a Zoom baby shower. Blessings to your DIL and grandbaby (soon to be born, right?)!!! I know they'll be showered with beautiful gifts!

      I need to check out the virtual conferences! The price is right and no reason to pack a suitcase. Sounds like a win-win! Although I do miss seeing folks in person!

      Jail that Negative Voice, Sherida, whenever he starts to speak. He's a BAD influence!

      Hugs and love!

      Delete
    2. Sherida it was so nice to see a familiar name! I was so glad you were there. And Julie is who DRAGGED me through that, poor lady. But we survived!
      Maybe someone even learned something!!!???

      Delete
    3. Mary, I picked up lots of good advice. It was so fun to hear your voice. I can not imagine you as an introvert....or was Julie just teasing? Thank you for the efforts to provide a valuable workshop for the interesting conference. I’m looking forward to watching all the recorded sessions that I had to miss.

      Delete
  19. Debbie I'd never heard about the prayer you wrote being read to music at the White House. That is fantastic. I have a copy here of The Writer's Prayer and love it!
    As for the negative voice, wow. Of course I've got it. I guess I'm so USED to it I just recognize it for what it is, a waste of time, and move on.
    Doesn't mean it can batter at me. But I accept the battering as part of the writer's life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You ignore the voice! Good for you, Mary! He's a mean guy. A brute! I know your conference workshop was wonderful! You were with Julie, right? Such a great team!

      Delete
    2. Julie majorly pressured me into it! But I said yes and survived! :)

      Delete
  20. This was a really good post, thank you for the good reminder about fighting the negative voice

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Angeline, thank you for being with us on Seekerville. I'm glad you got something from the blogpost. Stay safe!

      Delete
  21. You will end up saving money. The main benefit is that you will be able to make as many labels as you would like. This is a great way to do business. For more details about lables suppliers, check out this site.

    ReplyDelete

If you have trouble leaving a comment, please "clear your internet cache" and try again. You can find this in your browser settings under "clear history."