Battling the Inner Voices

I have a few things that I try to do when I'm overcome by my inner voices. None of these are original, but they seem to help when the voices of doubt and fear take up residence in my brain.

Storming the Bastille
Change the subject: When I have a giant "hamster wheel" spinning in my head, I try to break my train of thought by concentrating on another subject. This can be difficult if my inner voices have really taken over -- but not impossible. Imagine you're sitting at a desk and the task you're trying to complete isn't going well. There are missing details and you know you're spending too much time trying to finish the assignment. It's time to "close" the folder you're working on and pick up another one. You can go back to the first folder later, but being able to finish something else might put you in the proper mindset to get something done.

Distract yourself: When I'm having a hard time with my writing, I find it helps to get up and do something else. I leave the room where I've been writing and go into another room. Tasks that involve using another part of your brain like vacuuming (does that even involve the brain?) or clearing out a drawer are good ones. I like to knit and crochet which involve following a pattern and counting.

Sleep: I'm not suggesting that every time you have a chorus of little voices shouting at you that you should put your head down and take a nap, but I know that if I'm physically tired, I really can't push through my fears and doubts effectively. Getting enough sleep is a biggie for writers. If the voices follow you into your bedroom, try listening to a relaxing mix of music or sounds.

Move: Change of scenery and physical exertion can also change your inner landscape. Go for a walk, ride a bike, get on your treadmill. Tire yourself out.

Vocalize your fears: Talking with a good friend or colleague allows you to speak your fears. Saying something outloud is very different from thinking about it. It's not embedded in your head anymore - it has exited through your mouth. Being able to describe it makes it easier to defeat.

More than anything else, I try to be kind to myself when I'm battling my inner voices. They probably originate  in the realm of my "ancient" brain - a place where protection and self-defense reign supreme. Knowing what they're made of  makes it easier to see them as distress signals and not hard, cold facts.


This is a great list, Robin! My editor strongly recommended walking when I was in a downward spiral one day (I think her exact words were, "Close the manuscript NOW and leave the house.")

I reserve cleaning (and vacuuming) for the really bad days....

Thanks, Katherine. Yes, vacuuming is truly an activity of last resort!!

All of these are great ideas, Robin! Sleeping--and dreaming--are magical helpers to me, as is moving around.

I agree, Beth! Sleeping is my favorite drug. Actually, it's my only drug - but still my favorite!

Great tips, Robin! I especially like "vocalize your fears." I think that's so important and crucial for pushing past inner voices.

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