A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Change the Voices in Your Head

I'm the first one to admit that I hear voices in my head. I admitted it in my very first blog post and I admitted it on my website. Those are the the fun voices--the voices that tell me stories; feed me plot and dialogue, and demand that I write them down. I love listening to these voices, (its so much more fun than say, laundry or dishes).

But there are also not so fun voices. These are the ones that comes directly from the deepest, darkest part of myself; the dungeon of self-doubt, the prison of pessimism, and the guillotine of guilt. These are the voices that surface when I can't seem to hear the other ones, when my story is stagnating, or even when my story is going well, but my house isn't clean, or my kids are feeling neglected, or I had a big slice of ice cream cake for lunch instead of going to the gym. (That was yesterday, honestly, I went to the gym this morning.)

From the DUNGEON OF SELF-DOUBT: You're writing is no good. Why would you spend so much time working on a novel no one is ever going to read? You'll never get this finished. You'll never work through your plotting issues. You just can't make this work. You should start take up knitting.

From the PRISON OF PESSIMISM; So you sold one novel? Big deal. It was a fluke. You'll never sell the another one in this economy. And what about the first one? It hasn't even been published yet. No one's going to buy it. It will be one of those books you see at the dollar store or in the bargain bin at Wal-mart, you'll lose your publisher a ton of money, and no one will ever want to work with you again. You'll be laughed at. The world is going to end soon anyway.

(Okay that last one wasn't really me, I mean, the voices in my head RARELY prophesy the end of the world, and even if they did, I wouldn't go spreading it around, honest I wouldn't.)

And last, but definitely not least (probably most actually) the GUILLOTINE OF GUILT: Why are you writing when your house needs to be cleaned? Why are you neglecting your children/husband/dog/sister/mother? Why don't you get a real job and do something to help out your poor husband who works so hard?

These are just a few of the horrible things I tell myself--things that I would never say to another person, no matter how much I disliked them. (And really I don't dislike very many people.)

Then one day I was riding in the car with my 13-year-old daughter and Pink's song Perfect (the radio version), came on. There's a line in the song that says:

Change the voices in your head,
Make them like you instead.

That line really struck me, so I asked my daughter if she knew what that meant. She said, "You mean like the voices that beat you up every time you do something stupid? Yeah, I do that all the time."

Hearing her say that made me feel terrible, to know at thirteen she beats herself up like I do. Since I'm supposed to be her example, I decided I needed to change the voices in my head, (and make them like me instead).

It's not an easy thing to do, I mean, pessimism, self-doubt, and guilt have been my companions since I was at least thirteen (probably before). They have served me as motivators;"look how tight your jeans are, how could you let yourself get this disgusting?"excuses, "I can't write today, I have to do laundry," and even as a way to keep myself from get over-confident; "so you have a book being published, don't think that will ever happen again." Ultimately though, none of these voices are doing me any good.

I get really mad at my kids for putting each other down. I like to say, "There will be enough people in the world who will put you down, in our house we build each other up." I forget that the same thing applies to me. Maybe I should say that to myself, something like, "There will be enough people who will criticize and put you down, in your head, you should build yourself up." Yes, I know that sounds conceited, but as a mom, I've learned that praise is a much higher motivator than criticism or guilt.

How can I expect my kids to feel good about themselves if their mother doesn't feel good about herself? How can I expect them to follow their dreams if I'm too afraid to follow mine? I don't think it's a coincidence that Pink wrote the song Perfect for her unborn child. Here's another thought, how do I write stories that offer hope and encouragement to struggling teens if all the voices in my head are negative ones?

How do you change the voices in your head? I've been working at it and for me it comes down to a conscience effort. Every time I start on my downward spiral of self abuse, I think of that one line in Perfect and it really helps. It also helps me to think about what I would say to my daughter or son or husband or a friend who made a mistake.

Its okay to be your own cheerleader sometimes. Its okay to acknowledge your own accomplishments, its okay to forgive yourself when you make a mistake. It's okay to follow your dreams and feel good about it.

I'm a person with a firm belief that we are all children of a Heavenly Father, that we were created to do something wonderful and unique that no one else can do, and that we were put on this earth to learn and grow, (even if that means making tons of mistakes). When I think about it that way, it makes it harder to compare myself to others and to beat myself when I do something wrong.

Life is for exploring and learning and moving forward, so be your own best motivator, be nice to yourself, change the voices in your head. And if that doesn't work, watch this video.

Daily Affirmations, (remember, your good enough, your smart enough, and doggonit, people like you!)

How do you combat the negative voices in your head? How do you keep moving forward when you make a mistake?


  1. This totally hit home for me, Jen. I've been battling all three of these lately (oh the guilt!) and it's been getting me down. I think what keeps me going is just what you said, I KNOW I have something to contribute. That and I'd really like to prove those voices in my head wrong by persevering and making something great.

  2. This is a perfect post for me today. Not saying I'll be the first one over this hurdle though- but I'll work on it.