If you’re human (and most of you probably are) there’s a nasty little voice in your head that you should not listen to. You know the one I mean. The one that tells you to give up your dreams and accept that failure is your only option.
If you’re a creative human (and more than a few of my readers are) that little voice works overtime. There’s nothing it loves more than the tasty flavor of artists’ dreams.
A few years ago I realized that ignoring that voice wasn’t working. Only open resistance would beat it into submission enough for me to pursue my dreams. Even now, when the dream has become reality and my first novel is well on its way to publication, the Nasty Voice engages from time to time. The message changes, but the song remains the same.
The following is a public service announcement/open letter to The Nasty Little Voice We Should Not Listen To. I read it to mine on a regular basis. Feel free to read it to yours if the impulse strikes:
Dear Nasty Voice In My Head:
I am the dreamer you haunt when the impulse strikes, the one you refer to as “Talentless Hack With the Hopeless Dream.”
You may think I’ve learned to ignore you, but I hear every rotten word.
When you tell me I’ll never make it. When you say I should just give up. When you suggest that my plot is weak, my characters cardboard, my prose over-adverbed and adjectived out the wazzoo.
When you say my writing’s not worthy of scribbling on toilet stalls.
According to you, the rejections I’ve received are the model for every communication. I’ll never have an agent.* No publisher will fall in love with my words.* I will die alone, surrounded by cats, dirty mugs and the soiled remnants of broken and worn-out dreams.
My novels will never be published. When I die, some unknown person will erase fifty-seven unpublished novels from my computer without even reading the titles. My dreams will die, un-mourned and unremembered.
I am a failure. I should give up now and try to salvage an ordinary life.
You tell me all this, and more, and some days it seems impossible to go on.
But I do. And I will. And I’m no longer taking your insults quietly. In fact, consider this letter a declaration of war.
You are not welcome in my brain. My dreams are no longer your playthings. Instead, your insults will fuel my drive to improve. When an agent rejects me, I’ll look for another, revise, and query again. If this manuscript fails to reach my goals I will write another one, better and stronger in every way.
I will succeed, because I refuse to fail.
My dreams are a mighty game of last-man-standing, and some days the hardest thing to do is stay upright with you trying to push me down. But I have a weapon you lack – my friends – and on the days when I cannot stand they will step in and hold me up. Together we are stronger than you will ever be.
You’re a liar. The only future you know is the one you invented on my behalf – and the only thing you know how to invent is failure. I’m calling your bluff. I reject your projections and substitute my own – in which I succeed, even if it takes a lifetime.
This letter won’t send you packing – you’re far too stubborn for that. But I’m stubborn too, and I was here first. Consider yourself on notice.
The one-sided war is over. I’m fighting back.
*(I left this in for all those still fighting this part of the Voice’s message – the Voice said these things to me for seven years. I’ve proven it wrong. You can too.)