An Open Letter to The Voices We Should Not Listen To

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 When I die, some unknown person will erase fifty-seven unpublished novels from my computer without even reading the titles.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.)

23 thoughts on “An Open Letter to The Voices We Should Not Listen To

  • May 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Yes. This. I’m typing this with tears in my eyes. Thank you, my dear friend. I am so glad to know you. {{{{hugs}}}}

    • May 11, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      I’m equally glad to have you as a friend! I’m glad this spoke to you today. It was on my heart, for sure.

  • May 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    You are so amazing! You never fail to lift us up, Susan. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • May 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      Janet, you guys lift me up too. I’m grateful every day for you and for the other friends who give me so much strength and support.

  • May 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Perfectly timed. Thanks to LJ (above) for leading me here. I really needed this, and the reminder about how important my friends are to defeating the voice. I’ve been down on the carpet for a few weeks, and several friends have stepped in to hold me up. Just as the voice rang in my ears this very day, one of my best writing buddies stepped in, as if she heard the warning bell, sending me the most uplifting note.

    I just may win this war after all. Thanks!

    • May 11, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks Vaughn, and I’m so glad Lisa sent you! Hang in there, and don’t ever give up. It may take years, but whenever you get discouraged, just remember…it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll get there if you just keep moving!

  • May 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    This was wonderful! As always, Susan, thank you for expressing what we all think and feel so beautifully.

    • May 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks, Donna. I fight this battle every day….I think we all do. When we decided to write, who knew we were signing up for a battle, eh? Still, fight or no fight, it’s worth it to live the dream.

  • May 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Ah. We’ve not met, but we obviously have an enemy in common. I’ll stand with you, because back-to-back is a much better way to fight off the marauders. And if we stand in a circle, all of us, backs protected and in a fighting stance, perhaps the hordes (and I’m sorry, but my discouragers are legion) will flee from our swords. One by one, ten by ten, a hundred by a hundred.

  • May 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Hear, hear! Glad to have you in the circle. The more of us that stand together, the better. The discouragers are numerous, for sure, but fortunately we do have the strength to outlast them!!

  • May 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Begone! to the voices and also to those who discourage and walk on two legs. Beautifully written post chock full of wisdom and grit. Thanks a bunch.

    • May 11, 2012 at 11:32 pm

      True on both counts Diane! Those who discourage on two legs are just as dangerous – and also not to be listened to. Some do it from jealousy, others from ignorance, but in either case you have to stick with the encouragers and let anything discouraging serve as more fuel to keep you going!

  • May 11, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Thank you for that. All of us creatives need to hear that and often. All I’ve ever heard from writers that were published was that they never stopped. They never quit, no matter what. Thank you for giving me words to fight the fight.

    • May 11, 2012 at 11:31 pm

      I’m glad it spoke to you, Suzanne. It’s the truth, too – the thing that makes the biggest difference is just having the fortitude to keep going. Even when you think it’s hopeless – it’s not. It’s just a matter of being determined enough to stay the course.

  • May 12, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Thank you for reminding me that while my work is a solitary venture, I am not alone, and the voice of defeat is nothing more than my “villain creating talent” working overtime and out of bounds. Demon, get behind me where thee belongs, for I choose to move forward without thy hindering ways. 😀

    • May 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      Amen to that! It’s hard not to listen, especially since writing is such a solitary work so much of the time, but we don’t have to listen passively or accept defeat. That voice can only envision failure, but that doesn’t mean it has to happen that way. Fortunately, it’s the conscious, strong parts of us that gets to choose.

  • May 13, 2012 at 5:43 am

    gosh, did i need to read that today! after a particularly dissapointing rejection, i was just toying with the fact that i am a talentless lug and need to stop writing and get back to cleaning toilets and teaching my dogs to pray. (saw that on the internet.) but now i am a little revived after your post, and my dogs can go back to being uncivilized. thank you!!

    • May 13, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Glad to help! The rejections never lose their sting, but isn’t it amazing how some can still sting harder than others? I’m sorry to hear you had a rough one. Hang in there. It won’t always be that way, even though some days it feels like the plunger is a better friend than the keyboard. Don’t give up!!

  • May 13, 2012 at 5:56 am

    Thank you Vaughn for posting this on WU FB page!

    And I can tell you, even when you are more-than-once published, the voices can still come to haunt you and beat you upside your head! – it’s difficult to know, sometimes, what voices are the “this is good, I need to hear this reality” and “go away, you aren’t stopping me from my dreams!”

    beautiful post . . .

    • May 13, 2012 at 10:56 am

      Thanks so much Kat, especially for mentioning that the voices stay persistent. This is definitely an ongoing battle, and I think no matter how successful a person becomes, those little nasty voices never quite go away. The good news is, knowing that everyone hears them helps us all fight them more successfully, so I’m SO glad you posted to share!!

  • May 14, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Oh, wow. I’ve been battling my voice for the past week. It was great to read your declaration of war.

    • May 14, 2012 at 10:15 am

      Hang in there and keep fighting Erin! Thanks for sharing, also – it helps us all to know we’re all fighting the same fight.

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