Part of being a writer is hearing voices in your head. To be more accurate, it’s often a case of hearing dialogue in vague voices. I tend to “cast” my characters with actors I like, because it helps a lot with voice and characterization. And because it’s way fun. So I hear literal and familiar voices, as I plot and write. However it’s done, we all have a lot of extra people in there, jockeying for page time. That’s a good thing and how it should be. Productive and fun.

There’s another kind of voice we hear that’s not so good. That one is certainly not productive or fun. It’s what we call the little voice in our head. Sometimes it can seem good, while it’s actively insisting that we are better than we actually are. Or may be perceived to be. That version’s name is Overconfidence. The line between regular, much needed confidence and overconfidence is so fine and blurred that it’s difficult to recognize. Overconfidence may even lead us to take big risks and achieve great things. It’s more likely to make us risk too much at once. The funny thing about it is that it’s usually not recognizable until after an overreach causes a fall.

Other times the little voice in our head makes us question ourselves. It’s name is Self-Doubt. That one is pure evil in the sense that it replaces joy with fear. I heard on the news that the first thing Ebola does when it infects someone is turn off the immune system so the body can’t fight it. That’s what self-doubt does to writers. It infects us with the fear that we’re not good, not as good as someone else, not good enough. To the point that not being able to fight it becomes a real issue. That, still using the Ebola analogy, causes us to  hemorrhage joy, faith, hope. It can be crippling and leads a lot of talented people to abandon their gift.

Then there’s the little voice in our head we’ll call Goldilocks. That one hits the sweet spot of just right. It tells us we are good enough, but also acts as the voice of reason. It tempers overeagerness, with the calm steady work ethic that can lead to longterm success. Best of all it’s the one that reminds us that setbacks are learning experiences that build character and skill. Temporary roadblocks that no matter how painful are not failures.

Truth be told we actually have all those little voices in our heads. They are our internal system of checks and balances that help us move through life. Sometimes any one of them can cause a hitch in the grande scheme we call living. Too hot, too cold…even just right doesn’t always make us happy. Not for long, anyway. Happiness is a transient, ephemeral concept. A gift. When we add up all the things we achieve as well as all the things we don’t, the nails on the head vs the not quite there, there’s one little word that carries all the hope and dreams and potential in the world.

Yet.

Not yet.

Keep striving, dreaming, hoping, working toward it all.

We can change our thinking by not only allowing ourselves to be guided by our little voices, but also learning to live and listen in such a way that we guide those little voices too. The resulting big voice becomes who we are. Listening to our instincts, following our gut, being intuitive…whatever you call it that’s what defines us as writers and as human beings. Hearing all the little voices, whether encouraging or niggling, and choosing our own individual path from the cacophony is the only way to truly live. The results, good and bad, wind and weave themselves into our written characters and it all comes full circle. I think it’s part of the way the truly wonderful characters become three dimensional. We are them, they are us, and everyone who reads them becomes a part of that. One voice at a time.

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