Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. —Marie Curie

 The other day, I saw a social media post suggesting that writers name the little critical voice that lives at the back of their mind, the one who constantly has negative feedback and discouraging things to say. You know the voice—it’s the one that says helpful things like:

  • You call that writing? That’s barely even typing!
  • Who do you think you are, John Steinbeck? Ooo, we’ve got Jane Austen over here, everybody!
  • This has been done to death.
  • Nobody cares.
  • So you published something/won an award/showed up on the bestseller list. That was a fluke!
  • All of the other writers are laughing at you behind your back.
  • And more!

The original poster had named her voice Janice. I have named mine Cindy. Believe it or not, giving the voice a name has actually helped me understand it better.

The Truth

For many years, I thought that voice was the voice of reality. I thought it was the “tough talk” part of my brain that was “telling it like it is”. But the voice wasn’t actually offering an objective view of reality. It’s just offering a critical opinion that was frightening and discouraging.

Blaming Myself

Later, I thought of the voice as “beating myself up”, and I’d blame myself for the presence of those negative thoughts. But in the words of Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes. The voice is a minuscule part of fear. The person with creative ideas and the desire to put those ideas into the world is also me. A much larger part of me.

Eh, It’s Just Cindy

Now that I think of the voice as Cindy, I don’t take her presence as personally or as seriously. Cindy has opinions. Cindy thinks she’s being helpful. But Cindy is actually just kind of annoying. I don’t have to listen to her just because she’s talking.

Understanding Cindy has helped reduce my fear and quiet the voice. If you have a voice like this, try giving it a name. Then, when it pipes up, you can just say, “Oh, it’s Wilbur/Cindy/Janice again,” and go about your business...which is writing, creating, and enjoying it.