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Ugly Voice

You would think that once I had published my first book, I would have complete confidence as I started the next book in the series. Well, wrong. It is true that I am more confident, but as an author friend of mine (Kirsten) termed it, the Ugly Voice, is still there telling me that I am not good enough.

I can hear Ugly Voice’s disparaging tone, “Sure you wrote one book, but that was a fluke. And even if you manage to finish writing another, you know it won’t be as good as the first.”

Even when people tell me how much they loved the first book in the series, and can’t wait for the second book, Ugly Voice is there whispering, “It’s a shame they are going to be so disappointed.”

I have tried to ignore Ugly Voice, but it is difficult to block the constant barrage of negativity. It drains so much of my energy that sometimes it is hard to write. It was so bad that for over a month I kept finding other things to do than face starting the next book. Ugly Voice is very powerful and when I took its snide remarks to heart, it grew and became more dominant.

Near the end of January, I sat at my desk and looked across the room at Ugly Voice. It was hunched over with its back pressing against the ceiling. Ugly Voice is pretty hairy with a big head and even bigger nose. Reminds me of a creature I read about in a story once.

With the encouragement and support of my family and friends, I battled with Ugly Voice and managed to keep it in the corner, but it still called across the room, “Why are you wasting your time? You Should be out enjoying life rather than wasting your life away on something that won’t  see the light of day.”

Over the next month, my emotions rolled like a stormy sea. One day enjoying my writing time, another day thinking that I will be spending most of this coming year working very hard on a book – and what if it was truly a waste of time?

Recently, another author friend (Eileen) came up with a great suggestion.

Find a wee matchbox. Line it with soft cotton wool and shrink UGLY VOICE down into the size of a pea, and tuck it in the box to sleep. Then rock it sweetly until it dozes and stick a great hulking padlock on the box and never let it out again!

I tried doing this, but I couldn’t quite convince Ugly Voice to get into the matchbox. Ugly Voice looked at the soft cotton wool and only snorted. When that didn’t work, I thought maybe the problem was that I just can’t get rid of all my doubts – at least not yet.

However, even if I couldn’t silence Ugly Voice altogether, maybe I could dampen it enough so it would not paralyze me. I coated the inside of an empty coffee can with self-doubt. It was like scooping up a handful of lard and smearing it along the insides and bottom of the can. Ugly Voice put its nose over the can and sniffed, but kept one eye on me the whole time. I turned my head as if I didn’t know what Ugly Voice was doing, but I watched out of the corner of my eye. Sticking a finger in, Ugly Voice tasted the self-doubt and smiled, an ugly, twisted smile. Then Ugly Voice stuck its head in and started to wiggle its body as it tried to push down to lick the bottom. Its body became smaller and smaller as it twisted and turned to get into the can.

Finally, when the only thing visible was Ugly Voice’s ugly butt, I quickly turned around and slammed a lid on the coffee can.  The can shook from side-to-side as Ugly Voice realized that it had been tricked. I put a rock on top of the lid and stuck the can inside my desk.

I can still hear a muffled sound now-and-then coming from inside the desk, but it only distracts me for a moment or two. I no longer become incapacitated thinking about how long it will take me write the next book, and if it will be good enough or not. Now, I just focus on what I am writing that day and make it the best First Draft I can, realizing that Revision lies over the horizon to make it better.

As I look at the coffee can, that still rattles occasionally, I wonder if others have an Ugly Voice? Whether you are a writer, an artist, into sports, at work, with your family, or wherever you face self-doubt, have you encountered Ugly Voice?

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