Does every writer carry two voices in her head?

I wouldn’t be surprised. I do.

There’s the voice that hates what I do, and the voice that loves what I do. And they are not friends.

The latter voice tells me that the work is good. It reacts with surprise and delight to what I’ve done. It is a generous voice. A kind voice. A reader’s voice. It criticizes gently. It encourages. This voice loves me, just a little.

And there is the other voice. The half-empty voice. The voice that says “What the hell were you thinking?” The voice that grudgingly acknowledges some ability in the combination of words, but nothing else. The words and plot lay flat on the page. The characters are unlikely; their dialog mannered and improbable.

In the workday world in which leftover energy is spare and personal hours are few, there isn’t much time to reconcile those two voices. In the limited time that belongs to the writer when the demands of commerce are finished, one can chip away at the rock, but not roll it off the path. Those days of work-all-day-nap-then-write-til-two-ayem are past.

Maybe that’s what makes even an individual rejection so difficult. It speaks to the lurking doubt; to the voice that naysays every attempt to do what your heart and skill tell you is right. The voices can’t be shut out. What, then, does one do with them?

Perhaps a little self-forgiveness is in order. A little patience. The book won’t get done tonight. Or even tomorrow night. In the meantime, everything can be progress—even if the progress is backward. This is not like baking a cake that—once it’s in the oven—can only be what it is. This is the stew that tasting, adjusting and time can make perfect.

Not the half-full/half-empty glass, these two voices and the product of one’s long, long hours. This is writing as goulash.

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