Gleanings: No Negative Criticism Allowed, and Writing is Medicine

“I hammer it into all my students: You must shut out all the negative voices that say you’ll never write as well as you hope, that you are just no good and why bother.” ~ Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Pen on Fire.

Boy, these voices are loud, and so authoritative sounding. Many come from outside ourselves in the voices from friends and family. I can recall a neighbor who said, “Oh, those romances, they’re all the same,” and dismissed my efforts. Then once my book was published, more than one person scoffed and said, “When are you going to write a real book?”

Most of the negative voices, however, come to us from within our own minds. They are our own voices, the doubts formed by impressions of living in the world, where there are so many disappointments. We’re taught to down-play ourselves. We’re taught from the time we begin school to ‘fit in’, and ‘don’t think to highly of yourself, missy.’  Society is all the time telling us we must do better, be better–television ads demand we have a whiter smile, colored hair, ripped abs, fast and gleaming car, cell phone that can run the world (never mind that it ends up running us), kids on the honor roll and best house on the block. These messages come relentlessly, and we end up feeling not quite good enough.

Also, and I’m going to say it, there is the devil. Yes. See that guy right there on your shoulder. You have a good idea and it excites you. That devil just whispers in your ear that you’re being silly. How many great dreams are stolen this way?

I want to tell you that I had those voices in my head, but I went on and wrote 30 books anyway. What I look back now and see is that once I began to write, once I turned my imagination loose, my imagination was so loud that I did not hear the negative voices. There were times when the doubts were so loud, I actually said: Shut up, I’m writing.

Today I know that writing is what Julia Cameron says:

“Writing is medicine. It is an appropriate antidote to injury. It is an appropriate companion for any difficult change.” ~Julia Cameron, The Right to Write.

Start writing, painting, cooking, anything you imagine, and the negative voices fade. Don’t let anyone, especially that voice of doubt, tell you that you can’t do something.