For an author to say she hears voices in her head may not be startling, but the voices I’m discussing are not the voices of my characters as I work on my novel. The voices I’m describing show up when I’m writing or working on submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher or reviewing something I’ve already written.
I’ve gotten so familiar with some of these voices that I’ve given them personalities. The one I encounter the most is the one I call “IC”, for the Inner Critic. I picture her sitting in an armchair, wearing a circa 1980s suit complete with a shoulder pad jacket and a white blouse with a fluffy full bow and spectacles small enough that the lifting of her brows is obvious. She watches me write and makes continuous comments such as, “This is the worst thing you’ve ever written,” “Why would anyone ever read this?” or “That’s terrible.” The other voices and I continuously work on squelching her. Occasionally, Creativity, Hope, and even The Voice of Reason tackle her for me and lock her in the closet until it is time to edit. When we release her from the closet to help with editing, IC behaves herself more, and offers helpful suggestions instead of critical comments.
Hope expresses herself in gentle whispers (unless she is irate with IC). She has a hard time sitting still, so she wanders around the study in my mind, touching this, moving that, then scooting over to my side to whisper things in my ear like, “This query is the one that will get you an agent,” or “Just wait until this gets published!” She likes to wear bright colored sundresses and sandals and doesn’t need glasses. I like her much better than IC, unless she gets carried away and tries to inflate my expectations unrealistically. Being a gentle soul, however, she accepts corrections from the Voice of Reason. IC’s the only person who knows how to get under her skin.
Creativity communicates in ways beyond words, most of the time. (She yells at IC and I’m not entirely sure she is aware that the Voice of Reason is giving specific directions as opposed to general guidelines.) She wears jeans and colorful tie-dyed shirts and needs glasses, but doesn’t wear them. Usually, she is too busy to be bothered with them. When she does get a pair, she loses them. Her favorite expressions, when she does talk while we’re writing, begin with “What if?”
You remember the college professor or high school teacher who left an indelible impression on your life? The one that convinced you physics, or law, or history, or whatever else you ended up following as a vocation was worth exploring, but who also was not afraid to tell you when you were straying in the wrong direction? That’s my Voice of Reason. She and I get along very well, unless she gets an urgent message from Conscience (Conscience is not a member of the study where we write; she’s in a different department) to remind me that something important needs to be done before I write any more. I get grumpy with VOR then. But I do so appreciate the way she keeps the other three, especially IC, in check and the way she gets Creativity and Hope to work together with her without squelching either. She dresses professionally and gave up glasses for contacts a long time ago. I envy her; the idea of sticking something in my eye terrifies me. And now that I’m close to turning the corner from my mid-50’s to my mid-50’s plus one, I doubt I’ll lose that terror soon.
So those are the voices in my head. As long as I don’t start seeing them out in the real world, I’m not going to worry about hearing them too much—except for IC. She’s due for another timeout in the closet soon.
Note: No psychiatrists were harmed or consulted in the course of writing this message! 😊