Do you get those voices in your head when you’re writing?
You know, that *tap, tap, tap* of the English teacher’s ruler and the squeaky, jeering monkeys?
The English Teacher Voice
She’s the one that keeps reminding you to write in the active voice, use the correct they’re/their/there, form proper paragraphs, eliminate sentence fragments, and on and on and on and on…
Should you listen to her?
- Pros: She helps you write well.
- Cons: She keeps you from writing well.
Yeah, I know. That makes sense. But it’s true.
We need to pay attention to our spelling and grammar. If my writing made no sense you’d be gone already (you’re still here and still reading, right?).
But that “teacher” voice is also the one that leads us to obsess about our word choice, stop and analyze every sentence, and ultimately keeps us from getting in a flow of writing where our voice comes out and we can connect with our readers.
So I give you permission to reach over and find her off switch. It’s probably hiding so you may use duct tape instead if you prefer. Just let her stand quietly and be a reminder to give your writing a once over to be sure it makes sense and then get it out there to share it.
And then there’s the monkey chatter… I love this term, I’m borrowing it from Melanie Benson-Strick. She says all those annoying voices in our heads trying to “protect” us by keeping us safe and small — they’re the voices that say things to keep us from playing a bigger game or getting out there and being visible.
- You’re not an expert.
- You can’t do *that* (whatever that is).
- You won’t succeed.
- Look at how much work it’s going to take!
- Who are you to help people with that?
- Why would someone listen to you?
- Everyone’s going to laugh at you.
- You’ll make a mistake.
I’ve made mistakes. More than once. I’ve failed. I’ve made typos. I’ve been laughed at. None of those were the end of the world! We’ve just got to fix it and keep going.
The thing is, those monkey voices do want to keep us safe. If we stay right where we are and keep quiet, maybe no one will judge us or disagree with us. Maybe we won’t take any financial risks or deal with failure.
But think about the worst case scenario. What if you fail? What’s the worst that can happen? Will you still be alive? Healthy? Able to start over and try again? Yes, almost certainly!
Now think about the best case scenario. What if you succeed? What could that mean for you? For your family? For the people who want your products or services?
Compare those pictures. Isn’t the best case scenario worth trying for and worth the risk?
Kill the monkeys.
Failure is okay and it won’t be the end of the world. Move through it to the success that’s possible.
P.S. No live animals, monkey or otherwise, were harmed in the writing of this post. If you prefer, instead of killing your monkeys you may send them to the zoo or your local animal shelter. But join me in getting them the heck out of our heads so we can get out there and make a difference in the world.