“Life is what happens to you while you’re worrying.”
… Janet Lane
Is this just me? Do you worry about the past, too? Do you sometimes review and review a conversation, wondering if you could have expressed yourself better, come up with a more witty response, or remembered to be more thoughtful and inquire about your friend’s ailing daughter?
With fiction, it could be about our work-in-progress: This story isn’t working. What made me think I could write a story about ____? It could be about critique: No one liked my chapter. That was so embarrassing, I wish I hadn’t (whatever). It could be about a bad review: He’s right; my plot was thin. Why didn’t I…? Or an editor/agent appointment: Why didn’t I tell him about X?
If the book’s already in print, it’s too late. If it’s a WIP, it can be fixed and we can move on. If the critique wasn’t spot on, we can choose to ignore it and write the scene the way we wanted to write it because it’s our story. Why do we spend so much time looking backward?
I don’t have that answer, but I can share what I do when the voice becomes so loud that I am no longer enjoying my “present.”
1. Silence the voice. Just as we quickly end a sales call if we have no interest in the product, you can “hang up” on your nagging worry-voice. If the little voice is nattering away, driving you crazy about something over which you have no control, “just say NO.” If I’m obsessing, I remind myself that “you are what you think.” Since I don’t want to “be” a broken record of whining, I like to take my dog for a walk outside. Mother Nature is skilled at healing us with fresh views of nature, the green richness of a mature tree, delicate scents of flowers or just the fresh earth, awakening in spring. Good novels and movies are fabulous, too, for silencing the voice and inspiring us.
2. “Just do it.” If you’re worrying about getting a better job, devise a new or better plan of attack. If you find your life boring, write down two dozen things you enjoy, and write at least three of them into your schedule for the next week or month. Free-floating anxiety vanishes when you have a plan.
3. Call in reinforcements. Though generalizations are always dangerous, a woman may be more likely to empathize with your suffering, and a man may be more likely to help you find a solution. My personal thought is that whatever the gender, your friend will be eager to help you feel better in some way, which will get you off the one-way worry track.
4. Be kind to yourself. I founded a writer support group five years ago, and we have been holding two goal sessions a month all this time. We write goals, check in with each other every day, and encourage each other. One of the most frequent messages I share with these dear friends of mine – and one they share with me – is to “be kind to yourself.”
How can we be kind to ourselves when this chiding, deriding voice keeps harping at us? We can silence it by reminding ourselves of our successes, of our strengths.
5. Self-affirmations are powerful. Say it out loud: “I am talented. I am trying to be the best I can be.” Write these words down. Read them out loud. Smile when you say that!
I’m wishing you a pleasant, productive day in the present, unfettered by nagging voices.
Do you have tips to share? How do you silence the inner critic, appreciate your talents, and enjoy life? Please share them by clicking comments, below.