Firing the writer of my internal monologues

A number of months back on Twitter, I favorited a humorous tweet that said "I really want to fire the person who writes my internal monologues."

I burst out laughing- I would love to do the same!

Then I started thinking: wait a minute, that person is ME. I write my own internal monologue. Sure, it's influenced by the environment around me--my high school English teacher says "we write what we know." But I get to decide whether I continue my monologue or just hit the delete button.

When I taught a writing class in grad school, I spent one day in the first week talking about a chapter from Anne Lamott's book "Bird by Bird." The chapter I discussed at length? Shitty First Drafts. For someone with extreme perfectionistic tendencies, the idea of letting anything be shitty is anathema. The point of a Shitty First Draft isn't that you let it stay shitty. Writing is valuable in and of itself, but Shitty First Drafts don't pay the bills. No, the point of a first draft is to kind of vomit words onto the page and just start writing. The mess can be cleaned up later.

So what does this tangent on Shitty First Drafts have to do with firing the writer of my internal monologue?

I see the random thoughts that fly through my head every millisecond of every day just like those Shitty First Drafts I told my students to get to know. The thoughts are very real--and so, might I add, are the Shitty First Drafts--but here's the thing: they don't have to be the final draft. I can't delete the thoughts as easily as I can delete the drivel I spent this afternoon spewing forth, but I don't have to let those Shitty First Draft thoughts be the final draft.

I'm the writer. I'm the editor. I can edit those thoughts and decide if I want to keep them or not.

I can't exactly fire the writer of my internal monologue, although writers must be proficient at managing unemployment. And there are days when I would love nothing more than to put my brain out of work for a bit. But my internal monologue writer is also the same girl whose fingers type these blogs out, clackety-clack. This monologue writer is capable of getting paid for her writing by the Washington Post, so clearly she doesn't totally suck.

I doubt I'm ever going to stand in the mirror and look at myself and start crooning love songs into my green eyes. That's not the point of this. I can actually handle the "I SUCK!" shriek-fest melodrama moments to which I am prone. I suck. It's a fact. The end. The thoughts that I find the most frustrating are the constant worries, the doubting, the gnawing fear that I'm not good enough, I'm a fraud, a fake, that I'm never going to make it.

But it's like this afternoon when I was spewing drivel. I stopped writing my Shitty First Draft mid-sentence, and said to myself, "This stream of thought isn't getting me anywhere." Then I just pressed delete and started over.

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8 comments:

gettingoutofBED said...

Today my therapist made an interesting point about how we have a negative voice in our head and a self-affirming voice in our head. We can get rid of the negative voice completely, but we can let the self-affirming one become stronger and take control more often. Easier said than done, but something to work on, nonetheless.

Amy said...

I got the smackdown yesterday about needing to start using the positive internal voice. It sounds so cheesy, though, you know? But I did it, I guess, when I was getting ready for bed last night. I was like, hey, you did it, you survived. And it was kind of cool.

Shells said...

Spectacular post.

now.is.now said...

Excellent. I'm going to follow your lead and press the "delete" button today when necessary!

now.is.now said...

Also, my therpaist says that the goal is to turn the inner-voice into "The Best Teacher There Ever WAs." I like this idea because, good teachers, never give up hope, never stop encouraging, always see the best in their kids.... but they also have boundaries. They still have rules. They sitll say "no." They still have expectations and rules that keep their kids safe and promote their kids' achievement. I like this thought becuase, something that holds me back from letting the "positive voice" talk is that I'm afriad I'll just let myself get away with anything. I'm afraid I'll say something like "Okay, go eat all the chocolate you want, strip off your clothes, and run around the world, twirling, naked, and smiling." Or something crazy like that. But if it's the Best Teacher There EVer WAs, then it's more of a.... it's more of a guide that I can trust to keep me safe, and help me reach my potential. I know that if I listen to The Best Teacher there Ever WAs, that I am not allowed to get away with anything and everything. I know that sometimes I have to not act on my impulses. I know that the monologue isn't about doing what will give me instant gratification, but, rather, it's about doing what is good for me.

Abby said...

Great post, but I would like to hire a ghost writer for my internal monologues. Someone patient, less obsessive and more interested in progress than perpetual motion (both mentally and physically).

I'm currently accepting resumes...

Anonymous said...

YES!
M

Carrie Arnold said...

Abby,

I am a professional, and I am for hire- LOL!

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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