Arkham (Staying Sane)

“Silenzio Bruno!”

Rock formation in the sea
Image by Antonio Bayardo from Pixabay

Writers spend a good 99% of their lives existing in their minds. (That 1% is reserved for real-world necessities like eating and trips to the bathroom) If you share your home or have a relationship with one of us, you have some idea of this – or you’ll figure it out at some point. We may look like we’re engaged in a family activity, but if you see glazed eyes or note us staring off into nothing? Yup, we’re not present. (For those of us we write speculative fiction, we’re not even on the same planet/dimension) And there isn’t much you can do about it, short of making sure we get nourishment. We’re happy in our imaginations. Because they’re fantastic and SO much better than the outside world.

Until they gang up on us.

While I’ll admit there’s the stray outlier to everything, the vast majority of any artistic group always suffers from some key detractors – all of which happily reside in our brains:

  • Doubt
  • Fear
  • Ridicule

And in your head? They take on monstrous proportions. You’re happily skipping along in your dream worlds, when you slam into one of these behemoths, and their laughter knocks you around like you’re back on a grade school playground. What if your writing isn’t as good as you think? Maybe submitting to that market isn’t as brilliant an idea as you thought? Did you actually write that crap? Before you know it, you’re slinking away to a little dark corner in which to hide – while your work stagnates.

And the crazy thing? It’s YOU controlling those voices. They come from a part of yourself. Oh, sure. you might hear the same things from other people, but you usually manage to discount the nonsense when it’s from another person. They’re jealous, they don’t know what they’re talking about, they couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag, etc. You have plenty of retorts ready. When those words come from YOU, from your inner voices, though, you’re stuck. You can’t use the same arguments. So you watch those three brutes laugh and poke holes in your work, and you say NOTHING.

I’ve done that so many times. I’d start with a story that held such promise, made me excited, and then I pulled it apart with doubts and self-ridicule. I got the better of myself. And then I couldn’t move forward. I was left spinning my wheels, with no plan on what to do. And it didn’t matter that my betas cheered me on and told me everything was fantastic. I couldn’t get my inner voices in sync with my original belief or what better minds than mine believed.

Then I sat down and watched a movie.

Have you see Disney/Pixar’s Luca yet? If not, go watch it (and no complaining that it’s a “kid’s movie”). The scene with the cobbled-together Vespa slammed into my head like an avalanche. All of these years of slinking away from my inner bullies, and the answer was sitting right there the entire time. Two little words: “Silenzio Bruno!” (Okay, so I’m not Italian, but you get the gist – or you will when you watch the movie)

Obviously, changing that inner dialogue hasn’t worked in (many) decades. And while I’d love to say I’ve figured out the secret to THAT technique, you can talk to almost any author out there, and they’ll assure you they feel doubt and question their work all the time. So those bullies are in the back of everyone’s minds (with the exception of some people that NEED them). That doesn’t mean I need to let the doubt and fear control my writing, though. I just need to scream out STOP when they grow too loud.

You can drive yourself CRAZY questioning yourself. I’ve been doing that a lot in the past few weeks. The word “but” has dominated my vocabulary. At least until I watched Luca. Now, when I feel those inner voices regrouping, I stop and mutter, “Silenzio Bruno” under my breath. Maybe it sounds silly. And you’re probably snorting, rolling your eyes, or even laughing. But try it!

Those two words work as a trigger to cut out the negative dialogue and reorient myself to the positive. I swap out the panic and self-recrimination for the original hope I started with. And it’s propelling me forward down paths for better things. Which is MUCH better than hiding in the corner with my hands over my ears. And if you don’t want to use “Silenzio Bruno?” Pick a phrase that works for you. But find SOMETHING that interrupts the flow of negativity in your inner voices.

What do you have to lose?

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