The Enemy Within

Bear with me, this relates to writing, though that may not be apparent to begin with.

Consider this: we are all broken, in some way.

Our parents, whether they be loving, caring and close, remote, aloof and detached or even downright abusive, are all of them imperfect.

Good old Mum and Dad have their faults. They never did a degree or even an apprenticeship in parenting.

If you’re as old as me (early fifties) then they went into the parenting gig untrained, unprepared and virtually blind.

Thus it follows that they made mistakes. I know I did, and some pretty big ones, too.

One of the common mistakes we make as parents is to overdo our role. Man, is it ever hard not to.

We struggle with ourselves when it comes to releasing our little charges into the world to fend for themselves and some parents never seem to get around to it.

Those that don’t cause an untold amount of damage to their kids, long-term mental problems that dog their children for the rest of their lives.

There’s an old analogy that likens our children to a spring held in our clenched fist.

If we never let it go, it never becomes worth anything, as a spring’s biggest asset is its ability to catch and release energy, something it is useless for if it is always compressed.

If we suddenly open our hand, the thing flies off in a random and unguided direction, open to all sorts of danger wherever it may land.

The best way to let that spring go is in a gradual process of release; it then sits in our hand and is free to be itself, without us losing contact with it.

The message should be clear, we have to let our children go gently and over a long period of time, slowly releasing the guiding hand and hoping for the best.

No matter how good a job our parents did, though, one thing remains.

An ingrained and instinctive ear for guidance.

We grew up being told what to do, learning how to live. When we became adults that guidance ceased at some point. At least it should have, unless our parents have deep emotional issues of some kind.

It left behind it an inbuilt desire for guidance, though; despite the fact that we are, as adults, free agents and only answerable to those to whom we may swear fealty of some kind.

Our employers, our partners or spouses, so many different areas of life where we have some kind of accountability.

Thus we have to keep an audit of our actions and take responsibility for our decisions.

In doing this, we all developed an entity inside us, the little voice in our ear that tells us when what we’re about to do, or indeed have done, is wrong.

Yes, our conscience. A handy device indeed, for most of us. It’s what stops us from simply hopping over the fence and shooting the neighbors dog when it won’t stop its damned barking. It’s also what stops us from shooting our neighbor when he won’t shut his damned dog up.

For writing and any other type of artistic endeavor, however, it can become an enemy.

Our conscience has a potential ally, you see, one affected very deeply by our childhood and our life experiences; our self-confidence.

When these two decide to shack up together, our creative efforts can be strangled in the crib, so to speak.

My author friend told me that finishing a book involves learning to ignore that little voice inside you that says to you that what you’re writing is, in his words, ‘a bunch of crap’.

My little voice has always had a nice, loud tone and a sympathetic ear, for most of my life.

It has only been in the last few years that I have learned how to distinguish between my conscience when it is working alone, as intended, and when its got its best friend self-confidence with it.

In my musical career, I was driven by that voice, telling me that I wasn’t good enough; “Look, that guy can do that and you can’t, there’s yet another drummer you’re not as good as; man, they’re everywhere!”

As I bent myself to the task of learning my craft, that little voice never ran out of examples of people who were better than me.

If you read my previous post, you’ll understand that no one I played with ever directly told me that I was any good; usually just pointing out where I was lacking, which only exacerbated the issue.

However, a few years ago I noticed that the people my little voice was pointing to as examples of why I wasn’t good enough were professional drummers of world fame, who had been playing since childhood and who now played for hours every day.

I don’t play for hours every day and I’m not a career musician.

That’s when I realized that the little voice was, in fact, a git. A lousy little exaggerator who had put me through hell for years for no good reason whatsoever.

I’m not complaining that I can play at a professional level, mind you. I enjoy it immensely.

However, when I chose to take up writing, I was determined that the little voice was having no say in whether what I wrote was any good or not.

I have no regrets in that regard.

There are endless sources of criticism available to us as writers today, both good and bad.

Beta readers, proofreaders, critics and blog followers.

We should use those to the full. Listen to every word of criticism and commendation that we get, even if it seems hurtful sometimes. Analyze the criticism, reflect on it and, if it is fitting, work on improving in that area.

The interactive community we are all a part of is a good source of input and guidance, with careful use it can yield us good results.

Don’t listen to that little voice, though.

He is, indeed, a git.


2 thoughts on “The Enemy Within

  1. In a larger sense, we need to make peace with ourselves. To understand that we too are flawed, at least as much as the next person. The biggest single thing is the acceptance of the things you really don’t like about yourself. Funny how much power they lose once you do so.

    As far as applicability to your post goes, the best photos I’ve taken or the writing I’m most proud of have happened when I’ve been able to let “me” get out of the way and let the concept or story flow though. You can’t do that when there is too much noise and that little voice going on inside your head…. destructive little sod that it is.

    All imho as per usual 🙂


    • I agree, the best writing is done when that little voice is silenced, and I agree that being at peace with ourselves is irrevocably connected to acceptance of our imperfections.
      I think that our faults can be exploited for our benefit too.
      I am a perfectionist, so as long as I recognize the danger of over editing, I can exercise this ‘feature’ of my personality to achieve a higher level of editorial quality (hopefully).


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