Thursday, June 10, 2010

That Haunting Voice in my Head

If you collected a dollar each time you heard an author admit hearing voices in his or her head what would you have? Twenty dollars? A hundred? Certainly enough to keep you in lattes for several days. Yet, even though authors seem proud of this abnormality, our culture still considers it a defect. Let friends and family discover you hear voices and they’ll avoid you worse than if you wanted to borrow rent money.

I have the impression that hearing your story-character voices is a good thing for writers, but I’ve not been so fortunate. My characters tend to be quiet and lethargic, only speaking when prodded. Yet, I do admit to hearing one recurring voice. This little guy never has anything fresh to say, and his dialogue lines are always negative. An obnoxious tenant, his intrusion is more annoying than a yapping Chihuahua on caffeine. “Give up! Give up! Give up!” he says. "You can't write. What makes you think someone will read your story? Yap! Yap! Yap! Yap!”

I know I’m supposed to ignore him, but occasionally I weaken and fall victim to his discouragement. I can’t tell you how many times he’s crushed my writing dreams like a Styrofoam cup underfoot. According to my little voice; I’m too busy to sacrifice time for writing, I’m too untalkative to create good sentences, and I’m too boring to build an interesting plot.

But after years of battling with The Voice, I’ve finally found a sound rebuttal that even The Voice can’t ignore. It was quite a light-bulb moment to realize I am indeed qualified for a writing ministry. Yes, even in spite of my lack of talent. According to Scripture the weak, foolish, and base things are God’s first choice for material to use in His work (I Corinthians 1:26-29). (Wait! Weak, foolish, and base---was that from my Genesis critique?)

It doesn’t require a degree in theology to understand this scriptural principle—our inadequacies qualify us for God’s work. All He wants out of the deal is to receive glory. You won’t find this strategy used in mainstream corporate America. It’s totally a God thing--His specialty. In fact, the Bible records numerous examples of God taking something insufficient and making it into something special. The wedding host gave Him water—He made wine. The disciples handed Him a child’s fish dinner—He fed more than five thousand. Of course none of us were there to see it, but He also made the worlds using nothing but His word (Hebrews 11:3).

It’s a humbling thought to think our little offerings are seeds for God's work, but after all He did promise He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). That single promise removes all limits anyone puts on their potential, because most writers can think up some really big things

The dissenting voices may never completely leave our heads, but instead of questioning our ability to write, we can validate our efforts by admitting we are indeed inadequate--but canidates for something great. God chooses us for His work, not because of our talent but because of our lack of talent. He anoints our weak skills and uses them to create something great.

I believe we have a scriptural right to periodically close our eyes and just imagine the possibilities for our future. Scripture entitles you to do so, because in His own words, it will be so great that you will “wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you (Habakkuk 1:5).


  1. Wonderful promises to start my morning. Thanks for sharing, Kenny!

  2. Thanks, Kenny! Such good advice about dealing with those voices.

  3. Oh, yes I hear voices. But sometimes they get mad at me and clam up. This is another reason writers need to go to conferences. Until you network with other writers you tend to believe the "normals" when they act as though you are crazy. When they act as though your characters are not "real."