Lately I’ve been hearing voices — not the multiple-personality or go-forth-and-murder kind. More like, the doubting kind, the criticizing kind. Origin: high school. These voices of should-I, shouldn’t-I, what-will-they-think? were all conceived in a petri dish and tranferred to a vat filled with equal parts shame, algebra and cheap cosmetics known as high school, when second-guessing was the second step in a nine-step guessing process about who you should sit with at lunch, where your college applications should go, what your Converse sneakers said about you.
These voices crop up most when I’ve got artistic projects on the line, as I do now, with Second Story this week and the new grant burning a hole in my proverbial pocket.
Anne Lamott says: “Left to its own devices, my mind spends much of its time having conversations with people who aren’t there. I walk along defending myself to people or exchanging repartee with them, or rationalizing their behavior, or seducing them with gossip, or pretending I’m on their TV talk show or whatever. I speed or run an aging yellow light or don’t come to a full stop and one nanosecond later am explaining to imaginary cops exactly why I had to do what I did, or insisting that I did not in fact do it.”
She suggests: Pretend that each of these voices is actually the voice of a mouse. Imagine dropping these chattering mice one by one into a mason jar. And then seal the lid.
I’m working on that part.