Writing Your Interior Monologue

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The critical inner voice is an integral part of being human. A jumble of your own fears and other people’s doubts, it whispers: You are useless. Stop it before you make a fool of yourself.  It feeds on ideas, leaving only crumbles of confusion.

At a translation conference this weekend, I spoke to a few people who all reacted in the same way when I told them I am studying literary translation. Oh, they all said before explaining, surely with the best of intentions, that they specialized in medical reports or technical manuals or financial statements, because that is the only way to make a living as a translator.

Well aware of this conception, I was already determined to face the challenges of an industry where desperate deadlines and preposterous price drops are generally considered inevitable. Still, on Monday, the echoes of those conversations had grown darker and thornier. They clung to my thoughts and left me paralyzed until I realised why: I had forgotten to write about them.

In novels, interior monologue gives readers glimpses of a character’s mind and the reasons for their actions. Similarly, writing down your thoughts helps you observe them and understand why you are feeling and thinking and acting the way you do. And as the writer of your own interior monologue, you can decide where to take it next.

I started my first morning journal several years ago, after a friend told me about her writing habits. Inspired by The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she poured uncensored sentences into a notepad every morning. I tried, but was not able to turn it into a daily habit until I discovered the Seanwes podcast and listened to an episode that refuelled my determination to write every morning.

On the mornings I forget to write, I find myself out of balance until I realise what is missing. This Monday, when I finally sat down to write, I reminded myself of why I am doing what I do despite the unsteady wages. My motivation returned, my thoughts cleared up and I was able to get started again.

Journaling in the morning, without the requirement of producing something readable, is a simple way to disentangle your knot of thoughts when you are stuck. It helps you separate real concerns from irrational nightmares; your own convictions from condescending childhood comments.

When you transform the abstract mess in your mind into concrete words, you can start shaping them. Leave your written words unedited, but decide in which direction you want to take the words that follow. Add some encouragement. Talk yourself into doing whatever your fear or disbelief has prevented you from doing. Question your critical inner voice.

What does your interior monologue sound like today? Which shape would you like to give it?

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