Oh yes, they can be mean, those voices. They’ll lead you down the primrose path and then, suddenly, they’re gone. Like a tribe of helpful desert nomads who have agreed to take you across the Sahara. You wake up one morning and they’ve abandoned you to the vast, endless, sea of sand. You find yourself alone. They didn’t even bother to leave you a compass.
They come back, though. At least, they have for me. But I’m aware of the fact that there have been those extreme cases where they didn’t return for years. I can imagine that would be a bit of a problem if your writing is paying the mortgage.
But, most of the time they just leave for a while. Question is; do they really leave or do we stop listening to them? I think, sometimes, what happens is that we stop paying attention to them and head down our own path. As if we know better than the voices. They were doing fine but somewhere along the way we decided that the voices were wrong. The voices hate that.
I wrote a story, a while back, that involved a character going to a gypsy camp to steal a potion that his friend desperately needed. The friend could not go because he knew the gypsy witch who had the potion and he knew that she would not give it to him. They had a history, you see. It was going great and the words were just flowing out of me. I was really in the zone on that one. I got to the point in the story where he was about to get the potion and I decided that the story needed some action. “No,” the voices insisted. “It’s not that kind of story.” I told them they were wrong. I decided that he was going to snatch the vile from the sorceress and there would be a thrilling chase through the woods on horseback with whips slashing and guns blasting. But, no matter how I tried, it wasn’t working. I just could not get it to where I wanted it. I stopped writing and paced up and down, complaining to my wife that the voices weren’t talking to me. It was their fault, of course. She told me to let it go for a while.
“Forget it for tonight,” she said in her infinite wisdom. And I did. We watched a movie and I went to bed.
The next day I went back to it. I was ready to listen to the voices, again. “Okay,” I sheepishly said. “What do you want me to do?”
It was simple. The sorceress would just give him the vile. She’s a witch. She knows why he’s there. And for whom. “How did you plan to get it?” she asks him. “Grab it and run? Your throat would have been cut before you even left my wagon!” And, laughing, she simply hands it to him! It was perfect. I also realized that the action scene would have taken a lot away from the surprise ending. Yes, the voices had been right.
That hasn’t been the only time I’ve tried to ignore them, I must admit. There have been others, and yes, it always went badly. Always I returned to the original direction. I’m getting better at listening to them, though.
Now, there are times, of course, when we can’t hear the voices because we have too many other things on our mind. Real life has a habit of interfering with our writing. That can’t be helped.
But sometimes you’ll find yourself stuck in the middle of the desert with no oasis in sight, only endless sand dunes. Most likely its because you tried to tell the nomads which way to go. They hate that.