Weekend Coffee Share: Inner Speech, Longer Days, and 100 Days of Poetry

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If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about an article I’ve read, all about our ‘inner speech’ and how interesting it is that we all have voices in our heads. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that our ‘selves’, our brain, talks to us, solves problems, can flash up images, signs, and ideas. We can have ‘conversations’ with other people in our minds, hashing out possible results of said conversations.

The article, on the Atlantic, is an interview with the writer of a book, Charles Fernyhough (a professor from Durham University), The Voices Within. In the interview, he talks about the difficulty of accurately describing what the inner speech in our heads is like. Some people describe it as images, some as signs (perhaps if you have a sign language), or text. He explains that inner speech has been estimated to be 10 times faster than our usual everyday speech (about 4,000 words per minute). According to Fernyhough, inner speech develops alongside social speech – or rather, alongside social language, which can include sign languages. With language, a sense of self develops, a sense of ourselves in relation to others and a building of an inner environment and language.

‘Inner speech, Fernyhough writes, isn’t bound by many of the conventions of verbal speech. For one, we can produce it much faster when we don’t have to go at the pace required to use tongues and lips and voice boxes.’ – Julie Beck, The Running Conversation in Your Head, November 23rd 2016.

I might ask you what your inner speech sounds like, at the risk of sounding rude. Mine seems to be a mixture of things. I’m visually oriented, so much of the time, I think in images, but that is also mixed in with text, a bit of sign language (but not much), and ‘speech’. If I had more time to think about it and observe my own ‘inner speech’, I might be able to describe it all better. There is also the added layer of my musical tinnitus – tuning my tinnitus to songs and music, which is sometimes annoying considering I get trapped in a cycle of inner ‘noise’ if I’m not careful.

Fernyhough also talks about how we can have many different voices and personas within our minds, considering different perspectives and ideas. It makes sense – the brain is a complex thing, and we have many different processes going on at the same time. He makes the point that we may also have the wrong idea about how negative or, conversely, positive, our thinking is. For example, if you’re prone to depression or have OCD, we might think our thinking is ‘negative’ whereas what is really happening is that we might be paying more attention to those negative thoughts as opposed to the ‘positive’ ones (this isn’t to say that it’s controllable without external help though – mood disorders, depression, and anxiety aren’t just explainable by ‘negative thoughts’ as those of us having experienced them know).

‘We’ve started to realize that inner speech isn’t just one thing. I think it was assumed that inner speech was just this kind of monologue, the output of a solitary voice chattering away in your head. And we now think there are a few main kinds of inner speech. Inner speech varies according to how compressed it is, how condensed. We think inner speech varies according to how much it’s like a conversation between different points of view. We’re starting to tease apart these different qualities. And that fits with the idea that inner speech has a lot of different functions. It has a role in motivation, it has a role in emotional expression, it probably has a role in understanding our selves as selves.’ Charles Fernyhough, The Running Conversation in Your Head, November 23rd 2016.

I’ll also tell you about how I’m feeling lighter and more positive with the longer days in the UK. Daylight Saving Time started last weekend, so sunset is now roughly around 7.30pm. The air smells different – fresher, like earth and growing things. People are mowing their lawns, and with the damp smell of grass, you know that hayfever season is on the way! My Mum is doing much better, feeling stronger and able to do a bit more than she was, though she still needs to take it easy sometimes. We have six months of treatment for her ahead of us – she will be having chemotherapy until early October. We’re all fairly positive, though of course it has been a shock and it’s taken some time to adjust to how things have changed. I’m happy that she’s not in the kind of pain she was last year before her operations, and I’m extremely grateful for the NHS – the doctors and nurses have been wonderful.

You might notice that there have been a few changes to the menu layout above. I’ve added new pages and jiggled things around. There’s the ‘Writing‘ tab, which I’m still updating, but it includes short stories from 2011 to now – some of them are not up to the standard of my current writing, but it should show how my writing voice has developed over time. The most recent short story is The Lucky Fox, set in the same universe as my novel (and the same universe as Scorched Earth which is a sort of prequel short story). The drop down also includes my ‘Journalism’ writings, from 2011-2015, from a variety of places.

I’ll also be adding a ‘Reviews’ tab on the ‘Writing’ drop down, and both of my university dissertations. I’m trying to make this site both a place for my own writing, and a creative hub, which will develop and change over time. There are two other pages on the top menu – Books, and Projects. You might be as excited as I am about those two tabs – the Books tab has up to date details about my two current works in progress, and the Projects page is a place for current and past creative projects. I’ve come much further with my work on Fragments, and though I’m tentative (again) about the release date, it will be out by the summer at the latest. On the other hand, Ashes still needs a lot of work, so I’m not quite sure when that will be ready for release. But I’ll be sharing short stories and small excerpts from time to time.

This brings me to my new 100 Days of Poetry project. The 100 Day Project is well known on Instagram – people document a creative or goal-oriented project for 100 days. I’ve decided to take the plunge and focus on writing a poem for each day, combined with an image – whether a photo, painting, or digitally manipulated image. My poems might not be long, perhaps some days I’ll share 3-4 lines, and on others, longer poems, but I’ll also be sharing a roundup of poetry and images each week on the blog. I want to develop my poetry and also document more of the world around me, emotions, moments, and ideas – to try new things and challenge myself. If you’d like to try creating your own 100 Day Project, have a look at the website – it starts on Tuesday 4th April and runs until Wednesday 12th July, though you can start your own 100 Day project at any time during the year.

Wishing you lots of good cups of tea and coffee in the week ahead – Happy April!

“October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or shutting a book, did not end the tale. Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: “It is simply a matter,” he explained to April, “of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content.” ― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists

2 Comments Add yours

  1. This is so exciting! i can’t wait to read your work. Hopefully your book will be available for (online) purchase in India? Also, sending lots of love to you and you mother. i hope she gets well soon! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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