Rob Gilroy

Look who’s talking

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It’s a long held belief that if you talk to yourself, you’re probably going mad.

Well butter me mad! Actually, don’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that smearing dairy products over yourself is no way to assert your mental stability.

I talk to myself. A lot. Out loud mostly. Is that weird? It’s a bit weird isn’t it? Does it make it worse that I often use silly voices and ridiculous accents? Leave me alone for long enough and the voices come out, often talking to each other, usually disagreeing with themselves.

It’s a genuine concern that I should probably stop, as it also happens at inopportune moments. Usually in serious and respectable situations, a joke or silly thing occurs to me and it’s hard to shrug off the need to say it out loud. So I usually will. Some may think it’s Tourette’s, but no – I’m fully in control of it. That makes it worse, surely?

I used to walk quite a lot. Not in the early days, then it was all rolling, dragging and gurgling, but once I got a taste of foot-propulsion, I couldn’t be stopped. It’s a hobby I carried on for a long time, well into my 20s, and it’s only recently, since having a car, that I haven’t done it as much. It’s probably a good thing, as that’s usually when the voices take hold.

I can be walking along, minding my own business, when I’ll see a sign, or an advert, or overhear part of somebody’s conversation and then, like an ear worm, it lodges itself in my cranial cracks and won’t un-wedge until I’ve milked it dry of humour.

Things I’ve been overheard saying on my walks:

‘Whip him around the garden’

‘Ah Zafira, we meet again’


‘Is it true The Romans invented the Tube?’

It’s fair to say people will cross the street to avoid making eye contact, but what can I do? I can’t help it. If the moment takes me and I decide I want to speak like a South African, then I will. In fact, the urge has become so intense; I’ve taken to holding my phone to my ear and pretending I’m having a conversation with my mother in Durban.

The thing is though; it’s a very useful tool. Most of the time, my best ideas come out of these stream of consciousness rambles – and while it makes me a nightmare on public transport, it’s a useful writing technique. I’ve written whole sketches while walking into town, building on silly ideas and elaborating into something better.

Now I drive to work, my madness is a little more contained which is good. If any other drivers think there’s cause for concern, at least I can pass it off as singing along to my Grindcore CDs. But it also means I can talk myself through ideas, jokes, scenes that I’m finding particularly troublesome.

Take recently for example. I’ve had an idea that I’ve been really struggling with; every time I sit down to start planning it out, I dry up. Not in a gynaecological sense, but a creative one. I can’t get my head round the concept and how it would work, but I know it has potential. Writing it out dozens of time can help, but you end up with page after page of notes and a muddled understanding of what it is.

I took this troublesome idea and really went with it. I turned off the radio, switched off the heater – it only works on setting ‘4’ which is like carpooling with a Dyson – and got rid of all distractions, except obviously the countless other drivers on the road, and the rules of proper vehicular control.

I talked to myself for what must have been an hour. Going over the idea, looking at good things, expanding on flaws to see where the problems were and generally picking it to pieces. It really helped me focus my mind and work out what I wanted to do.

If you’re struggling to get an idea working and it’s driving you crazy, take my advice – talk to yourself.