Making Friends With My Monster

You know that voice you hear that tells you to just give up your dream, that you can’t possibly be successful, that it will never work anyway?

That’s your monster.

We all have them. They are always whispering to us to give up, be quiet,  don’t rock the boat, and an endless cacophony of other other advice that is really designed to protect us, but often results in us getting nothing done with our writing, our projects, or our big dreams.

My monster has many voices, but it’s amazing how much she often sounds like my mother. She would tell me things like:

  • You’ll never be ______ like your friends (often that word was thin)
  • Girls can’t do ______. Boys can. Your brothers can. But you can’t
  • Just keep your mouth shut. Don’t make waves. Don’t rock the boat.
  • Nobody wants to hear anything that you have to say.
  • Why can’t you be _____ like _____? (Often this word was “act like a lady”)
  • If you can’t do something right, just don’t do it at all (Jeez, wonder where my need for perfection comes from?)
  • Why are you always such a bad girl? Go get the wooden spoon and after that you’ll stand in the corner (I proudly held the family record for the most wooden spoons that got broken on my butt because I absolutely refused to cry, and that made them angry. Small victory :)

Even after countless hours of therapy as a young adult, I still have to deal with my monster. She’s not going away. She’s not going to be quiet. She shrieks in terror when bad things happen. So what am I going to do with her?

It seems that the more I urgently need to get something finished, the more I have to listen to her chatter. Some days it’s hard to get anything done at all. The bigger I dream, the louder she talks. She won’t give up. She’s persistent.

But so am I.

So I’ve decided to make friends with her. Gary Barnes calls this monster our Little Genius. And according to Gary, she is in charge. She’s really not a monster at all. She’s just a scared little girl who thinks that the way to stay safe is not to “rock the boat.” She says: “Don’t make changes, that’s scary. Just keep things the way they are. I feel much more in control that way.”

Reasoning with her doesn’t work at all. She doesn’t understand that I’m working really hard right now to finish my book. She just wants to play.

Getting angry with her doesn’t work either. You can’t tell her to shush, shut up, be quiet or go away. Boy, is she stubborn! If she thinks I’m angry with her she will throw an all out tantrum and stamp her feet.

So I’ve created a special place for her, a safe place where she can play and do lots of fun things while I write. She gets to color or look at pretty books, and I get to write. Really, it’s a win-win. She feels safe and I feel productive. I like it. She seems to like it too.

All I have to say when I want to work, is “not now.” Just hang out a little bit with your crayons and your books, and when I am finished I will color with you. And it’s working. I am getting things done, she’s safe in her pretty blue suitcase with her books. She gets to play. I get to work. It’s a great deal!

So, I’m curious. How do you deal with your monsters?

[Many, many thanks to Willie Hewes, who drew my monster for me. She's an awesome artist with a knack for envisioning the internal. Follow her on twitter @williehewes ]

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  1. Mike Korner says:

    I have a special place for my monsters … it is wherever they land when I toss them off the deck (which is one story off the ground :) I have things to do and don’t have time for monsters to hold me down.

    Same solution, different approach (though yours is arguably kinder and gentler).

    I’m glad you and your Little Genius are getting along. Your approach definitely seems to be working … just look at all you have accomplished so far!

    • Mike, you totally crack me up! LOL Trust me, I have tried the hard core approach. It’s exhausting. Because within 5 minutes of that splat under the deck, she’d have crawled back up the stairs to reappear on my shoulder and whisper in my ear. She’s happier now. She doesn’t call me a Meanie anymore. Well a lot less often anyway :)

  2. Fab Carol, totally fab.

    I would like to think my monster is a scared little girl :) you certainly have a hand on dealing with her!
    Sarah Arrow´s last post ..I don’t get social media

  3. That’s great Carole. I really like how you’ve dealt with this.

    I still have problems with my monster or monsters, as I think I have more than one. But I try to communicate with them and explain them how things really should work.

    Most of the times I need to send them to bed and put them some nice music, so I can do my work.

    Eugen Oprea´s last post ..4 Steps to Add Retweet Buttons in Your PDF eBooks

  4. I LOVE this post! Can I ask something – when you say at the end “Just hang out a little bit with your crayons and your books, and when I am finished I will color with you.” do you actually do that? I mean, do you take out some colouring books and pencils and do some colouring in the physical or this is a metaphorical thing?

    I’m working with my ‘monster’ too, but I call her my inner child and I find that I actually DO stuff that I’ve promised like paddle in the stream or go on the swing in the garden. Just wondering how this works for you; or whether I’m a complete crazy nut case :D
    mrs green @ myzerowaste´s last post ..Mr Green reuses our shelves

    • Yes, I do keep my promise and indulge in some play time, whether that’s romping in the park with my dogs, or watching the birds and butterflies, or even coloring. I find that if I don’t have this play time, I become a crazy nut case. It’s important for me to keep that from happening :)

  5. You’ve gotta have ‘me’ time! Its as essential as sleep, and a good meal! :)

  6. Gah – my little-girl monster is in complete control! I can’t make her cooperate AT ALL – any more than my mother could. But I never tried actually playing with her – poor thing never has any fun other than the usual avoidance activities, which aren’t any fun when that thing you’re avoiding is hanging over your head. So I will try it your way – promise something fun, and then ACTUALLY DO IT. I’ll let you know how it works out.
    LaVonne´s last post ..The Sum Total of My Advice About Flakiness- and Why I Won’t Be Writing About It Any More


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