You know who I’m talking about. I know you do. I call mine Anders. He’s a big, bulky, piece of shit of a guy who’s actually sly and sneaky despite his size. He knows me well—oh so well—and can spot the tiniest crack in my psyche and bust it wide open with a single punch: “You’re not that good. Why bother?”
He’s an asshole.
And when I talk to other writers who are frustrated and feeling defeated, I know their inner Anders’ are showing off their bulging biceps. Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, calls this your “monkey mind.” (Clearly, I haven’t done the Zen acceptance work she has to be as composed about it.) It’s that voice that never shuts up and makes up excuses why you shouldn’t or can’t write: Too untalented. Too unworthy. Too busy. Too poor. Too tired. (Feel free to add your own to this endless list.)
Goldberg continues to say that the monkey mind will never leave. It stays with her even with all her success as an author. It is persistent, determined, smart, and doesn’t need any sleep.
On the other side for me is Ariadne. She is my goddess who barely has a form because of her brilliant light. I can make out hazel eyes like the sea, scarlet lips, and tresses of golden locks that flutter over a silky whiteness that flows into eternity. She sings when I write – just because I’m writing. She asks nothing more of me.
Elizabeth Gilbert says all she promised the universe is that she will write. She never promised she’d be good. That’s how I feel with Ariadne. She doesn’t wonder why my character just asked for soup. She simply tingles with anticipation when I open my notebook and pick up my Bic Round Stic pen. (Yeah, I don’t need anything too fancy.)
For Ariadne, the exploration writing allows is what matters. Anders, on the other hand, gets all caught up in wanting to know where it’s all going and makes me second guess every word I put down.
So, how do you quiet a guy like that? While you’ll never shut him up completely, here are six ideas:
- Shut up and write. (This is Goldberg’s mantra. And really, all six of these could be this one.) When you write anyway despite his resistance, you make him weaker.
- Create structure. (This is another steal from Goldberg.) Make an appointment with yourself to write and keep it like you would any other meeting. He’ll always try to throw you off and send you a grocery list or a great Old Navy sale reminder.
- Read your favourite book that gives you chills and made you want to be a writer in the first place. It drives Anders nuts when I pick up Shakespeare.
- Talk to a close friend who inspires you and reminds you who you are. Anders hates the Restless Writers!
- Go for a walk and be present with the earth you are walking on, the maple trees on your way, the pansies you pass. Take notes as you walk to notice what is extraordinary around you. That’s our gift as writers and Anders gets bored pretty quickly.
- Remind yourself you’re an artist and create. “Dependence on the creator within is really freedom from all other dependencies.” – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way. Anders’ mission is to make me completely dependent on him.
Even now, he is telling me, “You’re a fake. There’s nothing original here. You just took all this from other authors.”
Well, Goldberg, Gilbert and Cameron wrote their books to inspire other writers and they have inspired me. That is my truth today.
Anders can have his tantrum. He’s an asshole anyway.