Creative Juice,  Lamplight

Self-doubt banshees and paralyzed monkeys

I have lost track of the number of times I have opened up the computer to write and let myself be paralyzed by the blank screen, or opened up my sketchbook and let myself be paralyzed by the blank page.

When I started this website, it was going to be whatever I wanted it to be, without worrying about what anyone thought of it. I had other websites in the past and I felt confined by what I had intended for those websites to be, and sometimes this was due to my choosing a specific domain name that seemed to lock me into one category. Munkymind.com was intended to be a liberation from confinement. My monkey mind could jump from topic to topic and genre to genre, swinging from one format to another format, just like a restless mind is, sometimes.

The name is also very much inspired by the concept of Monkey Mind in Buddhism. When you sit to meditate, your thoughts are all over the place, at least at first. This is the monkey mind and to me, it’s a beautiful thing. In meditation, we don’t want to be ruled by our monkey minds, of course, we want them to chill out so that we can practice that inner stillness. I’m a lifetime amateur at meditation, so don’t mistake my words for expertise, okay?

Somewhere along the way, I betrayed the monkey. He’s paralyzed, far too often, because of the Banshees of self-doubt wailing in his ears. Man, what an absurd picture. But this is me. This is my head, full of absurd pictures, because I like to imagine absurd things. I thrive on the weird. Banshees are weird. Monkeys, less so. Banshees and monkeys, an interesting combination.

The Banshees of self-doubt are nefarious creatures that swoop in unexpectedly with messages that discourage:

You have already written everything you needed to write about that topic.
That’s been done. You have nothing original to say.
You are not as good as, well, so many others.

And sometimes, the Banshees are sneaky, throwing in compliments:

You wrote some great posts that people really love, so you have to do more of that. And only that.
You can’t write about those topics. It’d be better if you wrote about the ones people actually read. They love those.
You can just throw out a lazy post. You have to fine-tune them all. Get it perfect.

So the monkey, swinging from vine to vine in my head, freezes. Paralyzed. He falls. A post gets deleted before it’s ever finished, if it was ever started to begin with. The blank page stays a blank page.

Someone else can write that. Someone else always will.

Does this sound ridiculous to you? Or perhaps familiar? If you consider yourself a creative person, it’s probably not that different from what you tell yourself. Those Banshees are everywhere. They don’t limit their range to just the world of creativity. We humans are just constantly doubting so much of what we do, everyday. Parenting. Our work. Our food choices. How we use our time, how much social media we consume, how much TV we watch. It’s endless.

Munkymind.com has to be free to be whatever it is going to be. I let the Banshees of self-doubt proliferate in my mind because, months ago, for the first time in my life, I started feeling like I was having some success as a writer on this website. People were beginning to read what I was writing, and I appreciated that I could actually get out a message that others could appreciate. I liked that I could, in my own small way, perhaps make a difference to a few lives. What I found is that success, even my own small measure of it, led to my subconsciously laying out the welcome mat for these Banshees.

So the monkey fell, paralyzed, and laid silently on the jungle floor. Less got written, Inspiration dried up.

I can’t afford to let the Banshees win any battles anymore. I can’t let the monkey be paralyzed. When I want to be creative, my Monkey Mind must have the freedom to explore, to play with words, to dream up absurd images, to tell stories. He can get calm when I’m ready to sit and meditate to calm him down.

I wrote this post so that I can be authentic about the struggles that a writer can go through and also to express to those of you who have read my work here that I’m going to try harder to repel these Banshees. I’ll work a magic spell out of my words. I’ll throw sentences at them. I will write more, and some of it is not going to be all that good. I need the freedom to be able to write a terrible post, a dismal attempt at a poem, a sentence-long post if that’s all I feel like writing, and be okay with it. I need the freedom to write in gibberish if I want, or do a stick figure drawing of elephants playing Atari with fat unicorns, or to post a photograph of me scowling at you just because I’m in the mood to scowl at someone. I need the freedom to decide, also, that if I’ve had enough with this website, that I can shut it down and walk away, unfettered by literary shackles.

So this is it. Let’s see how it goes.

 

J. Parrish Lewis was born and raised in Maryland. In his youth there, he and his brother had many adventures in the dogwood forests near his home. His nostalgia for these adventures has strongly influenced his characters, their relationships, and their perspective on the world they inhabit. He moved to California’s coast to earn his degree in communications and now lives with his family in the San Joaquin Valley. Lewis is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. He enjoys hazelnut coffee, captioned movies, and walking his dog.

2 Comments

  • Mervyn James

    It’s trial ! If you believe the hype there is nothing you can do, say or write, that hasn’t already been done by someone else. In an effort to breakthrough, you have to compete with ‘viral’ posts that are either about cats/dogs/gerbils whatever, doing what they do anyway, or silly people trying to maim themselves for 15 sec s of online glory. I gather if you have an ugly pet, then you cannot fail…. As regards to writing, publishers aren’t interested in ANYTHING we write, unless the media have picked up on your efforts,or even record of failures… Their primary function is to make profit, so first I could suggest you enter some reality show, or paint yourself blue for a few months, then they will throw money at you to explain why you were stupid enough to do it. Alternatively, you could attempt to be a TV chef, or even someone who is so shallow, the physicists are still trying to define it. It can be disheartening to find your blog efforts over years have managed about 15,000 views in its entirety, and someone who can barely string a sentence together, and needs considerable support to remember their own name, gets 500,000 overnight, and TV are queuing up to hire you. Our primary mistake is assuming people, want coherent, well thought out, blogs, stories, and to be gripped by quick-fire actions. They are more likely to want to hone in on the fact, t your brother’s 3rd cousin’s friend once knew Abraham Lincolns granddaughter’s boy friend, instant fame. A story here is of a family that won £61m on the lottery, who were sidelined by an ex-boyfriend of the winning family’s daughter, who ran a sob story about missing out on getting a percentage, because the girl-friend dumped by text. Having lost the girl, and a cut of the winnings, he is coining telling us all how he lost out. Our mistake is assuming readers want quality and well-thought out, articles, they don’t, train your dog to type….

  • RaVen

    Great post. Writing blogs ain’t easy that’s for sure. I ued to write monthly, now I write only when I find very useful topics to share my ASL students in my work’s (ASL Master Tutor) site. I don’t know how you amazing writers manage to come up with new topics every single month. And just like professional singers go through – some sing amazing songs and some songs are “eh”. Keep up the great work you’re doing! Cheers…

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