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.