Sometimes you really, really, really want to make some progress on a project.

But then you don’t.

And sometimes this state of Whoa This Is Really Not Happening is related to the fact that the some part of the project itself is kind of scaring you. Like maybe its existence, for example.

(Tiny little popsicle stick reminder here that avoidance is normal! And it always makes sense even when it doesn’t.)

Anyway, this is where proxying comes in.


Proxying is the sneakiest way of working on a project that I know of.

It is sneakier even than the OOD and sneakier than metaphor mousing.

It is outrageously sneaky.

Because you’re basically pretending to work on something else.

Something else that doesn’t scare you even slightly.

But that something else is a proxy. It’s a Secret Stand-In for the thing you really do want to make progress on.

Let’s say you want to write a novel.

What?! What?!

Instant monster freakouts ensue. Total paralysis! Devastating attacks of WDYTYA.*

* Who Do You Think You Are: one of the monsters we negotiate with in the Monster Coloring Book.

So you pretend that you don’t want to write a novel.

And instead you’re just going to ___________________ instead.

Lalala! I’m not writing a novel. Just kidding, monsters! I’m learning how to play chess. See?

And then you problem-solve for learning how to play chess. Assuming that learning how to play chess doesn’t scare you. (If it does, you’re going to need another proxy.)

But either way: you’re actually problem-solving for your secret project.

Like this:

  • Hmmm, what steps might need to happen in order for me to learn how to PLAY CHESS?
  • Who are my allies and resources going to be when I am learning to PLAY CHESS?
  • I wonder what challenges I might run into once I start PLAYING CHESS.
  • How can I move around my schedule to create pockets of time for learning to PLAY CHESS.
  • How will I know when I’m ready to PLAY CHESS with other people and let them watch while I’m playing?
  • How will I make sure that I feel safe, supported, sovereign and all the other things I want to feel while learning about CHESS?

(You don’t have to shout your proxy, but I like to say mine extra-loud for the benefit of the monsters…)

I did this at the last Rally.

Actually, I proxy almost all of my projects at Rally (Rally!).

But I was taking some notes about the giant project of producing a dvd, which is the latest thing completely terrifying me right now.

I was feeling so intimidated. I couldn’t even say it without having a coughing fit, which is a sure sign that a proxy is in order.

And my monsters were laughing so hard at the idea of me doing this that they were choking a little too.

So I proxied it.

Lalala! I’m not making a dvd! I’m just compiling some business advice to give my friend for her food cart venture…

And then I came up with a list of tips I could give her for setting up her FOOD CART (see? see?).

Things she’d want to keep in mind. Possible first steps. Stuff to look out for.

It was pretty obvious how most of them translated to the real project, but it was all in secret code. Take that!

If you’re not sure when to use a proxy…

Let’s see.

When you start to think about a project and:

  • you can’t say it out loud
  • you break out in hives
  • you hit a wall
  • you suddenly want to go to sleep
  • you urgently have to look up that one Hall and Oates song right this minute
  • ohmygod if you don’t get to eat a popsicle and then clean under the fridge, the whole world is going to fall apart….

Well, in that case you probably want a proxy.

Lalala! I’m not launching a website! I’m studying octopi and their mating habits! No worries. Nothing to see here.

Why proxying is so magical. And sneaky. Mostly sneaky.

Your monsters and sad, scared selves and internal programming all want to keep you safe.

It’s a full-time job, and it’s a lot of work. They’re pretty exhausted. They want a break from scaring you almost as much as you want a break from being stressed out, but they can’t stop because you keep considering these projects of Doom.

But when you choose something for your proxy that doesn’t threaten to bring your shining radiance into the world…

Lalala! I’m not creating a product! I’m just documenting stuff about gardening.

Yawn. Snore. Your monsters are all asleep.

They’re so bored. There’s nothing to do!

They could try to bug you with “why are you wasting your time on this?!” but usually they’re just relieved you’ve backed off that Giant Scary Project of Doom you were so rashly and recklessly considering.

They poke their heads out and find you aren’t doing anything hazardous. Phew. Now they can take a break.

Lalala! I’m not planning a vacation! Me? I’m just going to write some notes about the history of California.

Tips for proxying!

Obviously, we are invoking the People Vary rule, so you may have to experiment and find out what works for you.

Often it helps if the proxy project is something you do all the time and is not-stressful for you.

Or you might try having a proxy project that’s completely preposterous so the proxying itself can turn into a goofball creative writing practice

You might always use the same proxy. Or you might have a box of them. Foxy hydroxy proxies.

There is no way to proxy wrong (that’s for your “You’re probably doing it wrong!” monster), but there is a lot of room for experimentation and trying stuff.

The main thing is that this is a form of playing. So we play.

Play with me? And comment zen for today.

This is definitely an advanced practice — it can take some time to get used to.

As always: we all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We make space for everyone else to have their stuff, and we take responsibility for our experience here.

We do this through agreeing to not give each other unsolicited advice, and by paying attention to what we need.

If you want to play in the comments with this theme of proxying, that would be lovely.

We can brainstorm Silly Proxies, ask clarifying questions, come up with examples or start proxying. Whatever you like.

Love to the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads.

p.s. It’s Plum Duff days! Through Thursday morning.

Plum Duff! A special occasion and the thing sailors looked forward to most at sea.

(This one time? A ship-wide riot because the cook didn’t add molasses.)

Anyway. It’s officially Plum Duff time from now until Thursday morning or as supplies last (password = extraraisins).

The Fluent Self