I talk to my monsters. Kind of a lot.
Last week I talked to the one who doesn’t want me to go on Skabbatical. This time: an especially bizarre conversation with the most giant monster of all: Book Monster.
Usually I get a Negotiator to show up. But the only one who is intimidated by my book is me.
So it was clear that I’d need to do the negotiating on this one because no one else can even see this monster.
Also: usually my book monsters are the scariest, most doom-filled, threatening, “you don’t deserve this and you’re not good enough and everyone will hate you and you will FAIL” monsters ever, but that’s not at all what happened. Anyway.
A very unlikely beginning.
Me: So. What happens if I write the book?
Monster: Gaaaaaaaaah. Disaster!
Me: Tell me more.
Monster: (sighs) Where do I even start? First of all, you’ll get fat.
Me: Huh?!?! Where did that come from?
Monster: Look at all your friends who gained weight like crazy while working on their books. It’s like a pregnancy, but worse. Especially since no one ever says, “oh, you’re eating for two” when you’re writing a book.
Me: (cracking up) You’re kidding, right? That’s what you’re worried about? You know, I wasn’t sure what you were going to come up with but I DEFINITELY wasn’t expecting that. Really? That’s my fear about writing a book? That I’ll gain weight?!
My monsters like to know that there’s a plan.
Monster: (tries to be menacing) And never take it off! And you won’t get any sympathy! From anyone!
Me: You know, I have to say … I’m not completely sure I believe you. I think you’re probably trying to distract me. But I did write a section in the monster manual about how it’s good to treat monster objections as if they’re legitimate. So … okayyyyyy.
Me: Alright. Can we come up with a plan for this?
Monster: What kind of plan?
Me: I don’t know. What if we walk for 45 minutes after every hour of spending time on the book?
Monster: That would be good.
Me: So what, you’re not worried?
Monster: Not if you have a plan.
Me: This is really screwed up.
Monster: Just tell me you have a plan.
Me: Alright! Good to know. I have a plan. What’s next? Give me some more objections. Why is this book a Very Disastrous Thing To Be Avoided?
Monster: You’ll turn into an annoying pompous asshat once you’ve been published.
Me: You believe that?
Monster: No. But it happened to so-and-so. And also that one person.
Me: Okay. I’ll come up with a plan for that one too. Actually, I’m pretty sure there is something about that in my Pirate Queen Vacation notes.
Ah. Here comes the Doom!
Me: So what else? What do I need to be worried about, in your opinion?
Monster: (frowns seriously) You might not finish it. You do, after all, come from a long line of people who don’t finish things. It’s your heritage.
Me: First of all, that’s hardly true. And even if it were, what happens if I don’t finish it? What’s the big deal about not finishing?
Monster: DISASTER!!! DOOM!!!
Me: I know, I know, but what kind of disaster? Is it the shame and humiliation I should be worried about? Or other people’s criticism? Or self-doubt? Or is it that I’ll get paralyzed and won’t start other
projects missions? Or the world will have expectations of me that I can’t meet? Or …?
Monster: All of that.
Me: And … what if I’m okay with the possibility of not finishing it?
Monster: What?! WHAT?! Are you trying to break my head into a million pieces?! I do not even understand your question but I DEFINITELY DON’T LIKE IT.
This is The Book we’re talking about.
Me: So you’re saying it’s unacceptable to not finish things? Or, alternately, do you meant that it is impossible that I’d be okay with it?
Pause. We look at each other.
Monster: But more the second one. I just don’t see it. Why would you be okay with it?!
(That last bit said with such utter disgust you’d think I’d not only suggested eating worms but insisted that putting olive oil on them makes them more tasty).
Monster: Anyway, I wouldn’t let you be okay with it.
Me: I know. That’s why we’re having this conversation.
Monster: Which I didn’t want to have to begin with.
Me: I know, honey. And I appreciate it. Thank you.
Monster: Hmmph. Don’t try to be nice to me. It disrupts the order of the cosmos.
Me: Clearly. Anyway, why are you so determined to not let me be okay with starting a mission and not finishing it?
Monster: Are you kidding me?! This is The Book we’re talking about. The Book! If you start being okay with abandoning your dreams, we’ll have total chaos around here. End of Days! Doom!
Tell me more.
Me: Tell me more.
Monster: If you abandon a dream, it sticks up the works.
Me: The “works”? Are you speaking metaphorically.
Monster: Maybe. The point is, you really shouldn’t abandon dreams. It’s very bad for the system.
Me: The system.
Monster: My job is to make sure you don’t abandon the important dreams. But also that you don’t make progress on them. That way at least we maintain the status quo.
Me: Riiiiiiiiight. I have to say, this conversation isn’t going where I thought it might. Let me get this straight. You need to keep me from forward progress on dreams. While still making sure I don’t abandon them.
Me: And tell me again why this is so important.
Monster: Oof. I told you.
Me: You said abandoning a dream sticks up the works. But what about moving forward? That sticks up the works too?
Monster: (extremely agitated) It disrupts the balance!
What do I know about balance?
Me: And balance is important because …?
Monster: What the hell kind of yoga teacher are you? Balance is an Extremely Important Principle!
Me: You’re right, at its essence. But this isn’t balance. It’s limbo. It’s living in limbo. Though this does kind of explain a lot of things in my life.
Monster: (suspicious) Limbo? Like sticks?
Me: No, like purgatory. Frozen. Paralyzed. In between.
Monster: (relieved) That’s what we’re going for, yes.
Me: But that’s not balance.
Monster: (narrows eyes) What do you mean?
Me: I’m a yoga teacher, remember? So I know about this stuff. Balance is related to flow. Things that are in a state of flow can achieve balance, which they do by reacting and adapting to new input. Paralysis isn’t balance. It’s stasis. It’s stagnation.
Monster: What are you saying?
Me: You’re not helping me achieve balance. You’re keeping me from achieving balance.
Monster: Oh no! Are you sure?
Monster: Uh oh. Because I’m definitely supposed to be working in service of balance.
Remember San Francisco?
Me: Remember San Francisco? How the buildings are flexible instead of rigid so they can withstand earthquakes? That is balance.
Monster: (hangs head) Oh.
Me: Okay, so back to The Book. Assuming I’m in a state of balance that is informed by flexibility and flow … what if I start the book and then realize that another mission is actually a better use of my genius right now?
Monster: Where are you going with this?
Me: Well, maybe that wouldn’t count as “abandoning a dream”, would it?
Monster: I guess not. I hadn’t thought about it.
Me: So what if I stop treating the book like a dream that has the power to hurt me? And start treating it like a
project mission that is related to stuff I’m passionate about?
Monster: I don’t know. That sounds really vague. And stupid.
Me: Alright. What if we invited metaphor mouse to help come up with a better way to describe it?
Monster: (rolls eyes) As long as I don’t have to be there for that part, I don’t care.
Me: Right on.
Monster: Are we done? Can I go home now?
Me: Home? Where’s home?
Monster: The dream factory.
Me: You live in a dream factory?
Monster: The dream factory. What’s it to you?
Me: You know, usually I really dislike talking to you, but I think I’m kind of starting to like you.
Monster: You better not try to hug me or say namaste to me or something. You pull any of that hippie shit and this is our last conversation ever, sister.
Me: It’s cool. No hugging. I promise.
Monster: That was close.
Me: It so was not even slightly close but whatever, I’ll see you later.
Comment zen for today.
Talking to monsters is so hard. And challenging. And intimidating.
We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We’re here to support each other. And part of how we let people have their own experience is by not giving advice — unless someone specifically asks for it.
This is an incredibly personal thing I’m sharing here — not to be told what to do with it, but in the hope that someone else gets a glimpse of something useful. Love, as always, to all the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads.