I talk to monsters. Like my Book monster. Or the You’re Not Allowed monster.*

* At first they are very scary but then they’re all schmoo-schmoo-schmoo. Extreme schmoo-ness!

And sometimes I talk to other people’s monsters. It’s kind of one of my superpowers.

Usually just with clients, but every once in a while for one of my students. Let’s call this lovely person Susannah.

Her monsters were going on and on really loudly and in unison about what a completely terrible person she is for not having updated her blog.

It was a collective of monstering. And they would not stop being shout-ey and mean to her. They were creating her writer’s block and making it worse at the same time.

A negotiated conversation with Susannah’s monsters.

I wanted to talk to just one and so I asked for a name, but it turned out they really, really wanted to be all smooshed together.

In fact, they decided that they’re calling themselves MonsterMash. One word. I know. But that’s what they said.

So here we are.

Havi: Hey, Susannah’s monsters, it’s Havi. And Selma the duck. I just want you to know that I’m not going to try and make you go away. I’m sure Susannah hired you for a reason. I just want to get some clarity on what’s going on, okay?

MonsterMash: It’s been almost a MONTH without a post, so clearly she’s profoundly and irreparably broken. Clearly she was never cut out for this writing thing. Clearly she’ll never be able to post again. Clearly

Havi: Clearly you’re feeling really upset and anxious and worried, because you need to know that Susannah is going to be okay.

MonsterMash: Yes but how is she going to be okay when clearly she is such a mess and it’s been a month and there is NO LIGHT at the end of this tunnel!

Havi: That has to feel really frustrating, when you want her to find the way out of the tunnel and she can’t. Do you know why she can’t see the end of the tunnel and the light that’s there?

MonsterMash: Because there is no end there’s only tunnel!!!!!!!!!!!!

What is true?

Havi: Come on, look at her. Look at Susannah. Look at the tunnel. What is true?

MonsterMash: Susannah has her eyes closed.

Havi: That’s right. That’s why she can’t see any light. Do you know why she has her eyes closed?

MonsterMash: Because she feels boxed in. Because I crowded her. I scared her too good.

Havi: You scared her too well. Come on, you’re supposed to be writers.

The monster who thinks there’s no point, again.

MonsterMash: Fuuuuuuunnny. I didn’t mean to scare her. I mean, I did. Okay.

But I didn’t realize that she couldn’t see the light because of me. It doesn’t matter though because there’s no point.

Even if she does start writing, she’ll just realize what a waste of time it is. It’s better for her to let the blog die than to keep it going and make no money from it.

Havi: Who says she can’t make money from it? It’s pretty hard to find out if you won’t let her try.

That’s like a group of scientists running an experiment for five seconds and then deciding that it doesn’t work.

MonsterMash: How can she even think she’ll make money from this? What a joke!

Havi: You sound pretty sure of yourself. Isn’t this kind of one of those “the house always wins” scenarios?

You’ve fixed it so she’s so paralyzed by her own potential that she can’t create, and then you get to say “I told you so” when it doesn’t make money? Does that seem like fair play?

The real world.

MonsterMash: She should get a fair chance, yeah, theoretically. But the real world doesn’t work like that.

Havi: This is her world we’re talking about. I say we play fair.

MonsterMash: Okay, but it doesn’t matter anyway because she’s spent eleventy billion monster dollars on coaching and her attorney, so she’s screwed anyway.

Havi: From what I understand, she’s been getting some pretty shrewd advice from her support team.

And anyway, we already decided that it’s not fair to decide that she can’t make money until she’s had a fair shot. If she had six months with no monster talk, that might be a fair shot, but you guys won’t even give her a minute.

Have you ever tried another way?

MonsterMash: That’s bullshit. She’d be a failure without us too. Even more of one. That’s why we have to yell at her so much and then hide when she tries to talk to us.

Havi: Maybe. But how do you know? Have you ever tried it differently?

MonsterMash: No.

Havi: So …?

MonsterMash: Everyone will find out what a fraud she is!

Havi: You mean, when her people know that she goes through periods of struggle with her writing too?

I think her people will be hugely relieved to discover that. They’ll be able to identify with it.

The only way they could discover that she was a fraud (which she’s not) would be if she pretended to be perfect and to always be in flow. But she’s just being herself.

Uh oh.

MonsterMash: Uh oh that doesn’t sound good.

Havi: Guys, I’ve met Susannah. She’s awesome.

She’s super smart, really funny, very creative and has this wonderfully Susannah-ful way of articulating her thoughts. What is it that you don’t want her to discover? Why is it so important that she not see this?

MonsterMash: It will go to her head.

Havi: What does that mean?

MonsterMash: She’ll just see herself and then she’ll be disconnected.

Havi: But right now she can’t see herself and she’s ALSO disconnected. Isn’t there something in between?

MonsterMash: Hadn’t thought of that.

In between.

Havi: I think there’s something in between.

MonsterMash: Well, if she could see herself in the context of other writers.

If she could see how her being smart and funny helped them find their own smart and funny … that would be okay. It’s just not okay if she does it for herself.

Havi: Do you think she knows that? I mean, that this is your opinion?

MonsterMash: Dunno.

Prank calling.

Havi: If we let her open her eyes, and we helped her back to context, and we gave her room to breathe a little … and gave her permission to begin to feel her way to where it’s lighter…

MonsterMash: Well, don’t say it was our idea.

Havi: I wouldn’t.

MonsterMash: Can we tug her braid and run away?

Havi: What’s wrong with you?

MonsterMash: We need to play pranks when we get restless.

Havi: Okay, let’s go prank call some people. But first let’s give Susannah a giant magic flashlight and some rope and a map to the end of the tunnel, okay?

MonsterMash: PRANK CALLS!!!!

Havi (places giant magic flashlight, rope and map by Susannah’s feet)

And comment zen for today.

Oh, talking to monsters can be so hard and so painful.

I don’t at all mean to imply that it’s easy because it’s not. It really does take a lot of practice.** And you’ll want some negotiators too.

** See also my monster coloring book for extra help.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. And we try to meet each other with as much understanding as we can stand, which means we can talk about what works for us but we try not to give advice, unless someone specifically asks for it.

If you have loving words for Susannah, or if your monsters also like to make prank calls (or not — some monsters don’t even like cookies), you’re more than welcome to share. Internet hugs all around.

The Fluent Self