I’ve been listening to Danny Gregory’s “Shut Your Monkey” podcasts. The monkey is Gregory’s name for the voice in his head that is always protesting or warning him not to do something, the voice I think of as my inner critic.
You may have heard this voice yourself. It’s the voice that tells you you’re too old to start piano lessons, don’t have enough time to take a painting class, should never sing because you’re tone deaf, and have more important things to do than write a short story.
Gregory’s book and podcast are both about recognizing and overcoming this voice. In December of 2014, I first came across the online drawing classes offered by Sketchbook Skool. Danny Gregory is one of the founders, so it’s both surprising and fitting that, when I wasn’t sure if I should sign up for a class, I used writing to deal with the monkey’s paralyzing voice.
I’ve been interested in drawing since I was a kid, but I rarely let myself draw. My monkey is always there, pointing out that my drawing is never as good as someone else’s. When I think I just need more practice, the monkey argues that I will never be good enough and that all the time I spend sketching is wasted.
This voice was so loud as I agonized over whether or not to take the SBS Klass “Beginnings,” that I got out an art journal and gave both my inner artist and my monkey space to have their say.
By the time I had finished, I knew the truth: my monkey was afraid — afraid of everything and anything, but really, that was all that was holding me back. Fear.
Fear of failure, fear of making a mistake, fear of getting laughed at, fear of not being good enough. Underneath all the warnings and predictions, my monkey was saying, “I’m afraid.”
My inner artist’s voice was about wanting something I’ve wanted for a long time. It said, “I want” with deep, heartfelt longing. And my frightened monkey yelled back, “Too bad! You can’t have it!”
In the past, the thought that I might be wasting time or money was enough to hold me back. Understanding that these arguments were based on fear changed everything for me.
I don’t want to live a life built on fear. It’s a cold, limited, drab life. Better to take the risk, so I did. I signed up for SBS and took my first Klass in January 2015.
Looking at everything the voices in my head were saying helped me to shut my monkey. I listened to my monkey rant until he ran out of things to say, then I took the class anyway.
Do you have a monkey/inner critic? Have you found ways to get past its warnings and distractions so you can do the creative work you dream of? Please share your monkey stories here.