One Way I Shut My Monkey

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.


Published by

Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

4 thoughts on “One Way I Shut My Monkey”

  1. Wonderful that you found Danny and SBS, he is a great encourager of getting rid of the monkey. Letting the monkey have its rant was a innovative way to sort your way past your fear. For me, the inner monkey is holding me back from taking the next step in my art, and I think fear is playing a big part in that. Maybe I need to let my monkey have a rant…..thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let me know if writing helps you get past your monkey. Don’t give up on your dreams. We’re supposed to take risks with our art. Good luck!


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