I follow a writer on Twitter who is usually hilarious and fun, but sometimes she talks about her Monster. This is a thing that sits on her shoulder and tells her that her work is no good and that she’s bound to fail, and I recognized this immediately. I’m not sure if this is something that artistic types are particularly prone to, or if it’s just another facet of the human condition, but I have a monster too. It was amazing (but not necessarily in a good way) to hear (well, read) another person put things in the same way I have imagined them.
Because I found that helpful, I thought I’d write a little about my monster today.
My monster doesn’t sit on my shoulder. It is coiled around my heart and soul. It is a shiny black with jagged scales and sometimes it squeezes. On those days when my monster feels like constricting (and I have never really understood why it does) it makes me feel that I can’t write, that I’m not a very good person, and that I really can’t do much of anything. I’m old. Slow. Stupid. Not worth being around. Sometimes it squeezes a little. Sometimes it really bears down.
On days like these, doing anything is difficult because everything hurts. I don’t always get as much done on those days as I would like, and I’m not always the easiest to be around I guess. If you’ve run into me on one of these days (which you probably haven’t, because I tend not to be out and about on them) then I apologize. It’s not an excuse, but I’m doing my best. I try to remember, when someone else doesn’t treat me real well, that they’re probably doing their best on a tough day, too.
It doesn’t bother me every day. A lot of times I don’t think of it at all, and there are times when it can’t get me. When I’m writing something and the ideas are flowing, it can’t touch me. The monster doesn’t like endorphins, so exercise can make it go away, for a while – although it tries to persuade me this is a bad idea that won’t work. I know it’s wrong. And then there are some days when, for reasons I don’t understand, it just doesn’t do much. I take them when I get them.
I know my monster pretty well, by this point in my life. I can (usually) recognize when it’s at work, which doesn’t necessarily make it less painful, but if I know what the situation is, I know how to cope a bit. Pet the cats. Listen to the blues. Give myself a break. I know these are things that help.
I also know the monster will not win. All it can do is squeeze, and as much as that hurts, some days to the point where it seems like all I can do is hang on and wait for it to end, I know that if I do hang on, it will end and I will still be here. Then I will run and write and enjoy time with people I love and walk in the woods again.
I also know that I’m not unique in feeling these things, which helps a little. Some of the most brilliant, beautiful people I have met turned out to have their own Monsters once I got to know them well enough. It isn’t just me. It isn’t just you, if you’re reading this, and happen to have one of your own.
I know that I am ultimately stronger than my monster.
You’re stronger than yours, whatever it looks like.
We’ll overcome them and do wonderful things.
I’ll, uh, try to have something a little lighter for you next week.
My publishers at Renaissance Press are running a Kickstarter for a game called Blush that teaches about sexual health. It’s a cool project and I know they’d be grateful for your support.