The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Drunken Monkey

Any thoughts on how to turn the internal editor's voice OFF? I can usually (sometimes) keep mine in check while I'm writing, but when I'm revising or just sitting around, that nasty voice whispers in my ear incessantly, denigrating what I've done.

I'm in the process of doing The Artist's Way, which is helping, but any advice would be great ...
Elsie--THANK YOU for the excellent question.  Keep 'em coming, guys--THIS is why I wanted to create this blog.  Right now, you guys are making me happy, happy, happy.

Apparently, the term "Drunken Monkey", which I always assumed was chinese, is actually Indian Buddhist in derivation.  Whereever it comes from, the term deals with the voice in your head (what my good friend and mentor Tim Piering refers to as the "Radio Voice".)  It is a compilation of negative (and, sometimes, positive) "stuff" accumulated over the course of our lives.  Listen very closely.  Go ahead.  Close your eyes and listen to the voice for thirty seconds, andthen come back.
Did you hear the voice in your head saying "what voice?  I don't hear a voice!"  That was it.  One of hte most important things you can do to reach your excellence as a human being is to learn to differentiate between your deep inner wisdom and your Drunken Monkey.  It just chatters and leaps from idea to idea, never letting you complete the steps that would actually improve your life.  here are some ideas.
1) Adapt the attitude taht the voices are not you.  Begin to listen for them in different situations, especially situations that trigger fear or discomfort. 
2) Meditate.  One of the core values of meditation is to help you separate from the cries of your trivial wants, needs,and fears.  Sit quietly, listening to your heartbeat.  Thoughts will enter your mind.  Just watch them--don't attach to them.  Feel as if you are sitting on a riverbank watching logs float by.  The logs are thoughts.  No blame, don't think you are "blowing it"--that is another weapon your ego uses to keep you mired!  Research other forms of meditation.
3)  Study the flow state.  running, dancing, making love, the "hypnogogic" state of twilight sleep , or the first few minutes after you wake up--all are doorways to Flow.  In flow state, the inner voices get quiet and distant.  Put "Flow" into Google and see what resrouces you can find.
4)  Remember that there are two completely different states connected to writing: the "Flow" state where you  create, and the "editing" state where you judge what you have done.  Writer's Block is a confusion of these two states--the editor is speaking up at an inappropriate time!   You might try alternating: writing one day, editing the next.  AND DON'T MIX THEM.  Think of is as a discipline.  Believe me, this exact same "voice" devils you in other arenas of your life. Slay the dragon in ANY arena of your life, and you strengthen yourself everywhere.
Please feel free to ask more questions about this subject here, on on my bullitin board.

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