Chimps, writing, and the funky monkey mind

Cheetah, a chimp, feels competitive with all the monkeys who are also trying to write "Hamlet"

Writers are usually very bright people with very active minds, and the words that flow onto the page are wonderful representations and distillations of that inspired cranial activity. But sometimes this dynamic inner festival of thought takes a funky turn and up jumps the monkey mind.

The Infinite Monkey Theorem states that, given a typewriter and enough time, a monkey  will eventually write Hamlet. Possibly so, but with no disrespect intended to our capable primate cousins, when I use the term “monkey mind,” I am referring to the less brilliant and more chaotic jags of thought that can arise and interfere with your writing.

Here are some ideas for taming the wild, inner monkey:

Generate a short list of the dominant thoughts about writing that populate your mental universe, and notice how frequently they pop up in your mind during the day. With practice you will get better at this.

When you notice you are procrastinating, for instance, shift your attention to what you are feeling and thinking. Catch your mental processes in the act, without judging yourself, and study them. Be curious about your astonishing mind.

Can you pinpoint the inner voices most responsible for your difficulties? Are you able to see how these voices might be exaggerated, inaccurate, or distorted? How do these thoughts sound if you say them out loud, or to another person? Which thoughts assist you in maintaining consistent writing, or returning to writing?

The goal is to develop the ability to observe and recognize thoughts as just being thoughts, and feelings as being nothing more than feelings. Watch them come into your field of awareness, then let them fly away like monkeys swinging through trees in the jungle of your mind.

Breathe deeply, then go back to writing. If  a chimp can do it, so can you.

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About David Arnot Rasch

Author, psychologist, speaker, workshop leader
This entry was posted in Common Writing Block Problems, Famous writers, Tips for overcoming writer's block and procrastination and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Chimps, writing, and the funky monkey mind

  1. Thanks David! I introduced my community college freshman writing classes with the barrel of Monkeys game and the idea of monkey mind.

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