Book of Doubts & Demons (and Sometimes Rebuttals)


In Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott provided some auspicious advice about quieting negative voices in your head so that you can get down to work (among many other things; if you want to/already write, I cannot recommend her book highly enough).

“Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on. Drop any high-maintenance parental units, drop in any contractors, lawyers, colleagues, children, anyone who is whining in your head.

“Then put the lid on, and watch all these mouse people clawing at the glass, jabbering away, trying to make you feel like shit because you won’t do what they want—won’t give them more money, won’t be more successful, won’t see them more often.

“Then imagine that there is a volume-control button on the bottle. Turn it all the way up for a minute, and listen to the stream of angry, neglected, guilt-mongering voices. Then turn it all the way down and watch the frantic mice lunge at the glass, trying to get at you. Leave it down, and get back to your shitty first draft.”

I really loved her advice, but most of the negativity in my head is not typically from the voices of specific other people.  So, I revised the plan.  Instead, I am going to battle the words themselves, on my territory – the page.  For this reason, I have created a Book of Doubts & Demons (and Sometimes Rebuttals).
I started this Book of Doubts & Demons and wrote the first fifteen entries on Sunday.  Given its personal nature, I was unsure that I wanted to share it with other people, but perhaps the idea could be useful for someone else.  I’m interested to hear your techniques too!  How do you moderate your own interior trolls?

Additionally, I’m trying to complement the book with mindfulness exercises (awareness, sustained attention, focus on the present, and especially – nonjudgmental acceptance).  I highly recommend this Yale course (Human Emotion 18.2: Emotions and Health II (Mindfulness)) by professor Jane Gruber if you would like to learn more about that also.