Do you remember when there was a monster under your bed? It was a nocturnal monster so you only had to worry about it at night, which is when you want to go to bed. So after brushing your teeth you know you have the task of getting into your bed without the monster reaching out and grabbing your leg just before you climb to safety. I’m not really sure why the monster stayed under the bed, maybe it didn’t have any legs, just strong grabbing arms with fingers long enough to wrap all the way around your ankle and of course a mouth big enough to swallow you whole once he caught you. He also had eyes that could only see in the dark, watching for the moment you stepped into his reach each night.
So in order to thwart the legless monster you would take a running leap onto your bed, wary that you didn’t slam into the wall or fall off the other side, but even more careful that no part of you was going to be left hanging off the bed within his reach. This ritualistic escape from death continued for years. But do you remember when the monster moved out?
It’s still a mystery how the monster left without any legs, maybe he actually starved to death instead. But every once in a while you would notice that he didn’t grab you when he had the chance. Those nights when your roommate sibling beat you into bed, insisting that it was your turn to turn off the light. Then after the lengthy argument you decided to prove how mature you were, so you turned off the light. Then you walked through the darkness to your bed rather than jumping, just to prove that there is no reason why it won’t be his or her turn to turn off the light the next night.
Maybe the monster just wasn’t prepared, you caught him off guard that night, or he had already died of starvation. But you realize little by little that the monster didn’t take his opportunities, and then at some point you just knew that he wasn’t there. It isn’t because you checked under your bed, because he has avoided detection by that tactic before. It’s because you didn’t leap with fear.
We all have monsters hiding somewhere, even as adults or pretend adults, or whatever stage you might be in. We might not call them monsters anymore, but either way it’s something we are afraid of. So we leap past them to ensure that we don’t get caught. But this will make the monster more desperate and alert, so we need to be that much more careful and artful in our leaping. Jumping higher or running faster, your only defense is to get past the monster as fast as possible.
Every night you jumped the three feet into bed you knew there was a monster that missed you because you had evaded him. But after the nights that you walked to bed he disappeared. As long as you were jumping to safety there was a danger. But the moment that you forced yourself to walk calmly there was nothing there. Almost as if the very act of you not avoiding him made him leave.
What if adult monsters are the same way, and as long as you avoid them they are lurking around the corner, waiting for you to have a weak take off on your leap? If you purposefully give your fear a chance to gobble you up will it take it?
A huge part of being scared is not knowing, but there’s a simple solution for that. If you’re sure that a monster might grab your ankle, you can always give it the chance and find out if it really will. Isn’t it better for it to happen when you’re prepared rather than when you’re being snagged out of the air mid-leap? When you take a calm step you suddenly know that the monster isn’t grabbing you, and as you keep going you discover that he has disappeared entirely.
In writing, one of the scariest things is writing the parts you haven’t figured out yet or even worse is rewriting, getting feedback and working out the plot holes. We want to leap past all of this hard and scary stuff and fantasize about when our story is sweeping through everyone’s home and being made into movies, t-shirts, and other forms of merchandise. But that’s skipping all of the calm steps to get there that will make all of that a possibility and allow us to triumph over the fear in writing. Essentially trying to jump past the monster and hope that we don’t get snagged out of the air.
Every hobby, career, and lifestyle has these monsters we want to rush by. Sometimes we just want to get to the end of the day and so we hurry through till we finally make it to bed. But it was the little steps along the way that made the day and if we had slowed enough to take those steps we might have enjoyed them more and realized there was really no monster at all.
My vote is to kill all of the monsters, the childish ones and the adult ones. Either by starving them or discovering that they really aren’t there. I could be wrong, but it might be safer for us to take calm steps rather than uncontrolled leaps in the dark.
What are your monsters? What calm steps are you brave enough to take?