You can talk back, you know. In fact, you can invite dialogue. Here are some ideas for how to have a conversation with your inner bully.
Creative people tend to be well acquainted with this character, who can play a too-important role in their interior lives.
In my book, FLOAT • Becoming Unstuck for Writers, I look at the inner bully with a tool I named Objection, Your Honor! The idea there is to formulate considered responses to your inner bully, troll, or monster. Then you can keep those responses handy, for when you really need them.
I’ve had coaching clients make little signs that they post near their writing desk or on their laptop or notebook.
That way, when the inner bully starts up again with
- “Who do you think you are?” or
- “Seriously? You know you’ll never get this right!”
or other such undermining and negative statements, the writer is ready to stop the bully in its tracks.
Who do I think I am? I’m the person writing this book, that’s who. And I’m uniquely qualified to do it.
I’ll never get this right? How can you possibly know what will happen before I’ve completed this project? Take a hike, and I’ll get back to you later.
Self, meet Bully. Bully, meet Self.
Keeping those prompts handy for you when the bullies, trolls, and monsters threaten to bring your creative momentum to a screeching halt is a super idea. And in this blog post, we’re taking it a step further. What if you and your inner bully can cultivate a conversation?
Now, before you get carried away with the “That’s crazy talk” responses, consider two things:
- Do you recognize the voice telling you it’s “crazy talk”? Is that your inner bully’s voice?
- You’re a writer, right? You develop characters, settings, and plots, right? Isn’t having imaginary conversations part of your skillset? I thought so.
OK. We’ve got that out of the way.
Just another part
Next, consider that the bully is a part of you. For life. Just another part. Like the well-behaved part. The rebellious kid part. The animal-lover part. The solitary part. The sociable part. You get the idea. The bully might just be one among the many members of your inner cast of characters.
Consider, further, that all your parts basically want you to be well. They’re all doing what they can to take care of you, so you can survive in the world.
Interview with the bully
Hypothetically, let’s assume that’s true. So, then, what questions might you ask your bully? Here are a few ideas, to get started.
How’s it going?
What are you worried about?
When you say “Who do you think you are?” to me, what’s on your mind? Are you trying to discourage me from my project, or is there some other reason you say it?
If you could teach me something, what would that be?
In other words, with an open mind, consider interviewing your bully. Consider learning how to have a conversation with your inner bully.
Keep writing tools handy – notepaper and pen, laptop, Evernote, or your tools of choice. Write down the questions and answers uncritically. (Most of us are well-acquainted with our inner editor, as well – but that’s a blog post for another day.)
This is a fun exercise, with no right or wrong answers. Give it a spin. Discover how to have a conversation with your inner bully. You may find it habit-forming, because of the benefits this practice brings to your creative life.