Monday, 10 August 2009
Here be Monsters
A six tonne, 40-foot predator roared at me the other day. I could smell its meaty breath as it bore down on me, its razor-sharp teeth the size of bananas ready to slash me to pieces. OK, I may be exaggerating about the breath and the bad intentions – but I really was that close to it, even if it was just an animatronic T Rex made of steel and latex. It was part of the stunning show Walking with Dinosaurs at the O2 centre in London. Having dinosaur mad children is not essential and I urge anyone who’s been hesitating to buy a ticket straight away.
But watching these huge, realistic beasts close up got me thinking about the nature of monsters. Namely, how easy it is to start thinking they’re waiting behind corners in real life. I’ll explain. I’ve been fretting about a particular work project for several weeks now. I felt out of my depth in the subject matter and had to do a fair amount of bluffing to turn it out, all the while worrying that I was going to be ‘found out’ and shown up in front of respected peers. It’s been a constant low hum of anxiety in my brain and yet it all ended up just fine. You could argue that I needed the adrenaline to ensure I gave it my all. But did it really help to worry so much? I doubt it.
And then there are other ‘monsters’ hovering at the edge of my consciousness. Like, what happens if my second children’s novel – currently being read in full by an agent – goes nowhere, like the first? Will I have to give up and take up a different hobby, like knitting jumpers with dinosaurs on the front? That beast has been too scary for me to look in the eye but that gives it half its power. You’ll have heard the phrase used in writing circles, ‘kill your darlings’. Well, I’m proposing that you spend some time slaying your monsters. Start right now. Whether it’s, ‘I’d love to do something with that story idea, but I’ll only muck it up’, or, ‘I’d like to try writing a novel, but the commitment scares me,’ or even, ‘I wish I could tell my family to give me space to write,’ why don’t you just walk right up to the monster, and roar right back at it? You never know, you might start seeing where the strings were hidden all along.