Hey everyone! I’m starting a new series of book review posts. There’s a bunch of inspiring books on creativity stacked on my nightstand, and I thought it’d be helpful as I read through them to share some highlights with you. It'll let me sort out and apply their lessons while letting you know why I think you’d LOVE these books!
I’m kicking things off with a book that I know some of my friends are excited about: Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Done by Danny Gregory. I snapped this sucker right off the bookstore shelf during one of my ‘I need help with procrastination’ moods. Now I’m really glad I did! I'd recommend this book to every creative person out there, especially those who struggle with being their own worst critic.
Author Danny Gregory refers to the negative voice inside your head as "The Monkey." The monkey picks apart all of your new ideas, then tells you that you suck. It says that you shouldn’t even try, and then distracts you from getting anything done. We all have this voice inside our heads, and for me, it’s really hard to shut it up. My monkey got the better of me in 2016, which is why I've struggled so much with productivity and motivation. But this year I’m silencing that damn simian once and for all, and so should you.
There’s a lot of relatable content in this book, and it provides for a fun and quick read. The sections on perfectionism and overthinking stood out the most in relation to my inner critic, and I thought the advice was very helpful.
If you’ve been following along with my previous posts, then you’ve noticed I have a huge problem with perfectionism. Gregory talks about perfectionism quite a bit in the book. Your monkey insists you do everything perfectly, but will make sure perfection is always just out of your reach. My monkey nitpicks everything I do, and if my work isn’t 100% perfect it tells me I suck and should just give up.
What Gregory says might seem like common sense when you read it, but I struggle to remember it whenever perfectionism starts to take hold of me: When you try something for the first time, you’re more likely to fail because you don’t know the rules, don’t have the tools, and haven’t failed enough to learn the lessons. Perfection isn’t natural; it’s boring, so be more realistic with your capabilities. Even the Mona Lisa has cracks. Maybe you’re just a flawed major masterpiece (to me, this was the most powerful phrase from Shut your Monkey).
Another area of self-criticism I struggle with is thinking too much and not actually doing. My monkey makes me procrastinate, telling me to forget about that new idea I have and instead go hang out on the couch to watch some trashy TV and eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. It says tomorrow is another day, and that great idea I have can just wait.
Gregory’s advice for silencing the moneky this time? Beat it with the habit of work. Don’t focus on the results, just focus on being productive. Work hard and give yourself a sense of purpose. A lame idea beats no idea every time. Just make something, anything.
Ok, so I shared just a SMALL snippet from Shut Your Monkey, and I could go on and on about how helpful and relevant this read is for creatives, but I don’t want to give away all of Gregory’s good advice! I highly recommend checking this book out if you can. Not only is it a quick read, but also I find myself going back to specific sections to re-read whenever I’m in a creative funk. It’s a mini mood booster and a tiny shot of confidence (just look at all these great reivews). See if your local library has a copy, or pick it up here. And please let me know what you think after reading it by leaving a comment below!