So, for the last twelve months I’ve been hanging out at the Kitchen Table. Not my kitchen table, but Havi Brooks’s Kitchen Table. It’s an awesome place full of incredibly clever, talented, funny and fabulous people who help each other out with their blocks and successes under the beady eye of Selma the Benevolent Despot. And learn wacky techniques for destuckification and biggification, like visualising our stuck parts and talking to them. Yes, really.
Since I’m kind of odd myself (no, no need to be polite, dear reader, I know it’s true), you can see how this would appeal to me. You’ll see how it works if you read Havi’s post about talking to her wall. A wall, for the love of gawd.
But who am I to talk? Lately, I’ve been talking to my stuck about creating art, being an artist, and earning a living at it. You probably won’t be too surprised to learn that my stuck is a goblin. Called Mike.
Okay, actually, he’s not called Mike at all. (He wants you to know that.) But ‘Mike’ is what I call him.
Let me start at the beginning.
*Imagine time-warp music here. No not The Time Warp, just spooky woo-woowy music. Yeah, like that.*
We first did this exercise on a teleclass a year ago. It involves closing your eyes, relaxing and paying attention to the things that you see, hear and feel in your mind and body. That first time I struggled with it; I couldn’t seem to feel/see/hear a block at all. Cue feelings of failure.
Eventually, after several tries, for a very brief moment I saw a sort of hidden face blending into the darkness. Gnarled and part of the background, like a green man, or a goblin, or Old Man Willow. Like when you’re looking at the twisted trunk of an ancient tree and all of a sudden there’s a face there. Look! There’s the mouth and the lumpy nose and two closed eyes…
But then one eye opens. Like that. Yeah. I know.
The eye shut again, and although I pleaded for the face to come back, it just faded back into the blankness in my mind’s eye. Sigh. More feelings of failure and inability to Get It.
*More spooky woo-woowy music as we fast forward to November. Go on, you know you want to.*
I decided to listen to some of the recordings of earlier classes again while I was driving. I like listening while driving. Driving is often a flow state for me because my vision is being occupied by the task at hand, but because that’s mostly automatic, my mind is free to focus inward. I seem to need a lot of visual stimulation, and I struggle to concentrate on audio alone.
Of course, I couldn’t actually close my eyes this time. Because closed eyes while driving is generally considered a Bad Thing. So I had to rely on my inner mind’s eye more than the darkness behind closed lids. I don’t know how that works exactly but you can be looking at something with your eyes, and at the same time, imagining a picture of something quite different. Weird, huh?
Anyway, this time, as I drove along and Havi’s voice talked through the exercise, I got a really clear sense of a block. First I had a very strong feeling that the block was in my solar plexus, with a hollow, slightly queasy feeling.
Then, in my head, I had a strong image of a cube of some matte black stuff kind of just floating in a vacuum. Heavy, black and non-shiny. Afterwards I realised it was very similar to the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but cube like, and much smaller. Maybe a foot square. Floating, turning gently in mid-air. (Yes, you’re thinking WTF? I know. If it’s any comfort, so was I.)
It felt… malevolent. Distinctly dangerous and unpleasant and unhealthy. Sort of evil but without a moral judgement. Malevolent is the best word.
And then I realised that the cube was just a cover story, like a glamour thrown up to disguise what’s really behind it. And beside it, radiating this malevolence was a boy. He was about 9, maybe, with pale skin and dark hair and a flat, closed expression, but staring straight at me with intensely hostile eyes. He was dressed in Sunday best; a dark suit, white shirt, black tie as if going to a funeral. Very Omen-esque. (Which, btw, I’ve never seen but that was the feeling that I got. Damien.)
Anyway, this kid didn’t like me at all. I’m not sure he liked anyone, because that flat, closed face was really unpleasant. And nasty eyes boring into you.
And I said something like, “So, are you the real stuck? Are you the thing about money and art not going together?”
And you know what he said?
“You will fail.”
That’s all. Nothing else. He didn’t move, just stood there, arms by his sides, staring at me in that hostile and vaguely evil way and then he said it again:
“You will fail.”
Unfortunately, that’s also about the time I arrived at work, so I had to leave it there. With Damien-boy staring at me inside my head. Not nice.
But you, my darling readers, do not have to have Damien-boy radiating malevolence at you. Because I could not do it to you. It would be too cruel. So we have one more flash forward to do… all together now:
*woo woo woo woo woo woo woo woo*
A very clever friend at the Kitchen Table pointed out that Damien-boy was from a movie. A movie I hadn’t even seen. A movie that wasn’t my movie. And that it was perfectly justifiable for me to say, “Hey, you’re not part of my movie!”
So I sat down to have a conversation with Damien-boy. But as soon as I conjured him up, he morphed. Yeah, just like that. And instead of the nasty little boy, there was a grinning, capering, big-headed, knobbly-kneed, twisted little goblin.
“Oh ho!” says I. (Actually I didn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever said “Oh ho!” in my life. But it makes a better story, so I’m leaving it in.)
“Oh ho!” says I, again. “Are you the real stuck then? The one who hides in the background and pretends to be an evil little boy disguised as floating box?” (Believe me, I am entirely aware of how bizarre this sounds.)
“Oh ho!” says he. (Of course.) “I might be, and then again I might not. Who are you to ask?”
“Well, since you’re my stuck, I think I should know about it. And anyway, I already know the answer.”
“Stupid question, then, isn’t it?”
His face is twisty and he has a squint.
“But why all the hiding? The morphing and games?”
“Us goblins are tricksy, see? It’s in my nature.”
There are yellow, pointy teeth visible when he grins.
“Oh all right then. So, I guess we do this thing, right? Have a conversation?”
“Conversation shmonversation! You can ask but I don’t have to answer!”
Now he’s capering again, and waggling his rather hairy ears.
“Okay,” I say. (I really did say that) “How about we start with your name?”
“No, no, no! Not so foolish!”
He jumps around shaking his head vigorously.
“Okay. No name. Well, I’m Fi.”
“I know who you are! But foolish, foolish to tell me so quickly!”
He’s shaking his head and looking slightly perturbed.
“Um, hello? You live in my head. I’m doubting there’s much you don’t know about me.”
“True, true! I know it all, all your thoughts and fears and dreams! I know it all.”
A sly look creeps over his face, like he’s sizing me up.
“So, then what’s your name?” (Gotta give me credit for trying.)
“Not going to trick me. I’m the tricksy one!” Another toothy grin.
“So I’m guessing it’s not Rumpelstiltskin then?”
“Too easy, too easy!”
The capering is getting on my nerves a bit now. I do wish he’d sit down like a normal person.
“But if we’re so close, why not tell me?” I reason.
“Names have power. You know that ‘Fi‘!”
“Fine,” I say. “But I have to call you something. If you won’t tell me, I’ll just have to give you a name. Like… Mike. Yeah, that’s it. Mike.”
That’s stopped him capering. He’s looking at me incredulously.
“Seriously?” he squeaks. “I’m a f***ing GOBLIN and you want to call me ‘Mike’? What kind of name is that?!”
“It’s a perfectly good name. I think it suits you.” I’m chuffed that I’ve got the upper hand at last.
“Oh please. Can’t you pick something more impressive? Like, I dunno, Gobblygroot or Punkeratigan or something?”
There’s actually a pained look on his face, as if all his goblin mates are never going to let him live this down.
“No dice, dude. You can tell me your name, or you get what I pick.”
He’s sitting with his huge hands on his knobbly knees, looking depressed and sucking his teeth. Loudly.
“Couldn’t you maybe, add ‘the Magnificent’ on the end? Like ‘Mike the Magnificent’? I could live with that.”
“Nope, sorry. Names have power, Mike. You should know that.”
“Sucks to be me,” says Mike.
“Tell me about it,” says I.