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Doris, Fred, and the Office in my Head

(Selfie taken right before hitting the studio as an on-camera host)

"Don’t post that. It’s not ready. It’s incoherent. The title is horrible. No one will understand it. Wait until it’s perfect."

Fear, excuse, excuse, fear, fear, excuse.

Meet my fear-based inner monologue. I've named him Fred.

I can explain. My sister and I have this ongoing bit about the secretary in our brain named Doris—you know, the one who wears sixties style glasses, smokes a cigarette, and occasionally gets the files mixed up.

Doris is bright, kind, and supportive. The problem is, she shares her office with Fred (the ego), and that guy is….ahem. Well, let’s just say he needs constant management. Fred is negativity, resistance, and fear rolled into one.

Doris loves the thought of writing a blog about surviving life as a freelance entertainer! As project managers go, she’s perfectly organized, chooses helpful books, oversees the research, and cheers me on.

But then…

Oh, hey, here comes Fred again. He hates the blog idea and thinks it’s probably a waste of time. He doesn’t feel that I’m qualified, or “ready” yet.

“You get scared when they ask you to pack dance shoes for auditions”, he states flatly. “Now you’re a writer?”

You know what interests Fred? The financial report. But he still seems to have time to stop by Doris’ desk and chat about what’s happening on Facebook. Next week he will appear to fall in love and get very little done at the office…he’s just a horrible employee, really.

We get it, Fred. It’s been twenty-four hours since she’s written.

At the end of the day, though, I’m the boss. Like any employee, he needs to be managed. After all, he works for me, right?


I monitor my thoughts like a Cartier surveillance guy--like thousands of dollars are at stake. State of mind is more precious than diamonds, and I want a top-notch system in place to protect it from Fred’s ‘bull’ in the proverbial china shop.

This slightly schizophrenic-sounding observation of one’s own thoughts is called “watching the thinker”, a concept discussed in the writings of Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now). As artists and performers, “watching the thinker” can be invaluably applied to our benefit in regards to the thoughts we generate about our own work.

Too often, our inner monologue (Fred’s knee-jerk, egoic reactions) can be quite unloving and unforgiving. By wearing the hat of “observer”, we can separate ourselves from the “thinker” of the negative thoughts, essentially becoming a witness to them instead of involving ourselves in them.

It’s a ladder leading straight up to the crow’s nest. What a view.

“Oh, look at that”, we say as we watch carefully. “I am not Fred, and Fred is not me”. In fact, we can train ourselves to recognize Fred’s smugly face a mile away.

It’s such a delight to discover that naysayer doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.


In a world where we are constantly being measured up, judged, criticized, and told “NO”, it’s no wonder that entertainers can feel rejected and chronically stressed out.

Some days, Fred feels like an enormous Mastiff that gets in my way. He takes up space, pulls me around, and leaves poo in my path…and there are days when I feel like Fred’s walking me, instead of me, walking Fred.

“Blog Schmog. Maybe you should take a NAP”, Fred suggests to me, scarfing down the last of my Tootsie Rolls with his feet up. What a punk!

So I have to step outside myself and recognize that that guy isn’t me. And tell him, lovingly, to shut his uninformed pie hole.

The truth is, Fred will always be with us. He’s got tenure. We are in a long-term relationship with him; therefore we must not neglect him any more than we would neglect anyone or anything under our care.

Learning to manage him is a great start, but we can also learn to love him little better. Mainly by refusing to indulge his behavior, and focusing our efforts on the things that matter.

Anything that replaces his negativity with positivity is going to counteract his shtick. For me, that means exercise, worthwhile books, devotional yoga, and artist dates.

And as long as he’s chewing on healthy stuff, he can’t talk smack. So in a sense, these activities serve as the spiritual food that keeps his running commentary at bay. Feed him good food!

“Bon Appetit, Fred”, I sing, watching him try to talk and eat at the same time. (He can’t. HA!)

Even more importantly, though, those activities reprogram my subconscious mind to expect success, and accept pitfalls as a normal part of my life as a performer. The ones who stay the course are always rewarded, and missing a few swings is a necessary part of playing ball with the pros. And I want to be on the field!

Don’t you? I’d much rather be on the field missing the catch, than on the sidelines watching somebody else play ball.

So, Fred…what, exactly, are you so worried about, again? That I will learn to be resilient? Develop confidence? Strengthen my character? Or build stamina as an artist… for nothing?

(Fred chewing quietly in the background.)

Time to go post a blog. Here goes nothin’!

(picks up bat; swings)

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