Magpie Speak: The Care and Keeping of Gremlins

The Care and Keeping of Gremlins


Gremlins. Oh they are so naughty! They climb up on your shoulder and whisper distractions into your ear. They do something funny to your eyes so that your reflection in the mirror looks wonky. They tell you to watch TV when you’re ready to start writing. Sometimes they just kick you in the shins.

Banshees, Lizards, Gremlins– we all have them. These are the voices that distract, destroy, and unbalance us. Learning how to manage Gremlins is good soulcare. (Let ‘em run amok and they can really bruise you up.)

Here’s the thing about Gremlins. Sometimes they are trying to be helpful. The problem is that they help you the way a 3-year-old  “helps” you with the baking. You need someone to wash out the mixing bowl. They are busy coating the kitchen in flour and dropping the eggs on the floor.

Don’t worry, you can manage the crazy. Here are some basic steps for the care and keeping of gremlins:

1. Notice: Just observe what the Gremlins are up to without making judgments or setting up a plan.

2. Ask: Gremlins love an audience. Ask them what they are trying to protect you from, or why they are trying to help. (They might write you a little song about it. Or maybe stage a play.)

3. Distract: Give your Gremlins something else to do — hand them a fancy feather duster and point them towards the bookshelves. Pour them a pitcher of martinis and a plump up their comfy armchair. Get Nanny to take them to the park. Then quick! While they are not looking get to work. Once you are in The Flow the Gremlins quiet down.

Got really busy Gremlins? Me to! I’ve collected these handy Gremlin tips. And for the go-to source-book on Gremlin management, check out Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way by Gremlin-wrangler Rick Carson.

What about you? You probably have tricks up your sleeve. Do tell!  Not sure what your battle plan should be? Here’s a  two-step plan for Gremlin Domination. 1)What’s worked in the past to quite your doubts? 2) What experiment are you going to try next?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Shawn May 21, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Mainly, managing inflow and outflow. If I decreased my intake of news, ideas and information, and spend more time creating, acting and expressing … the gremlins pretty much stay at bay. That, wine, yoga and meditation help a lot, too. LOL I love your series. I never knew these were gremlins that bugged me so it’s nice to be able to label them. I like labeling the crazy.

Monica August 20, 2010 at 4:48 pm

I have a great life coach who has pointed out that “gremlins” are a part of ourselves that are trying to keep us safe – safe from being hurt, taking a risk, and the biggest of all: safe from FAILURE!

Like Shawn, it is helpful to “name the crazy” and realizing that the ‘voice within’ can be labeled a ‘gremlin’ helps to make it less powerful, one step removed…

I always remember an old ad I kept on my inspiration board for many years (and will be putting into an art-book soon!) – just put ‘Gremlin’ where the word ‘Insecurity’ is:

“Insecurity knocks from time to time. Let it in for a cup of coffee. Talk with it. Understand it…
Then take that sugar spoon and POKE IT IN THE EYE!”*

Sometimes, you just have to show Insecurity/Gremlins who the BOSS is! ;)
* – i wish i could remember the original ad source but i don’t =-(

Jennifer November 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Balance is usually the only thing that tames my gremlins. In no particular order, I have learned to zealously guard and support my needs for: 1) sleep, 2) daily downtime (meaning time just to BE with no stimulus like tv or email or fb or texting), 3) food, 4) regular vacations, 5) time with my hubby, 6) social time (with friends and family), 7) time exercising (yoga, walking, jogging, swimming, dancing), 8) need for new stimuli (new cd’s or books, new ideas, discussions, growth, new sheet music, etc), 9) managing my serotonin imbalance and hormonal shifts, 10) consciously putting down the burdens I take up. These elements fluctuate with the time and seasons, but they are all important enough for me to know that managing them is not about a to do list, but about maintaining a quality of life.

(In reviewing this, I am fascinated to see that spirituality is not part of the list. What does that mean? Perhaps it means that my spirituality infuses my life and the balance in my life. Or perhaps it can be seen in #6, 8, and 10. Or perhaps it is my self-conscious telling me that what I’ve been doing doesn’t fit what is important to me now. )

Louise November 11, 2010 at 4:05 am

Recently I have let go of two things that have freed me and quitened the gremlins that insist I am not good enough, incapable, childish etc. Firstly I have let go of the perfectionist in me – it’s got to be about expressing myself, not a certain standard of result. And you know what – the resulting standard has been pretty high! Secondly I have let go of having to please certain people. Instead I have surrounded myself with new people who choose to affirm me. They provide alternative voices for me to listen to. Now the gremlins have competition!
What will I do next? Build this collection of positive output and imput into something I can read/look at/remember whenever those gremlins need to be put back in their place!

Marly January 7, 2011 at 11:12 pm

For me, “Gremlins” are not benign and basically harmless little creatures who unintentionally make life inconvenient for me. They are the epitome of evil, who intentionally set out to make me remember and dwell on all the wrongs done to me, all the people who betrayed me, all those who should have valued me, but didn’t. They want me to be constantly angry, sad, depressed, etc. , and they really love it when I hold a grudge against those who have hurt me. Of course, they also want me to always forget the hurt I’ve inflicted on other people, and to place the blame for every bad deed on everybody except myself.

I’ve found that their best tool is to remind me of a past wrong suddenly, and without warning. Totally out of the blue, I’ll remember how a family member betrayed me, someone I’ve forgiven long ago. That’s when they start their “monkey chatter,” and if I don’t deal with it immediately, I’m in for a rough time. The more time I let my mind remember it, the harder it is to control, sort of like dealing with monthly cramps. If I don’t take the Iduprophin as soon as I feel the first twinge, the pain is much harder to control.

So it is with Grimlins. Don’t let them get a word in edgewise; out talk them and tell them not to give you crap, and look for a fast distraction, whether it’s a movie or dancing to music or a phone call to a friend. Just don’t fall for their trap of telling your friend about it, because these sneaky little suckers will getcha with that one too. In this case, I say it’s more than worth getting distracted from your work. In this case, I say that the shiny things will save your butt a lot of trouble.

Roxanne/tinkerbell the bipolar faerie February 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm

My gremlins are a manifestation of my fears. There is no shortcut to avoiding these fears. The only way is thru them. Hence the cliche, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Rachelle February 9, 2011 at 5:28 pm


Recently I noticed that my 10yo daughter has a little note pinned to her new bulliten board. It says:

“If you are never afraid, you can never be brave.”

Maybe your Gremlins are helping you practice! :-) I know mine are!

Much Warmth,


Leah February 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm

My dance teacher’s mantra for her class is ” instant forgiveness”. Go big, try, move, dance, express, and if you make mistakes, who cares! Instant forgiveness. It is more interesting to truly go for it, express yourself, and turn or jump the wrong way, then to hold back, try not to make mistakes, and not really express yourself through movement. I find that when I remind myself of this, it gives me more courage to make mistakes, and learn from them. When the gremlins tell me I can’t do it, or I’ve messed up – I try to counteract them with “that’s ok. it’s ok if I make mistakes, I’m still going to do it!!”

Rachelle March 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I love that! “Instant Forgiveness” it is!

kraftykkitten March 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Oh now this post could not come at a more oppurtune time thank you thank you!!

I was offered a job writing a blog for a Australian wide well known football club for the season.
I applied in the spur of the moment and I was quite cheeky I’ve only been bloggin for about 2 months so it was just for fun I applied and they called me to say I’d been offered the job, I asked him “Did you even go and read my blog?” which has NOTHING to do with football it’s about art! and he said yes that’s why we want you!

So I logged onto the site and read one of the blogs by another person and the fans of this particular club have ripped the poor guys post to shreads.. seriously having second doubts now.. the gremlins are not helping!!

Thanks for sharing this post!!

Maxine July 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I tend to think of the gremlin as an early warning system. She is there for a reason and is my friend who serves to alert me that trouble might be in my path. I can say she is my friend now, and there have been times when she has taken over, but I honestly can’t say I have done something specific to keep her at bay. The only thing I have done is decide to live an authentic life with intention, making a commitment to show up and enjoy it. Since having done this, life is only good, it’s better. I guess in this sense there is an intersection with spirituality and I have arrived there.

Rachelle July 13, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Maxine, too true! Often our gremlins are our early warning system. They do try to protect us — but sometimes we don’t need protecting. :-) The more grounded and present we are to our current life (and not to the “what ifs” and the “if onlys”) the quieter and more supportive our gremlins are.

Warmth to you,

Rachelle July 13, 2011 at 5:01 pm

KK –

How is the blogging gig going?



Roxanne October 28, 2011 at 10:56 am

I am learning daily how important it is to be brave. To ward off my Gremlins I simply sprinkle a bit of fairy dust into my palm and blow really hard. The little guys can’t stand being covered in sparkly goo. And once they are in retreat mode, I take a step forward toward whatever fear I’m battling today. Recently I faced a fear head on and am breathing so much easier now that I did. It’s true what I’ve heard, shining a light into your darkness slices right through the terror. The really cool part of this personal story is that God sent a message to me through the lead singer of a band and told me I could face this fear. It took me almost 5 months to get up the courage and when I finally did….it was exactly as HE said it would be. Go figure….Love the way you think. Reading your stuff always makes me smile.

Debra Davis January 5, 2012 at 3:23 pm

1. Name ’em.
They yowl around my legs like orphaned kittens demanding attention. Look, this one is Unloved. And here’s Scarcity. And Shame, Abandoned, Unworthy and on and on.

2. Feed ’em.
I got this idea from reading Pema Chodron. She was talking about things in us that are hungry ghosts. In Tibet, people offer their hungry ghosts some rice. I started doing this with flowers. Every day, I’d go into the garden and pick one flower to put in a vase on the kitchen windowsill. Here you go little guys, sip on some beauty. Sometimes they need a customized offering. Scarcity recently got some attention when it was worried there wasn’t enough money. So I gave it some change every day. Then some chocolate. Then I realized it was actually asking to be provided for, which is different from having enough money. I made a warm winter outfit for it and assured it that we would be sheltered and fed. We’re a lot better now.

Gremlins shrink and become quiet when I offer them love, protection, beauty. I understand that they are trying to watch out for me, but their way of going about it is not very skillful. When I place a tangible offering in my living space, it I see it and remember to be mindful.

Michelle February 14, 2012 at 7:25 am

I love this post and I have loved reading everyone’s responses. Often times, my gremlin likes to point out just how much I don’t do enough, or aren’t enough, or am too much or am really going over the top and not helpful to anyone. The key, according to my gremlin, is that everyone else’s happiness and wellbeing is more important than my own. My gremlin likes to be very thorough on this point. But after reading Brene Brown’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” I’ve written this quote on any flat surface that I could find and may have it tattooed on my brain:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman.

Terre March 19, 2012 at 7:08 am

If you have a spare 20 mins for a TED lecture, this was a good one, and it could provide you some ammo:

ThunderTheft March 20, 2012 at 11:03 am

My solution: Postcards.

I have a stack of blank postcards, an addressbook full of friends who would love to hear a kind word, and sheets of postcard stamps. What I write is secondary to the fact that I’m writing anything at all. It keeps me productive, it’s low pressure because everyone loves a postcard no matter what it “says” and my gremlins, no matter how loud they try to be, instantly calm down.

Rachelle April 18, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Love it! What’s more romantic and welcome than a postcard! Such a kind, creative solution. Thanks, M.

daniela September 27, 2012 at 6:53 am

Doing something for someone else (being of service)…whether visiting an elderly neighbor, offering to go grocery shopping for them…being of service.
It helps take my mind of me me me and reach down and pull the best parts of me out and in action!
Meditating always helps! When my mind is too busy (which it often is)….I do a listening meditation (the chopra center is a good resource)… I have a collection from my mom.
Exercising! AlWAYS HELPS. Any type- even if it is walking and listening to music to shut my brain and mental chatter off.
Making something- a picture, a card, a gift and sending it to someone I love.

Ruthie December 28, 2012 at 1:28 am

I have started silencing my gremlins by using positive affirmations. I don’t have anywhere near the stinking thinking that I used to have.

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