What’s Your Mousetrap?

May 4, 2016

I attended a writing class in Denver recently and the teacher began by saying she had prizes for us.

Who doesn’t love a prize!

She blindfolded a student and told her to reach for prize – a book – but “Wait, just a second.” And then she placed a mousetrap between her and the book. The teacher looked at us and said, “Help her.”

The woman started fumbling along the table, everyone directing with, “No, to the left” and “Diagonal, reach diagonally!” I was silent, almost frozen, thinking:

Am I allowed to tell her there’s a mousetrap?

The teacher didn’t say we couldn’t.

But there must be some reason nobody else is??

I flashed back to my animation teacher in film school – when I followed the rules for an assignment and another student didn’t, I complained and my teacher shrugged, “She broke the rules and it worked.”

I thought of the famous psychology experiment in which participants were told to shock subjects so they would “learn” and they followed orders, to the point of death (not real death but they didn’t know that).

And I yelled, “Watch out, there’s a mousetrap!”

Later the teacher said she’d never had someone do that. Reveal the mousetrap.

Why does it matter if I yelled, “Mousetrap”? (The other students were doing a fine job getting her around it; she wasn’t in any real danger.)

Here’s why it mattered to me:

Because of the many times when I didn’t speak up and I was diminished.
Because of the many times I thought I “had to” follow the rules and lost something in doing so.
Because of the many times I doubted my own perceptions and authority, and then stopped trusting myself.
Because of the many times I failed to value what made my heart beat fast, dismissed what is mine to notice and love.

Because every time I didn’t take a stand, whether someone else was involved or not, I lost a sliver of myself. Of my voice. Of my point of view. Of the courage it takes to be a creative, truth-telling woman.

This speaking up, this taking a stand, it’s mostly internal. It rarely involves yelling, “There’s a mousetrap!” but when it does, you’ve got to yell – maybe loudly.

By the by, this claiming what I see or feel has nothing to do with being right. In fact, I’ve learned that when I don’t value what I notice, it makes it much harder to admit when I am wrong. Not claiming what I know actually makes it much harder to learn.


What’s your mousetrap?

Are you seeing it, naming it, claiming it? You don’t have to share that naming with anyone else… unless you do.

Is it time to yell, “There’s a mousetrap”? To yourself? Someone else?

Thanks for being brave with me,


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