Cousin Irene

A few weeks ago I wrote about how to make your internal critics go away by writing about them, and told you that my critic was named Ed.  But Ed is only one of them – like most of us, I have several internal critics, nearly all of them nasty.  Here is a piece I wrote years ago about Cousin Irene, the voice inside my head who is in charge of procrastination, laziness, and all the addictive distractions there are.

Cousin Irene lurches into the room, trailing leavings from her purse – a dried-up lipstick, a wallet with a broken zipper, a scarf that has gum wadded in it, and of course those old used Kleenexes. She doesn’t pick anything up, because that is my job. She plops down on the most comfortable chair in the room. Her bulk overflows the cushion and her dress rides up on her thighs; she is wearing nylon socks that only reach halfway up her meaty calves. She tells me it’s too hot to write today, and besides there is nothing interesting to write about, and even if there was something interesting, I would not be able to find it. She demands a glass of wine, even though it’s only two in the afternoon. She asks what’s in the refrigerator, and then says I should make her a plate of something, whatever is there. She turns on the TV; it is Judge Judy, which suits her fine, she likes to sneer at all those stupid people. She spills her wine on the front of her dress but doesn’t bother to wipe it off.

Writing the above was pretty effective at keeping Cousin Irene fairly quiet – any time I felt the urge to give in, I just re-read my description of her. But a few years after I wrote it, Cousin Irene starting shaking her bootie at me again. So this time I didn’t just write about her – I made her into visual art, picturing her in both a drawing and a sculpture. Then I put the sculpture in a birdcage (without the bird) and have kept her there since. I plan to keep her there forever, although sometimes she moans and cajoles and lies in attempts to make me release her. She’s also been known to burp and fart when she knows I’m listening.

Cousin Irene does not give in easily.

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Good Ol’ Ed

I’ve blogged and written many times about my various internal critics. I give them names, physical descriptions, and personalities. This way they become real and cannot live as cowards hidden inside my head. I see they are not my friends and I am able to banish them – maybe not for always, but at least they stay away for a long time and when they do reappear I know how to banish them again.

We all have internal editors or critics. That’s the voice that tells you that you are stupid, a bad singer, clumsy, boring. It’s the voice that critiques every piece of writing you do, every conversation you have, the way you dance. This voice often shows up when you sit down to write. He, she, or it leans over your shoulder and whispers mean things in your ears.

One of my voices is named Ed. He used to tie my fingers up in knots and breathe dry ice into my brain. He doesn’t do this so much any more, because I found out that I could diminish Ed’s power by simply — writing about HIM. Here is one paragraph I wrote about Ed:

Ed is a middle-aged man with a sunken chest and a long thin nose through which he sniffs and snorts. He squints his beady eyes whenever he looks at me, suspicious that I will again try to write something. If I do, he’ll tell me I have nothing original to say, so why waste my time? His voice is usually sharp and piercing but he is capable of hissing his words, especially when he spots a mistake – any mistake, even a misplaced comma or a typo such as “teh.” He notes all mistakes in a black accountant’s ledger notebook that he always keeps with him. He reads the entries to me out loud.

And so on. As I wrote about Ed, it dawned on me that Ed is not my friend. And the more I wrote, the more obvious it became that Ed was a nasty, mean-spirited, chickenshit bully who did not want me to be happy.  So why was I listening to him? Why indeed. So nowadays Ed just pouts in the background, waiting for me to notice him again. I am determined not to.

Ed is only one of the voices in my head (and my body) who give me a hard time. Later this month I’ll blog about Cousin Irene, who is even worse than Ed. In August I’ll be blogging about two others who are in charge of various physical/mental attributes. Their names are Uncle ArthurItis and Aunt Nervine, and they are a pain in the you-know-where. Stay tuned.

 

Psychic Hunches

I once had a client who I met at a book fair, where I had a table promoting my ghostwriting services. He came up to me and said, “Oh, I want to write a book—I need to talk to you.” I said, “Great—what do you want to write a book about?” And he said, “I don’t know.”

Now there was a challenge. He just felt that he had a book inside him somewhere, but he’d never written anything, or thought much about what he wanted in his book, until that moment. You meet a lot of “tire-kickers” at book fairs, but this guy was serious. He actually hired me to help him find out what his book was about. I charged him a low consulting fee to spend some hours talking about why he wanted to write a book, what his passions were, who he wanted to reach, and so on, and I recorded the conversation. And eventually a focus for the book did emerge, and he then hired me to ghostwrite it for him.

The book was about psychic hunches and how to follow them through.

Best Birthday Prez Ever

A couple of weeks ago it was my birthday. My present from my eldest granddaughter was a card she made herself. She knows about my various artistic practices such as writing a daily haiku and doing a daily drawing. (See my blog post from May 29th, titled Practice)

So for my birthday card she wrote two haiku of her own and two daily draws. Both haiku and one of the draws are about me! (The other draw reflects her dislike of getting up in the morning.)

Here they are. I hope you will agree with me that my granddaughter is talented, interesting, and totally loveable.

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Practices

I have been doing various daily practices for many years and they have been instrumental in my artistic and spiritual growth. For over 20 years I’ve been doing “morning pages” (from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) which is doing 2 to 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness writing in longhand each day. For almost 20 years I’ve also been writing one haiku every day, which means I have a lot of haiku by now. And for about 5 years I’ve been doing what I call my “daily draw” which means I draw or paint or sculpt an image from the day before, sometimes illustrating the haiku I just wrote, or something I saw on my daily walk, or something I remember from a conversation, or whatever appears from my hands.

None of these writings or drawings has to be good, although sometimes they are excellent. But quality is not the issue, and despite the mounds of paper I now have filled with scribbles, poems, and drawings, neither is quantity. The issue is practice. In practice you are allowed to make mistakes, to be a novice, to admit your failings. Practice teaches you to love and appreciate yourself, in all your flawed and silly glory.

Practice makes me happy. Every day.

Orphan Book

Recently a small literary press agreed to publish one of my new manuscripts. I was happy – until I read through their Facebook and blog posts, which were full of political opinions that were opposed to my own. Then I became uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be associated with these political opinions, and I did not want any profits made on my book (even if the profits were tiny) to go to promote and market books that espoused them. So I did not sign a contract after all. This was particularly disappointing because my book is a strange, genre-free, odd-ball story. It won’t be easy to find another publisher. So today my weird little book is still an orphan with no home.

Sigh.

Beltane

Today is the first of May, or May Day, also known as Beltane. It marks the height of Spring and the flowering of all life. It is time to celebrate the leaping fires of passion in a festival of sensuality, sexuality, flowers, and delight. It is a time to make love, preferably outdoors.

There are many lovely old customs associated with time of year. Here are some ways to celebrate May Day/Beltane:

Make a May basket. Fill it with flowers or other outdoor beauties. Leave it on a doorstep of someone who can’t get outside, such as an invalid or elderly person. Bring the Spring to them.

Or you can erect a Maypole in your yard. It doesn’t have to be tall. You can use a yardstick, broomstick, or even a twig. At the top of the stick affix different colored ribbons. Get a group of friends, and have each choose a ribbon and make a wish upon it. (For example: I choose this red ribbon for more passion in my life.) Dance around the Maypole, entwining your ribbons together.

Finally, embrace the ones you love. Hugs and kisses all around!

Bonus:  Here’s a Beltane haiku to go with the painting:

women gathering
parade around the May Tree
winding ribbons tight

Recovering Hope

I’m in the middle of my project of ghostwriting essays (for free) about this time in American history and how people are responding and contributing and acting – and how they are making a positive difference. Every time I do another interview I am inspired by the courage, dedication, perseverance and empathy in the story I’m being told. I can recover my hope, because although hatred, bigotry and fear are loud right now, those negative stories are not the majority of American stories. Not even close. We all need to speak up and share our stories of love, equality, justice, strength, and courage. I hope my ghostwriting efforts will contribute a tiny bit to this effort.

If you’d like more information about this free offer, please see my blog post of April 3rd or here.

 

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Choose Your Role

I believe we are living through a defining time in American history right now. We are all a part of this history. Someday your children, grandchildren, or descendants will want to know what role you played in this historic time. What do you want them to find?

Right now many of us are feeling discouraged, even despair – which leads to a feeling of helplessness – which in turn leads to giving up. And when we give up, everyone loses. I think the antidote to despair is always action. Do Something.

And the best thing to do is something that draws upon your talents, experience, or passion. I looked at my own attributes to see what I could do. I’ve been a ghostwriter for nearly twenty years, and I know how powerful sharing stories can be. So I decided to offer to ghostwrite – for free – some short personal essays for people who are contributing and acting and don’t have the time or desire to write their stories down. I hope history will thank us.

If you are interested in this offer, more information about how it works you can read about it here.

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Flying Pigs

Taking a short hiatus from blogging. I’ll be back in April. In the meantime, you can follow me on Facebook. You can friend me on Facebook or like my Facebook Author Page. For instance,  here’s what I shared on Facebook a few days ago:

Flying Pigs

I used to have doubts that I would ever be a full-time writer – after all, for years I was a single mom with a demanding job in a high tech industry. I wrote “on the side” when I had time. (Like I had any extra time.) So yeah, I’d be a full time writer “when pigs fly” – right?

Then one day I was at a street fair with my youngest daughter and spied this glass pig with wings at a booth. It called to me. (Evidently it was not only a flying pig but a singing pig as well). This flying/singing pig still inhabits the windowsill right above my desk – where I have written many books over the past 20 years, working as a full time writer. Pigs actually do fly. I have proof.