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.

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.

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.

Feedback Fun: Boxes in the Closet #4

3d coffinFor the next few months I will be sharing bits of my works-in-progress. This month I’m featuring “The Boxes in the Closet”, a memoir of my parents’ love story set during World War II. The book has four “voices” – first person in my voice in the Introduction and Epilog; a narrative written in third-person; first person in the voice of my father Armond; and first person in the voice of my mother Lois. The “bits” I’m sharing are all opening paragraphs of chapters or sub-heads in chapters.

This is because I want reader feedback. Opening paragraphs are always the most important. Without a good opening, many people won’t read the rest. That’s the question I’d like answered – would you read on?

Here are Chapter Three’s opening paragraph and first paragraph of a first person narrative:

Chapter Three:  Caskets to Roads

In 1937 Armond was 19 and in common with many adults as well as teens, could not find steady work. Although he had gone back to school for a short time after returning from his railroad adventure, he quit a year before graduation in order to go to work to help support his family. The only job he could find was as a janitor and apprentice carpenter in a casket factory. He didn’t like the work, but he figured a casket factory was safer than other jobs – after all, just as many people were dying during the Depression as they had before.

and

Armond: The Ditch Digger Poet

I didn’t like leaving home and my mother, even though I was almost 21. That sounds like I was a mama’s boy, and it is true that I loved my mother, but the reason I didn’t want to leave her was because she took care of everyone, but no one took care of her. I had tried my best. Now it seemed like the best I could do was leave. The CCCs paid $30 a month, and $25 of that would be automatically sent to her. Twenty-five dollars bought a lot of groceries. The thought of that $25 made me feel good, like I was at last helping put food on Mother’s table, even if I would not be there to help with all her other chores.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to know if you want to read on.

Feedback Fun: Boxes in the Closet #3

Nels Bruseth0001For the next few months I will be sharing bits of my works-in-progress. This month I’m featuring “The Boxes in the Closet”, a memoir of my parents’ love story set during World War II. The book has four “voices” – first person in my voice in the Introduction and Epilog; a narrative written in third-person; first person in the voice of my father Armond; and first person in the voice of my mother Lois. The “bits” I’m sharing are all opening paragraphs of chapters or sub-heads in chapters.

This is because I want reader feedback. Opening paragraphs are always the most important. Without a good opening, many people won’t read the rest. That’s the question I’d like answered – would you read on?

Here are Chapter Two’s opening paragraph and first paragraph of a first person narrative:

Chapter Two:  In the Shadow of White Horse

Seventy-five miles northeast of Seattle, thirty miles northeast of the small town of Arlington, and about five hundred feet of elevation into the Cascade Mountains, is the even smaller town of Darrington. Nestled amid thousands of acres of dense forest, Darrington is encircled by the unruly Sauk, Suiattle, and Whitechuck rivers, and six thousand feet overhead looms the town’s ever-present snowy guardian, White Horse Mountain. It was, and is, a wild, rough, and beautiful place.

and

Lois: The Postmistress’ Daughter

I guess I was kind of spoiled. In Darrington I was almost like a celebrity, and so were my folks. We knew everyone in town and everyone knew us. It was an idyllic life. I knew times were supposed to be bad, and I knew Mums and Daddy worked hard, but in Darrington you didn’t need much money, and everyone worked hard. I was happy.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to know if you want to read on.

Feedback Fun: Boxes in the Closet #2

Retro toned rural railroad tracksFor the next few months I will be sharing bits of my works-in-progress. This month I’m featuring “The Boxes in the Closet”, a memoir of my parents’ love story set during World War II. The book has four “voices” – first person in my voice in the Introduction and Epilog; a narrative written in third-person; first person in the voice of my father Armond; and first person in the voice of my mother Lois. The “bits” I’m sharing are all opening paragraphs of chapters or sub-heads in chapters.

This is because I want reader feedback. Opening paragraphs are always the most important. Without a good opening, many people won’t read the rest. That’s the question I’d like answered – would you read on?

Here are Chapter One’s opening paragraph and first paragraph of a first person narrative:

Chapter One: Going Somewhere

Armond Delos Pearson was a skinny kid of seventeen in 1935, just beginning his growth spurt to his full height, which one day would be almost six foot two. Despite his fancy name, he was from a working class family who’d been dirt poor even before the Depression.

and

Armond: Riding the Rails

It was a day in late spring 1935 that I kissed Mother goodbye and told her I was going off to look for work. I didn’t tell her where I was going to look. She gave me some bread and cheese and a couple of dimes, and didn’t ask.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to know if you want to read on.

Feedback Fun: Boxes in the Closet #1

Wedding Day portrait0001For the next few months I will be sharing bits of my works-in-progress. This month I’m featuring “The Boxes in the Closet”, a memoir of my parents’ love story set during World War II. The book has four “voices” – first person in my voice in the Introduction and Epilog; a narrative written in third-person; first person in the voice of my father Armond; and first person in the voice of my mother Lois. The “bits” I’m sharing are all opening paragraphs of chapters or sub-heads in chapters.

This is because I want reader feedback. Opening paragraphs are always the most important. Without a good opening, many people won’t read the rest. That’s the question I’d like answered – would you read on?

Here’s the opening paragraphs of the Introduction, in my voice:

Introduction: The End

After our parents died, Mom first and Dad two years later, my brothers and I cleared out the house they’d lived in for 45 years. Their deaths were not unexpected – Mom was 87 and Dad 94. To die at 94 cannot be called a tragedy. It is a triumph. But it is also an emptiness.

I would not have called my father a sentimental man – he was a realistic hardheaded businessman who liked to discuss (we won’t call it argue) politics, economics, business – you know, topics for “real men.” Yet in his bedroom closet, way in the back, we found scrapbooks of memories and boxes full of his letters to his brothers, nephews, and old army buddies, as well as battered notebooks full of written musings about life, love, romance, babies, art, poetry, nature, religion – what he would have categorized aloud as “mushy.”

Thank you for reading. I’d love to know if you want to read on.

Free the Creator

free-creatorNext year I’ll be teaching a new class on writing and visual art, titled “Freeing the Creator Within,” with my good friend and amazing mixed-media artist Gwen Delmore. Here’s a snapshot of what we’ll be covering in this 4-week class. If you’re interested, let us know and we’ll let you know when and where the class will be offered.

Through a variety of exercises and techniques, this class helps participants access, explore and share beliefs beneath beliefs. They learn to by-pass internal editors and critics and find the poetry and beauty within themselves.

Each of the four 2-hour classes consists of introductions to new techniques, many choices of in-class writing and art exercises, voluntary sharing, and non-critical feedback. Participants will take home a notebook filled with vignettes, poetry, sketches, paintings, and collages created in class. All materials provided.

Class One: The seven non-rules of writing exploration: controlling the editor and trusting yourself. Play with printed images as you explore who you are.

Class Two: Original details and sensory specifics: it’s a daffodil, not a flower. Explore how concrete images can illustrate emotions and desires.

Class Three: Exploring absurdity and the forbidden: why be polite, politically correct or logical. Tear down your art and build it back up again.

Class Four: Mining & Springboarding: where do you get your ideas? Discover where your inspiration comes from.

Let us know what you think. Would you be interested in a class like this?