My Inner Critic

When I was in my 20s and on the dating scene, I would get pretty insecure about myself and wonder what a guy would possibly find attractive or remotely interesting about me.

One day I was feeling particularly insecure and was whining to my roommate who had heard all this crap about 1000 times over.  She was getting exasperated.  She finally shook her head and said,

“You need to get control of Paula!”

I stopped and looked at her with this screwed up face and replied, “Who the hell is Paula?”

“She your insecure/inner critic alter ego.”

“Why is she named Paula?”

“I don’t know it’s the first name that popped to mind.”

“Okay…yours is Regina.”

“I don’t like that name.”

“Too bad.  You named mine Paula for God sakes.”

“Touché”

From then on, our insecure selves were known as Paula and Regina.  They are both married now so they have overcome their boy insecurities, but they are still around for other things. I’m not sure what Regina’s up to these days, but Paula’s a big fan of popping up when I’m writing or painting.

The bitch is never satisfied. However, identifying when she’s hanging about certainly has helped.  I’ve gotten pretty good at shutting her down particularly with my writing. My trick was to just keep writing. I wrote four complete journals before I felt confident enough to do a blog, and it took two more after that to even entertain the idea of freelancing.  I just wore her out.

Nevertheless, as I experiment and grow and try new things she likes to saddle up for a good ole stampede across my confidence. There are days when she’s pretty successful, but I’ve noticed since naming her. She’s lost some of her power.

I occasionally have to yell, “Shut up, Paula!” She doesn’t like it when I talk back.  She prefers an easy target, so she tends to do what I ask and goes to sulk in a corner for a while.  I know that she’s still there, and she’ll make the occasional snide remark, but I can forge ahead.

While I’m not a fan of Paula. She does at times serve a purpose.  She makes me strive to do better. She makes me face uncomfortable things, and since I loathe when she wins, thus I work extra hard to make sure she doesn’t.

Inevitably, after she loses a few times she gets bored and tries to win at a different game, and we start the process again.  Nevertheless, I’m thankful for Paula and her ability to make me better, and I’m thankful to my roommate who gave her a name.

Does your inner critic have a name?

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The Critique

Today I had planned for a post on short chapters and how I really prefer them. I sent it to the Editor like I do almost every other post and after reading it. She basically thought it was a pretty drab, weak read.

This sounds really harsh, and to be fair she was very gentle in her presentation which I appreciate. But, honestly, this was the best critique she has probably ever given me.  Because after re-reading it, she was right. It wasn’t my best. It wasn’t even very good.  This made me really happy for two reasons.

Firstly, I’ve always been concerned that the critiques I receive have been too nice so as not to hurt my feelings, and I totally get it.  I have the stereotypical writers’ sensitivity. But this honest critique made me know that I’m getting truthful opinions and that’s what I really want. They may be hard to hear, but I need them.

Secondly, and even more importantly, how am I ever going to get better if I’m constantly babied?  I want to get paid for my writing someday. If everybody reviewing my work tells me my writing is better than it really is, I’ll never achieve my dreams.

Thus, I will take this crappy post on short chapters and re-work it. And hopefully form it into something that I can feel confident about when I put it out there for the world to read.

Writing is a learning process, and today I learned that I have an awesome editor, a thicker skin than I used to, and the opportunity to do better.

Happy writing!

First Anniversary

Holy Smokes! Can you believe it? I’ve been doing this blogging thing for a year.  It’s been a whole year of reading (about 62 book in total), writing (104 posts), and learning (such as blogging is so much more than writing something and posting it).

It’s been an exciting year.  I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of great books.  I’ve found so many wonderful blogs.  I’ve greatly enjoyed the discussions, book recommendations, blogger knowledge, etc.

I’ve grown in my writing.  I’ve gotten far more serious about it, and I believe blogging has a lot to do with that. Since I’ve started, I’ve posted two blogs per week every week. It’s made me be more dedicated to my writing and in doing so I’ve generated a lot of ideas. I’ve played with many different forms and styles.

My blog has caused me to look at writing and reading differently, but in a good way.  I’ve tuned into things I’d never noticed before. I’ve also learned to adjust my perspective on what blogging success looks like. I’ve realized my blog is a place to play and experiment. Some of those experiments will be hits and others won’t, but the only truly bad posts are the ones never written.

I’ve excited for the year to come.  I’m excited for the books and the writing and the learning. I’m excited to try new things, make new friends, discover new blogs and keep this first-year mojo going forward.

Waves of Ideas

Hello! This is a question to fellow bloggers and writers.  Does your content/ideas come in waves? I ask because mine seems to which is a bit strange given that I’m reading and attempting to write all the time.

For whatever reason, I will have entire weeks where I can’t seem to come up with any ideas and then all of the sudden I have seventeen ideas.  Naturally, these seventeen ideas will last me for a while; however, there will be a few that don’t make it in the end.  They are some that simply aren’t worth publishing.

I always get bummed when this happens because it seems the ideas that I’m really stoked about don’t have much meat on them to create an entire post.  I don’t want to force it.  Sometimes, I can ruminate on them and they gain speed, but sometimes I have to come to terms that certain ideas need to be put out to pasture.

I guess this is perhaps how I get to the moments where I can’t seem to come up with anything to write about.  Creating begets creating, so perhaps it works the opposite way with scrapping an idea all of the sudden subconsciously nothing is good enough?

Realistically, this is just quintessential writers block something that plagues all writers from time to time.  It’s a rite of passage so to speak. However, the only way I’ve discovered to get over writer’s block is to let the ideas come when they are ready. I try to treat them like stray cats who bolt the opposite direction if you try to grab a hold of them too quickly.

I pretend to be staring off at the distance horizon and let them slink closer.  Inevitably when I least expect it there it will be curled up in my lap and it is not long before all its follow felines are lurking about.

What do you do to keep the ideas coming?

Secret Desire of Fiction

I secretly want to write fiction, but I’m scared of it.  It feels awkward and foreign.  I have many beginnings rolling around in my head, only a few middles, and even fewer endings.

I decided that I needed to force myself to do it no matter how painful or uncomfortable.  It wasn’t going to get better if I waited, so I decided that for the month of April I would write fiction on Fridays.  I would do a 30-minute block. I told myself it didn’t matter what it was I wrote.  I just needed to practice writing fiction.  I needed to sit with the uncomfortable-ness of it.  It just needed to happen.

I write almost everything by hand in a journal, but strangely I have found that I do better on a computer when writing a story of my own creation.  Sometimes, I close my eyes and just type. This is hard to do with pen and paper and have anything come out legible.

Anyway, I had a prompt of sorts to start, so on the first Friday I sat down at my computer and started writing.  I was surprised how things started to flow.  Things just sort of magically popped into my head.  I didn’t find myself stuck. I thought I would spend most of the 30-minutes staring at a blinking cursor freaking out that I wasn’t putting anything on paper.

The story was about a broomstick named Bob who finds that he and some of his closest mates–namely a bucket and scrub brush—have been replaced by a Swiffer Wet-jet. Yeah, it’s completely goofy, but I created it.  At the end of the first writing session I was ridiculously proud of myself and what I had created.

I didn’t finish the story in the first week, so I was pumped to finish it in week two.  However, when week two came along the self-doubt started to set in. All the talk the week before about not caring what I wrote went out the window. I slogged through the 30-minutes of week two without the sense of accomplishment. I, honestly, felt kind of embarrassed. What a dumb story.

So, on week three I decided to start a new story. (I haven’t actually finished the Bob story.) Again, the words seemed to flow, but I felt by the end of the 30-minutes I had written myself into a corner. It was a very serious story. I’m not sure where it was going, but I have a feeling if I kept writing the main character would have decided to leave her husband.  It scared the crap out of me.  I didn’t want to face that kind of heartache, so I abandoned ship the next week and started writing another story.

This story was also too serious for my liking.  It was about a dog named Boomer who lost his best friend to Kindergarten.  I think I’m cut out more for whimsy, but when I sit down to write, I get really serious.  I must subconsciously think that’s what “good” writers write, so that’s what I need to write.

The good news is that while I did not write the next New York Times Bestseller, I learned a lot about myself and fiction writing.  And that was the goal, after all… although a Bestseller would be nice.

I learned that I need to keep this up because it does get easier.  I confirmed I have writing ideas and stories.  I see that I need to write stories that I like and honestly, out of the three I started, I like my Bob the Broomstick story best.  One day I might go into a deeper, darker story place, but for the moment I need to write things that help keep me motivated.  Writing is hard enough without having to write a story you don’t like.  It will probably show anyway.

This month I’m continuing to write fiction for 30-minutes every Friday. Perhaps I will even pick the Bob story back up, but no matter what I find myself writing I will learn something along the way and at this moment that’s really what all this practice is about.  Happy Writing!

The Write E-mail

There is a writing organization in Chicago called Story Studio.  They host classes, write-ins, etc.  I’ve participated in one of their write-ins, and I attended a class.  However, I mainly just get their e-mails about updates and happenings. I see them in my inbox and think I really ought to read them, but rarely do I actually find the time or make the effort.

Was it fate? I don’t know. I can’t tell you what possessed me to read this one e-mail out of all the other e-mails I received from them, but I did.

A few weeks ago, I saw one of their e-mails come through about new classes and decided to click on it.  Their selection has really expanded over the years, and one of these new classes was on freelance writing.  Now, if you remember, one of my life goals is to get paid for my writing.  The fastest and easiest way to do this is freelance writing, which I happen to know nothing about.

I clicked on the class and discovered it was open to everyone, and I instantly signed up.  I didn’t want to have time to talk myself out of it.  Because, as anticipated, by the time I got home that evening, I had come up with 99 reasons why I should not do it and told myself I was in over my head.

However, since I know myself, I know that I won’t cancel.  I might think I’m totally goofy for signing up, but I’ve committed. I won’t back out even though a part of me thinks I should. The angst that I feel is due to the idea that I don’t belong in these classes. I feel like I’m a kid who accidentally found her way to the grown-ups table.

After some pondering, I’ve decided that I am a good writer or at the very least have the potential to be a good writer.  I’m just as deserving of a spot at the table as other people. If I don’t have a little confidence and faith in myself, why should anyone else? Particularly a prospective publisher. I need a new approach to thinking because my past ways just aren’t working. If anything, they are more harmful than helpful.

Yes, I have a great deal to learn.  It won’t be easy, but I’ve got to start somewhere and this opportunity dropped right into my lap.  I mean I haven’t looked at the class list in years, and this one random day, I did. The only way I’d be truly goofy is not to take it.

I’m not sure what to expect, and I’ll be nervous. In order to learn and grow you have to get uncomfortable and not get discouraged when things get rough. Whether that’s by trying something new, making mistakes, or asking questions even if they seem idiotic. So, here goes nothing!

The List

Ladies and gentlemen, we are going a bit off the reservation; however, I feel that it is necessary for me to publish this.  It creates a level of commitment that I won’t necessarily experience if this stays tucked away in my journal. For today, we talk of life goals.

I read about and experience how my favorite fictional and historical characters reach their dreams and meet their goals and all the hardships that come with these journeys, but what about my own?

I was recently watching a YouTube video where this guy asks his audience, “What are your life goals?” The question startled me because my only answer was: I don’t know. I don’t really have any.

This was shocking and upsetting. I used to have life goals, and the reason I don’t now is because I reached them! That’s great news, but now what? Is this where regret and complacency set in?  Do I spend the next 50 years coasting?  I’m too young to not do more or go further, but what is the “more” and where is it?

I set yearly, monthly, and weekly goals.  These generally consist of finishing an afghan, trying a new recipe, and saving x-number of dollars.  These are not things to sneeze at.  I will be super proud of myself when I complete my half-marathon and save the $6,000 I’ve set out to save.  But these are not life goals.

When I was younger the goals were simple but big:

  • Graduate High School
  • Go to college
  • Graduate college
  • Get a job
  • Make it on my own in the big city
  • Find someone to spend the rest of my days with.

And to an outcast 16-year-old girl in the backwoods of Iowa, these were very daunting, but by the age of 28 I had accomplished them all.  I honestly accomplished them a lot sooner than I thought I would, particularly the last two. But I’ve realized that this means it’s time for a new list.

When I sat down to create this list I realized that I actually already knew what I wanted to do for life goals.  They all just required either a lot of work/learning or conquering a fear.  Putting them all on one piece of paper was exhilarating and terrifying, but absolutely necessary. Because up to this point I had been ignoring them. So here is what I’ve creatively dubbed “The List” in no order of importance:

  • Run the 50-mile ultra-marathon in Antelope Canyon
  • Run a race in a different country (the crazier the place, the better)
  • Get paid for my writing
  • Tap dance in an actual tap show
  • Have a life where waking up to an alarm is unusual or unnecessary
  • Kayak in the Mediterranean
  • Kayak in the Amazon
  • Get a tattoo
  • Learn the violin
  • Learn French (as in actually speak it)
  • Take voice lessons
  • Successfully graph a tree
  • Sell a painting
  • Travel to Morocco
  • Visit Tibet
  • Pick a vacation spot either by throwing a dart at a map or taking the next available flight at the airport
  • Drive a super car
  • Learn to drive a manual transmission
  • Go SCUBA diving
  • Hike a volcano

I can see many viewing this itemization more as a bucket list than a life goal list, but to me they are all life goals because I have to research, plan, save, learn, work, and/or conquer a fear to complete them.  For instance, simply writing down “take voice lessons” seems easy enough.  You live in Chicago.  All you have to do is find a teacher, agree on a price, and show up.  However, it’s not really that easy.

My biggest fear is singing in front of other people especially with the concept of actually trying to be on key.  I like singing but being comfortable enough to do it on my own with a stranger to get better is fucking terrifying. And learning a language well enough to have a full-blown conversation is not a small task.

So, this is my life goal list. It will evolve and change.  I will hopefully add to it and subtract from it as the years go by. While I love reading other people’s stories it’s high time I start living my own as well. I don’t want to spend my life wishing it was something else or have my only goal be to make it through to the following Friday.  I genuinely want to live my life in a way where adventure and new things are the norm not the exception.

Okay your turn, what are you life goals?