Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"confronting the critic"

I've decided to be bolder, so in the spirit of taking chances I'm posting a short story I wrote last week wherein I confront my inner critic. If anyone enjoys this, please let me know as I'm considering sharing my current n(ovel)i(n)p(rogress) and would like to know if anyone would be interested in reading it.

Warning: This piece is in it's roughest state and has not been re-read or edited except for the few backtracks I made during the writing itself. Please keep that in mind while reading and be gentle in your critique should you choose to offer any.

Now I give you "Confronting the Critic:"

I’ve called a meeting even though I don’t need a special occasion for a sit-down with this mouthy little bitch. And she is mouthy, with that angry red slash spread widely across the lower half of her face as she strides militantly into the local Starbucks I’ve chosen. No local independent coffeehouses for my inner critic. Oh no, this one needs the chichi cred bestowed only by the ubiquitous designer green and white, even if it’s from the local yokels of Santa Maria, California.

“Who do I have to blow around here to get a tall quad latte with no foam?” The rhetorical order barks out in time with the snap of her black lacquer Louboutin’s against cheap tiles. She points a Vamped-out, stilleto-whittled nail at the first cowering writer to catch her eye. “You! Get my drink and be snappy about it. All right, where is she?”

I refuse to be intimidated or show weakness. I will not quiver like the tar-colored boa lining my critic’s expertly tailored suede jacket, nor will cower behind my laptop like every other writer clackity-clacking away at the surrounding tables. I can do this; be strong, tell her to stuff those Grand Canyon-sized doubts up her teacup-sized ass. My stomach is not churning and no - no, dammit! I am not afraid.

At least I wasn’t until my critic’s eyes narrowed to slits upon spotting me, alone and naked, but for a lukewarm cup of decaf at my table. Now it’s all I can do to keep that decaf from becoming a puddle in my seat under the scrutiny of my critic’s raptor-like gaze. I wrap my hands around the mug like a penitent in prayer, hoping to gather strength.

“All right,” she marches over, hops into the chair before me in a graceful leap to stand with her tiny hands fisted at her waste. “I don’t have all day kid. Whaddya want?”

“What do I -- I want you to stop giving me such a hard time! I want you to stop calling me names every time my back is turned, before kicking my ass to the floor, then plowing my face in the mud. I want you to stop being such a cruel bitchface bitch. Is that too much to ask?”

“Actually it is, but I’m not the one you’ve got the problem with. See your problem is the subconscious, but you’re pinning it all on me.” She turns to shout over my shoulder: “Where is my goddamn latte, for Christ’s sake!”

  “Whoa, wait just a minute,” I say. “What the hell are you talking about, it’s my subconscious not you business?”

“Kid!” she barks at the newbie writer. His limbs tremble as he creeps to our table, my critic’s order cradled in both hands. “Your conception took longer than it’s taking to get my drink. Now get your ass over here.”

Those words spur him to action as he scrambles to our table, nearly tripping over his long legs without spilling a drop of Joan’s drink. He dips his head low as he sets the cup before her and for the first time I notice his looks: eyes the color of dark chocolate, a long, straight nose, and full, shapely lips. Too bad he looks about ten years my junior, otherwise I might’ve been in serious danger of developing a crush. 

From the corner of my eye I see Joan glance between us and pray she can’t read my thoughts. 

“Well don’t just stand there, ya little shit. Go tell the manager I’m here and want my chair. Jesus Christ, kids these days...” 

As she reaches for her latte, it somehow shrinks to fit perfectly in her hand, yet still remains the exact proportion of a Starbucks grande. The tiny burst of pride in my chest at having one of the coolest inner critics on the block vanishes in a heartbeat though the second she lays that laser sharp glare on my face.

“So you think it’s me who’s been giving you such a hard time? Well wake up kiddo, I’m not the one in charge around here.”

“What are you talking about?” Now I’m getting frustrated. She’s the problem and we both know it.

“You think I’m the root of all your insecurities Babycakes? You’ve got another think coming.” 

The young newbie has returned, toting Joan’s chair in his leanly muscular arms. She waits, tapping that little foot as he switches it out with the chair she’s already using. 

“Took you long enough squirt. It was almost time for another tune-up with my plastic surgeon.” I’m not sure what she sees in my expression, but it provokes this next statement: “Don’t give me that look. You’re the one who made me shallow as a puddle. Like I said kid, *you’re* the one in control here. Not me.”

“You can put me in as many steel boxes as you like, but that’s not going to solve your problem.” I suck in my breath.

“That’s right little girl. I know exactly what you have in store for me, but guess what? I keep fighting my way out. You know why? Because you need me. You need me in order to be a better writer and you know it. See, I’m not the one who’s so mean because she wants to ensure your failure. That’s what you keep making me. No, I’m the one who’s telling you: ‘Try this. No, I don’t think that’s working Cat. Cat, you’ve gotta stop losing your focus; jumping from project to project. Flitting from one idea of what you want to be to another. You’ve gotta buckle down and commit.’ That’s me.

“The voice that keeps saying you’re ‘worthless’ and ‘stupid,’ a ‘failure’ before you’ve even tried...well, that’s your fear sweetheart, not me. ‘Cause you’re scared kiddo, really scared and you know why. Hey, stop biting your lip and tell me why your scared.”
I hadn’t even realized what I was doing, chewing my lip, until Joan told me stop. “I’m scared for lots of reasons.”

“You’re first and most important, then. Christ you make things difficult. It’s a wonder anyone puts up with you.” Now she holds up a finger. “See, you put those words in my mouth ‘cause that’s what you expect to hear. Now tell me, your greatest fear.”

“I’m afraid I’ll succeed at first, then fail at success because I won’t be able to keep it up. I won’t be able to stay a success. Somehow, I’ll fuck it up because I’m not meant to be a success, I’ll let everyone down, they’ll all see what I really am and *everyone* will hate me.”

“And there you have it, you’re honest to God, deepest fear.” Joan takes a sip of her latte, leans back and sighs. “Goddamn, but that is good shit. Now, aren’t you glad we had this meeting?” 

“Not really.”

“You’re still scared. Well guess what kid, everybody’s scared every day of their lives and most people don’t let that stop them from living. They just go out there and do it, which is what you have to do too.”

“But Joan,” I say, leaning forward. “What if I fail?” 

“So you fail, so what? Do you know how many people fail on a daily basis? What about that quotation you love so much...”

“About the only real failure being when you don’t try.”

“Yeah, that one. Remember that shit and you’ll be fine.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Of course I don’t know that. Nobody knows that. It’s what keeps life interesting. Now,” Joan hops to her feet latte in hand. “I’ve got another meeting and a million asses to kiss. We’ll be seeing each other again soon, but for now you need to ignore any voices of self-doubt. Got it?” 

“Yes Joan.”

“And go talk to that cutie newbie writer; he’s totally got the hots for you.”

Really?!” The excitement froths in my chest.

“How the hell should I know. I’m not in his head, but the kid didn’t shit himself when I started barking out orders, that makes him worth a shot. Go for it. What have you got to lose?”

Joan’s sauntering towards the door when she turns in my direction one last time. “In fact, let that be your life mantra for a while kid: what have I got to lose? Take a few risks now and then, you’ll be much happier for it.” 


And with that, she’s out the door and on her way to the next meeting, while I’m left to try my luck with the cute newbie writer, shyly ducking his head behind the glowing monitor of his laptop.

Monday, May 26, 2014

memorials

Though I've spent the majority of my life in a stance against armed combat, I will forever and always support the men and women who defend our country.


Dulce Et Decorum Est • Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.*


*It is sweet and right to die for your country.

Friday, May 23, 2014

what it is

No words today; just a photo of my newly hung and decorated bulletin board.

I've recently gone through some rough times (namely having the illness I believed to be Major Depression, re-evaluated and diagnosis changed to Bipolar I disorder). So right now I find myself simultaneously at loose ends and extremely eager to "seize the day."

Hence the revival of my blog. I want to write. I need to write. At the same time, I'm fearful of exposing too much, despite the fact there may not be that many people listening. Blogging is a careful balancing act of how much we reveal, some people being much better at it than others. I tend to fall into the group that doesn't balance gracefully or easily, and I have a post in the works on that very subject.

For today though, I'm feeling at loose ends and realized even adhering to a Monday • Wednesday • Friday posting schedule is a little to strict for my tastes. It's easier to make the commitment: "I will post at least two to three times a week on my blog," rather than designating specific days, especially since I'm a person who tends to speak only when I have something worthwhile to say.

So that's what I've got for y'all today. Hope everyone is well on this lovely Friday afternoon.


-cat

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

wip wednesday #1

I was working on an entirely different post for today, but it’s just not flowing the way I’d like. I suppose I’m still getting my sea legs (in more ways than one) , so I decided to start  W(ork).I(n).P(rogress). Wednesdays a little earlier than anticipated.

It took weeks before I was able to whip this first little snippet into the shape I wanted and even at that, I’m not entirely happy with it:
I hate the nighttime. The darkness, the shadows, the endless hours begging to be filled with significance; but most of all, I hate the screaming. Sometimes it’s uncontrolled shrills of madness, others it’s tiny, sobbing whimpers, begging for mercy. There’s one thing worse though. . . silence. 

And the second little excerpt:

The only thing I dislike more than being reminded that I’m little more than a glorified babysitter for vampire fledglings, is reminding them of that fact.

Monday, May 19, 2014

resuscitation

Sharing my writing with another person was a terrifying prospect and prompted only by the desire to give my therapist a better idea of how my “crazy” mind worked. I never imagined she’d come back with questions like: “So is this what you do? Keep everything bottle up inside, hiding yourself away from the world, then pour it all out in your notebooks?” (Yes, what’s yer point?)

Nor did I dare dream she’d hone in on my secret desire to be a real (aka, published) writer or go on to mention that if I ever wanted to whip my work into shape she had a friend who offered professional editing services (an offer I’ve failed to take up, more than ten years later).

Taking my writing public has always been my Achilles heel; even dipping my toes into the “blogosphere” more than ten years ago was a frightening prospect. Back then I never could have conceived of the current popularity and significance blogs occupy. I wasn’t so surprised at the number of people taking up the (metaphorical) pen - after all, so many of us have something to say, but I was more impressed at how many people were paying attention and eagerly responding.

Given that most blogs specialize, you might be wondering what niche I plan to occupy here at Cat’s Corner. Honestly, I’m just as curious, ‘cause I don’t have any specific agenda in mind right now; just a bumper crop of interests, opinions, passions, stories and a desire to connect with the larger world. So I guess for the moment, I’ll be winging it three days a week (MWF) and happy to have anyone who wants hop aboard, along for the ride.