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?”
“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?”
“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.