Breaking into the creative writing industry from a background in manual labor is like writing a symphony with a hammer. Imagine the frustration of my inner critic – as I affectionately name my alternate “ego” – with a pallet for Dashiell Hammett and having only Wes Craven served up.
I’ve worked as a handyman, pest control tech., rain-gutter installer and now as a landscaper. As I look back on my work history, I’m reminded of that old adage, “the more things change the more they stay the same” since I’ve changed jobs so many times in the last few years without much change in what I actually do.
I decided to take the advice of those who’ve succeeded where I aspire. This blog is a sort of journal of the changes I am finally embracing to get there.
My inner critic has been propelling me toward change since I took a screen writing class freshman year at a junior college. It was one of the most fun and inspirational classes I’ve taken, along with advanced screen writing, and a couple of semesters in acting. I had discovered a passion – something more than living paycheck to paycheck and waiting on circumstances to give me a reason to live on purpose.
I started writing at home after work. That’s when things really got ugly. The critic and I had been bros for a while and now we began our professional relationship. They say it’s a bad idea to work with family. Well, I found out why. The critic is a psycho: he’s brutal, clever and relishes condescension in his cutting humor. His idea of fun is taking a blade to self-esteem and thrashing it to ribbons.
Needless to say, I didn’t get much work done. It was daunting. I’d sit at my laptop with an ocean of crumpled half-manuscripts around me and stare at the screen until my eyes were so dry it hurt to close them. My creative side, the right brain, was atrophied with fear at pleasing the critic. Staring at a blank page was like waking from sleep to find myself stranded at sea. Land might be reachable, but how do I know which direction to swim? I could just start, pick a direction and go, but going one way meant leaving another in the distance. Choices mean chances. My right brain doesn’t like making decisions, and my critic grew increasingly impatient.
The last couple of weeks, I’ve learned some new things about spiritual gifts. I learned that whatever gift from God that is unique to you, when left uncultivated, becomes exactly that thing about you which is most damaging to relationships. For example, if your spiritual gift is mercy and you don’t know your gift, mercy becomes a terrible burden. Instead of showing mercy out of love, bitterness springs up like a root and meticulously wedges itself between you and those you could be merciful toward.
Maybe my critic wasn’t out to murder. Maybe the critic was a misplaced talent; suffering from multiple personality disorder, he’s had to self-medicate in order to meet my demands with a dose of artificial humility. He should have read the fine print on the label of his pill bottle – but hey, he’s got multiple personalities – the side effects? Paranoia, thoughts full of doubt, and constipated thinking.
The critic was in charge and he was out of control. Every time his demands were placed on the right brain, the right brain inevitably failed. Every time the right brain failed, the critic would dress in my creative aspirations, stab a beautiful script to death and stuff what would have been a vibrant story with superficial judgments. (He has an affinity for taxidermy.) My psycritic side had taken the sage writer’s advice to “kill your darlings” a little too far. But my right brain had no idea how to save his brain child from murder Hitchcock-style. That’s probably because it wasn’t his job, just as creativity was outside the jurisdiction of my critic.
So after a few hours of this, I’d stand from the desk chair, exhausted from being murdered, and look at all the papered remains of innocent stories lying at my feet, horrified. I’d relinquish the remains of those Saturday mornings to breakfast burritos and any one of my 300 + DVD collection, surrendering to despair and a thorough wallowing in self-pity.
It was pretty disgusting.
This wallowing, by the way, is exactly what enables the critic’s psychopathic tendencies. This is where important revelation #2 comes in. “Hurt people hurt people”. Or, people in pain hurt others. This I learned watching a seminar on spiritual and emotional maturity. In terms of the critic, somewhere in his heart of hearts, there is a frail creature hiding behind his cruelty toward the right brain. In the case of my own particular critic, the psycho was the self-creation of a heavily-medicated split personality that was the result of a boy feeling invalidated and overwhelmed by the enormity of dreams.
That stupefied look on Anton Ego’s face is my own glorious revelation that was the catalyst for crossing an important threshold. I had inherited gifts. I had not chosen them, they were present with me, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be actualized. As Lincoln asked, “Can we chose to be born?”Likewise, we cannot chose our inherit abilities any more than we chose the color of our skin.
I am validated…. And that by the Creator! He made these talents, and my shortcomings are merely the necessary steps to cultivating them, not hurdles between myself and validation. Finally, I had real victory over the procrastination that was at once a bastion and my undoing. Shriek back in horror, psycritic! Your time of duplicity and shifting standards is over.