Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Our Internal Critic

I know why I've always liked this old poster of Garfield and why I've kept it safely rolled up and tucked away. It reminds me of how my father raised me.

My sister died of Juvenile Diabetes at one and as I understand it, Daddy didn't want to go through that again but gave in to my mother's pleas to have another child and voila - me. As much as Daddy loved sports and the outdoors, I know he secretly prayed for a boy. But it didn't stop him from taking me to the Redskins games, to see the Senators and and the Terps of the University of Maryland. Nor did it sway him from teaching me to golf, bowl, play softball and basketball, drive a standard shift at 12 years old, fish (you don't hunt living 8 miles from D.C.) and anything else he could think of. (No matter their talent the men in my life couldn't teach me to throw a softball; it goes straight up or straight into the ground, but I can drive the hell out of a car. Even won a racing competition once in Houston.)

But it wasn't so much what he taught me to do as how he taught me to think. Being a girl shouldn't limit me from believing I could do anything my heart desires. And it didn't. I never gave my wide array of jobs any second glance. If there was a job opening, I went for it.

I started out as a waitress at the Big Boys and Marriott restaurants around the D.C. area, went into kitchen and dining room supervision, ended up in Mississippi where I worked for an oral surgeon and an insurance company. Then to Natchez, where I ran a restaurant with DH until we divorced. Then out of sheer relief, I picked up my guitar and started singing and ended up singing professionally by night for about ten years while I did VARIOUS jobs during the day. (I even got to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during a very special rehearsal after the Columbia disaster.)

I worked for an architect, sold mobile homes, long distance service, cars, trucks, cosmetics, sold burglar bars, pools, fences, placed students from a business school, taught computer at the trade school, owned a tailor shop where I did manual monogramming, made mens shirts, and sold workwear. I've managed a manufacturing plant and worked for a disaster assistance organization and sold insurance. And now, I deliver mail. I can't remember anything else.

The point is - yes, I know you were thinking, get to the point, Marley - that nothing ever had me doubting I could do something until I started writing. The author's internal critic is a monster. If we were to listen to everything he says (I contend that our internal critic has to be our opposite gender, doesn't it make sense?) and then everything we read about rules and the preferences of our critique partners and contest judges, we'd never get a paragraph of our bio written, much less a fiction piece.

The romance genre has got to be one of the most difficult with all the unofficial and offical rules in place. When I read about another author who has broken one of them, well, why don't we call it awakening the publisher to the possibilities, I cheer and take another look at my latest wip. I ask myself once again, am I stuck in a box? How can I make sure my writing is a unique, creative reflection of my voice?

I'll bet my poet friend, Michael Malone, struggles less with it. It takes great originality to create poetry like his which is romantic and "Raw". And poets seem to already have this sense of rebellion. At least that's how it seems to me.

I wonder if that the struggle ever ends once you start writing.


Michael Malone said...

Marley, thanks for the mention. You are a pal! As for silencing the internal critic, I am much better at it now particularly with the poetry. I let the creative side of my brain take over and once the words are down - take a break - and then come back with the other side of my brain switched on. It has also helped having good writing pals whose opinion I value. They give a critique and I take it on the chin knowing "the work" is more important and "the ego" can shut the hell up until the work is done.

By the way, I am SO impressed with your varied career. It was cool to read about that side of your life.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's definitely been varied.

You're so right about a good critique partner, one who tells the truth. In that relationship both partners have to set the ego aside and remember the goal.

It takes real talent to switch sides of the brain. Aaack, I'm awed. But I guess it's like the hunting dog we used to have. He saw which gun you were taking and if it was day or night and said, oh, okay, it's coon hunting. It knows what you're setting out to do and switches into that mode. Singing and driving do that for me.

Leah Braemel said...

Wow, I didn't know you'd had a sister.

And yes, I agree, the romance genre does have a whole bunch of "rules" doesn't it? Though from what I've heard from published authors, you can break them and be very successful. I think the unpubbed authors are more conscious of the rules than the pubbed ones sometimes.