The Broken Bridge and the Dream by Salvador Dali @ Art.com
Well, that pretty much sums up what I have to say. My writer’s brain is a strange contraption. It takes me to places and creates people that I swear are real. And just when I’ve got a handle on a character, the key to a scene or a sparkling bit of dialogue, within the same brain Ego snidely whispers, “That sucks. You think that will sell? You think people will actually read that and not laugh at you?”
I don’t know how many hours and days I’ve wasted caught up in the nastiness of when my brain and Ego conspire against me. If I added all that time, I bet its close to at least half my life … possibly more.
But in the last four years I’ve learned a thing or two. Meditation and study has helped me to recognize when my brain is turning away from the light of creation towards the darkness of despair. In her book Taking the Leap, Pema Chodron writes a great deal about shenpa, the Tibetan word for attachment. She describes it as the moment when we react or get hooked by a dirty look, a harsh criticism or even a compliment. She writes:
“Shenpa is not the thoughts or emotions per se. Shenpa is preverbal, but it breeds thoughts and emotions very quickly. If we are attentive, we can feel it happening.”
The only way to become free from the evils of shenpa is to become familiar with it, to recognize the taste, the feel, the sound and the smell of it. Only then can we unhook from it. Easier said than done because it takes study, meditation and awareness – all that stuff I claim I never have time to do. By the way, I’ve yet to catch myself from stopping shenpa and my deeply ingrained habits of obsessing, self criticism or talking smack about someone who hurt my feelings. But my practice has taught me to become aware of those habits and then I can carefully, attentively work myself free. Let’s face it, there’s something delicious about good pity party or bitch fest.
Yesterday was such a day. I got some critiques that really knocked me on my bum and made me question this whole writing racket. Suddenly the great WIP idea I’d been working on seemed like a dead duck, a terrible idea! What was I thinking?!? But I had to proof the copy edited pages of my upcoming short, “2:45 Out of Santa Ana” because they’re due before Friday. I haven’t laid eyes on this story in nine months and in my very sensitive, high-strung “who the heck do I think I am to attempt another lame story” state of mind, it would be fatal to proof my own work.
But alas, I’m a classic Capricorn and we scoff at weakness even when we’re dragging our wounded, bleeding limb behind us. When I began reading the proof pages, the snap of the lashes went quiet in my mind. In fact, these were no longer proof pages, it magically became story until I got to the fifth page when I realized this was my work. And God please don’t smite for saying this (so I’ll whisper) it was pretty good stuff. Re-experiencing the plight of my heroine, Danielle Dawson helped me to stumble through the dark room of my mind towards the shades and then crack them open to the light. After three passes, I proofed the pages and I was simply to busy to be bothered by all those dark thoughts and feelings. Suddenly the WIP that seemed DOA had promise again. I even heard the characters’ voices in the way that you tune a radio to catch a station. Just words and a few broken sentences. But they were out there. It was enough to give me hope that I wasn’t reaching well beyond my means, or going on some wild goose chase.
I’m not quite sure why I’m sharing this with you. Initially it was to give myself a pat on the back and then when I went back into edit it, I thought no, this is something all of us, writers or not, face every single moment. It’s not about victory or “hey look at me!” I’m just being honest that sometimes – many more than I care to think about – I feel like a failure. My ego and I beat myself up until I’m black and blue. And yet, I’m learning how to (politely) tell ego to go take a hike.