Put the Inner Critic Out



Here’s a fun little experiment for those who struggle with the inner critic.  Try kicking her out and letting her sit on your desk.  Then you can talk back to her when the writing is happening.

My little hag is named Finnola, inspired by a character in Catherine Cooper’s The Golden Acorn.  I made her for a children’s book club gathering in the woods.  Once all the children found her hiding place, I took her home.  In between moon time, where she might sit on my nightstand…she works in my writing space.  I wonder how chatty she will be when I sit back down to work?


Peace Metaphors and Worry about Losing the Lonely

114_1348 (800x600)

Something inside is missing.  I recognized it this evening, when for a brief time I embraced some precious solitude to feel the warm air  under the stars. Looking out into the darkened yard, I felt around for it like an old man searching his pockets for a squashed pack of smokes, who realizes that there’s none to be found.  Instead of cigarettes, I searched for evidence of my lonely ache.

But it had vanished, leaving only a trace memory of existence.  Like remembering a time when you were really hurt, but no longer feel the pain as you recall the experience.

Maybe since adolescence that ache has been with me like the steady, ever present beating of my heart.  It keeps a rhythm that marks the passing of months and years, a chronic condition of living.  We all share this loneliness to a certain degree,

being individuals.

At times the presence of this loneliness has enlarged and risen to a chest squeezing, hollow stomach, homesick yearning for something nameless and formless, perpetually out of reach.  If only I knew what was missing, I would go in search of it to end the ache.  Who could I call?  What would I say? I am missing someone or something, some ideal?  Have I missed some calling that would fill in the hole, if only I would be brave enough to simply do what inspires me most?

So instead of running and dancing around in the dark, barefoot in the grass under stars– celebrating the absence of loss, infused with giddiness to be unexpectedly liberated from the lonely shadow,

I worried.

What would it do to my writing?

Isn’t lonely the reason I write? Isn’t it the absence of companion and that quiet solitary feeling that propels me into this alternate form of expression?  These days it seems I’m talking so much to people that there might not be any need to reach for the pen and give a thoughtful response to the day’s events.

But as I felt around the pockets for my packet of lonely, I hit upon the shape of another memory: an occasion to reflect, a moment I wanted to capture as if I were taking a photograph.  It was a mental still shot from the day’s earlier walk, an image that brought calm and peace and quiet to my head; significant enough to make me want to mark it down for later; a scrap of afternoon to use in a poem.

If anyone were to ever ask me to name one metaphor for peace, I can now say that peace is the wake line behind geese swimming in acute angles; the strands of traveling light on the surface that follow their random curiosity.

Migration is happening here now, and the lake is full of these back and forth streams of light behind the graceful swimmers.  If you can find your way to a shore near sunset when the lake gets luminous, your day has magic. Your day has awe. Your afternoon has brought you to the awareness that your life in this moment is completely effortless.  You can just stand there and breathe and observe. There you’ll find the space to release the effort and striving of the day’s need-meeting and want-satisfying.

Everyone should have a pond.

And a sunset and geese.

And friends like mine.

A Summer Sleeping Porch


I had romantic notions that one day I would write a book out on our covered porch.  Ten years have passed, and no book yet.  But now I have one memoir in progress, which gets done every morning before breakfast, a few handwritten pages at a time.

I decided not to return to the critique group.  The aftermath of so much red pen kept me silent on the page for weeks.  And so I’m back to just me and the ink on the lines.  I’m discovering the absolutely essential, critical, most important thing about writing:  that I must actually put something down, even a few sentences, every single day.

For me this is also true about running.  I have to do it daily, or lag for months. So this week, I’m feeling so much better for taking the first three hours of the day to do both.  On my run up a half mile hill this morning, a thought arrived– that writing in my notebook every morning is having a similar effect as the writing.

With each line written, some kind of psychic fat is being melted.  Going forward, I feel the sense that I’m getting closer to the white bones of what was really going on during that year of single life.  I’m getting better at asking myself questions that I didn’t think to ask thirteen years ago.

And the benefit of this? Feeling lighter psychologically is a trigger for creative ideas and happiness.  More spontaneous ideas can flow in when you don’t have to carry so much that is in the past.  It brings me once again to the awakened and gratitude filled present moment of my life; where love is working in each of us.

Feeling happy for no apparent reason, swinging in my hammock chair after a long bike ride, I thought about a new project that my family might enjoy.

We decided to transform our covered porch into a summer sleeping room using rustic items and old quilts. Even though Richard worked a full ten hour day, he loved the idea and offered to help set everything up.  Working together, soon we felt like honeymooners playing house.  We stayed up late to enjoy the finished project by candelight. While we lay on the bed soaking up some classical music and the atmosphere of the outdoor room, our three pets gathered to be closer to their humans…. who finally stepped away from screens and books to do what they love best: laying around outdoors.


Hello, summer.


Creating in the Midst Interview

Last week, I received a special honor.  I was asked to participate in a brand new interview series called Creating In the Midst, concieved by my long time friend and fellow writer, Corinne Noel Cunningham.  Corinne and I have been friends from the early beginning of my retired blog Knees and Paws.  Her writing is filled with insight and beauty.  It’s lyrical and filled with imagery, sensitivity and truth.  I learned more from Corinne about how to be authentic in writing than any other person.

So I was delighted and enthusiastic when she asked me to participate.

Here is the link to that article.


Thank you Corinne, for writing the kinds of questions that opened up this flow of thought.  I appreciate you more than you know.


How I’m feeling on the eve of the rescheduled critique session.

I just listened to a great podcast on Dear Sugar radio with Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond about how to survive the critics.  The full episode is available here:


I really appreciated the knowledge that after a while, the hurt feelings subside, and you kind of go back to feeling normal.  After my challenging week in a debate with an editor, I am finding relief and getting back to a good place.  I feel lighter inside, and I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that I’ve started spring cleaning.  I’m on day three and feeling light of heart.

I’m starting to contemplate the idea that criticism is kind of like accepting a bag of used clothing.  At one level, all of the items reflect someone’s past choices.  In the entire bag, there may be one piece you really love, making it sort of worth the effort to accept and live with the rest, or make the effort to pass.  But in order to go forward independently and with your own beautiful mind, you must at some point stop accepting the entire bag and say to yourself “I can clothe my own bones.”

I’ve always had trouble being a “pleaser”.  So this is a challenge for me not to accept everything.

This idea is also helpful because I’m participating in critiquing other’s work too.  It reminds me to give away more good items and fold away what is unusable, to discard what isn’t helpful.  Namely, judgement about the person who has worked to write their piece.