Persistence Cuts A Path

Prior to graduating law school, I was very fortunate in obtaining an almost perfect job. I loved my extraordinary boss. She hired me despite my being an average student from an average school. My talent, if it existed, was completely hidden to the naked eye.

I worked for a company that represented movie studios in labor negotiations. There was just one problem. I disliked labor law like I disliked finding a stray hair on my tongue after an innocent bite of salad. After graduation, my boss generously allowed me to continue to work for her while I hunted down the right job.

I desired a spot as business affairs counsel for a studio. My securing this position seemed as likely as my growing a beanstalk, climbing up, and sharing a mug of hot chocolate with Jack’s giant. To succeed in my endeavor, I needed either: an ivy league degree, gilt-edged law firm experience, inside knowledge of the secret fetish of an important movie executive, adoption by a Brangelina type couple or willingness to engage in unmentionable activities (as this is a PG-13 rated blog).

Not one to stand still, I opted to take virtually every business affairs attorney in town to lunch in an attempt to display my sparkling personality and to convince them that I was the chosen one. I ended up with empty pockets.

Soon after, almost everyone I knew advised me to seek work in another field of law. Business affairs jobs were hard to come by. And one needed plenty of solid experience.  Unfortunately, like money, experience didn’t grow on trees.

My boss suggested I go where all other newly minted attorneys go when first seeking employment: the government. Specifically, the District Attorney’s office. Even my dear mother seconded that motion reminding me of the splendid benefits, as did my friends, former professors, and the beautician, even though she said the head DA was a terrible tipper. The postal carrier, tired of seeing me perched atop the mailbox, day after day, awaiting a positive response to the countless resumes I’d sent out said,

“Why do you do this to yourself? You like being rejected?”

Damn right I didn’t. But my sights were fixed. I didn’t want to work anywhere else. Picture an incredible craving for an ice cream sundae and settling instead for cold mashed potatoes. I didn’t want to stop trying. Yet every seemingly authentic human I knew advised otherwise.

I caved in and nabbed an interview at the DA’s office. It did not go well. Let’s just say, a dust-laden legal treatise accidentally landed on the assistant DA’s foot with a fairly strong downward force, mid interview. I left knowing I’d not be back.

Despite the rumblings from all that chances of getting the job I wanted were slim, I snagged my perfect position a few months later. Success had been lingering just around the corner,  appearances be damned.

The majority of writers know the sting of rejection well, myself included. But we manage to lick our wounds and carry on. How many of our dreams, large or small, are dashed or sidetracked, due to well meaning advice or criticism? Ultimately, the voice we must listen to is our own. Life is filled with good intentions. And you know where that road can lead. Think for yourself or someone else will do your thinking for you.

Clearing Out the Clutter

Most writers are goal setters. We have to be to get to The End. One vital goal should be added to every list: Clear away the clutter. I don’t mean the  type of clutter sitting haphazardly in the top of your closet created where you toss your sweaters, T-shirts, and random belts. Or the books, paperwork, and notes you pile under your bed…oops, that’s me I’m talking about. The clutter I refer to is housed in the same small space for all of us: the six or so incredible inches between our ears.

When our garbage cans are full, we empty them. When our puppies need to learn proper manners, we train them. So why not do the same with our minds? It’s a bit more difficult because we can’t physically view the content of our minds as we do the overflowing rubbish and the doggy poop deposited beneath the kitchen table.

When I pay attention to my thoughts, I’m sometimes appalled by the trivial content. Why was I thinking about how I longed to yell at the bagger at the neighborhood grocery store after she placed my crisp tortilla chips at the bottom of the shopping bag followed by the egg carton and a large glass bottle of juice, thereby crushing the chips to smithereens? Such negative thinking makes me irritated, which wastes valuable time. I should have focused on how grateful I am to have such a valuable little market close to my home and vowed to patiently assist the misbegotten bagger, or taken over the bagging responsibilities myself. That would have replaced the unattractive scowl dimming my face with the beauty that only contentment can bring.

Excess clutter leaves little space for the “how wonderfuls!” to exist. When trivial thoughts clutter the mind, it’s important to take note and switch gears to replace mind-clutter with thoughts that bring happiness. I imagine myself, my loved ones, my home, my sociopathic Australian Shepherd, all as I’d like them to be, sketching in the little details and providing plenty of adjectives to describe my feelings.

Clutter prevents progress. Imagine trying to walk across a room stacked with piles of chairs, cardboard boxes, and spare tires. You’ll be in a sweat and sporting a few bruises before you make it through. So it is with the messy mind. But it doesn’t have to be when we take control.

We can’t keep two opposing thoughts in the mind at once. One set drives the other out. For instance, if your mind is completely occupied with an unselfish desire to help another, you can’t harbor worry at the same time. It takes a bit of practice to unclutter the mind, but think of all the space you’ll have to arrange and fill with excellent thoughts.

Silencing Our Inner Critic

That is so dumb. Worthless.”

“Buzz off,” I reply without looking up. I continue writing.

This is going to be the worst book ever.  By the way, have you looked in the mirror lately? Is that a crevice between your brows or just another wrinkle?”

“I said get lost!” I speak more firmly this time. “I ain’t got no time for you.”

(Sometimes I slip into slang in order to really drive home a point).

Had you viewed this heated exchange, dear reader, you would have seen me, quietly sitting in front of the computer, engrossed in my writing.

The barb-thrower was none other than yours truly. The brief, verbal wrestling match emanated from my own head: my inner negative critic and me. I usually don’t allow him/her to be heard, but I did for the sake of this post. This disparaging, alter ego exists in many of us, excelling in planting fears and anxieties, magnifying insecurities and creating low self-esteem that makes us doubt ourselves. It’s the relentless critic in each of us.

I call this vitriolic voice, Ling, thanks to a supernatural encounter, many years ago. A psychic approached me, laughing. She explained,

“There’s a little Chinese guy standing right behind you. Ling’s so funny!”Image result for cartoon chinese guy

At the time, I was standing alone. Apparently, Ling was an apparition only a psychic could appreciate. I decided to humor her. “What’s he saying?”

She continued laughing, erupting into such elongated hysterics, I gave up and walked away. But I took Ling with me. He became the personification of the disruptive voice existing in my consciousness that tries to bring me down during a weak moment. Ling seemed like the perfect name. Miserable, argumentative, pudgy, possibly a member of the Communist party, always greedily criticizing and complaining, trying to wreak havoc by pushing me off track. Appearing whenever I felt vulnerable.

“You think I’m pudgy? Take a look at yourself in those pants.”

“How can I?” I reply calmly. “I weigh the same as I did in high school.” Which is mostly true.

In the early days, I let Ling do his job. My confidence was undermined. I routinely called myself an idiot, questioning how I’d ever get the job I wanted, wondering if I was good enough, and so forth. When I managed to land the dream job in a movie studio, like my main character, Corrie Locke, I was paranoid that I’d lose it.

Everyone wants your job,” Ling hissed. “Did I mention that you’re freakish to be having such a conversation?”

And so it was until one day, I decided to talk back to that irritating inner voice.

“I’m not listening to you anymore. If you’ve got something positive to share, we’ll talk. Otherwise, farewell.”

The self-criticisms didn’t go away that easily, but slowly and vigilantly, I silenced the intrusive inner commentary. I pictured my mind as a bus with me as driver and all the little denunciations as passengers, trying to take over the driver’s seat. If I let them, my bus would crash. My aim was to reduce the wretched, whining passengers until all the nasties were thrown out. So if I heard a negative thought, I’d view it as an undesirable rider and hurl him out by the seat of his baggy pants. It worked.

We owe it to ourselves to speak kindly in our minds. About ourselves and others. Our happiness and personal progress depends largely on our own efforts. We should strive harder to train our minds to think positively to develop the best in each of us. It’s worth the effort.