This was written in my second week at Esalen with some minor edits.
Today’s writing prompt is about the inner critic and opening a dialogue with her. But I don’t want to write about that now – the inner critic isn’t really up at the moment, even though she was crushing in her appearance in the middle of the circle two nights ago – after I heard the circle read, I walked out the door of the yurt into the fog-laden darkness, which felt, by the way, perfect for my mood.
What the hell am I doing in this circle? I have no business here with all these <ahem> writers. I thought I was a good writer, really I did. I thought I’d been really cooking on the trip, writing like crazy, often for full days at a time, in the flow, coming from deep inside and although sometimes nervous about clicking that ‘publish’ button on the blog, I did it each and every time, I held nothing back and putting it all out there felt at times incredibly empowering, emboldening (whether it’s a word or not) and incredibly self-assured. Then at other times, I felt embarrassed and terribly vulnerable and worried about people’s responses. But none of that stopped me from doing it. I kept on writing away, speaking my truth and letting the world, my world see it/me. Oh, I know I lost some readers along the way, especially when the writing got especially long-winded or way over-the-top in the sex arena. But it didn’t matter (well, not really). I kept writing anyway and it’s been a time that I’ve felt more connected to my writing than maybe ever before in my life.
Then I land in this circle, this circle of brilliant writers where everyone around me, I decided the other night, is a better, more prolific, more descriptive, more creative writer than me. And I shrink and I slink out of the yurt wishing I could just disappear into that said foggy terrain, swallowed up whole by the earth, never to be seen again.
What happened to Christina? She’s not in group tonight. Anyone know where she is?
No, I haven’t seen her for days.
She hasn’t come back to our room at night – one less snorer – ha!
Christina, Christina who?
And it would happen that easily – I would just vaporize and be gone and oh, now wouldn’t that be a shame? That wouldn’t be any good at all, because you see, that was that night, this is now, and between those times, I sat and wrote the piece about my father in the hospital – I wrote that in 12 minutes, did nothing to edit or change or improve it in any way. That 12 minute writing, which I decided was part of the problem – I can’t write anything decent in 12 minutes – what is Ann thinking about? This process doesn’t work for me. I may as well just go back to writing all by myself, without all these other perfect writers around me, because they only make things worse and I need more time, I need more time, I can’t access the deep inner, authentic voice in only 12 damn minutes.
That’s when I thought I’d just bring a piece I had worked on for my typical hours on end. That’s it, that’s what I’d do – I’d read something I knew was good, was even great – I’d bring that in and read that and then I would know that I belonged and wouldn’t worry about being boring and flat and totally uninteresting to listen to, most of all to myself. So I picked a piece out, Shelter from the Storm, which is, I think, one of my best pieces of writing, if for no other reason than I get to think about Chris and the amazing relationship we had. No, it’s not only that, it is also a really good piece. Yep, that’s what I’ll do, I figure, I’ll read that and then everyone will know that I do belong. Maybe even me.
But that didn’t sit right with me either. Damn it! That’s not what I was here for – I wasn’t here to regurgitate something to the group just to fit in, how ridiculous – is that how I want to spend my time here? Really? No, not at all. So I didn’t. Ohyeah, I looked at it this morning as we were getting ready to read, but some part of me knew it wasn’t ‘right’, knew it was not the edge I’m looking for. Esalen is not a place to come and stay safely in some protected place. If I wanted that, I could go to Disneyland or some other controlled environment. No, none of that appeals to me. So instead, I clicked the white x in the little red box in the upper right hand corner and went for the story about my father. The beautiful story about my father that I hadn’t even looked at since I wrote it last night. And it was not only the right thing to do – it is a beautiful piece of writing that I feel better than good about. Interesting, just as the critic reared her head and started spouting off about how I have no place in this circle of better writers than me, I come back into the circle and write a beautiful piece. Take that, comparative mind critic, you didn’t hold up under not even any pressure at all. You just fell whimpering away to the sidelines as I carried on doing what I do. I write and I wrote and you were nowhere in sight.
But I wasn’t gonna take this time to write about you since you aren’t around and gee, that’s exactly what I ended up doing. But it’s okay, I have a feeling you’re not too far away and you’ll show up again some time and then, maybe then, we can sit down together and have a little chat and you can let me know what the hell it is you want with me and I can let you know that I just may not be so interested in inviting you in for much more than just a courtesy call of a cuppa.