Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Fear

Traffic and Other Exhausting Problems with Living

No doubt, traffic is the worst thing about living in the Northeast, and the traffic in northeastern cities is unfathomable. To make matters worse, almost all of the city streets are one-way. When I am driving in the city, I am constantly circling the blocks, trying to find an arrow pointed in the direction that I want to go, and at least once per day, I make a mistake and pull into an alley or begin to edge down the wrong passage.

Image result for traffic on philadelphia street

When I finally get on the right street, I have to dodge the jaywalkers and then suddenly, without warning, some kook will stop and park–right in the middle of the street, and I am the car right behind him. Working myself out of that kind of buttonhole is definitely a challenge, and I have discovered that my life is filled with traffic, and I am continuously faced with the challenge of having to sort out my next best move.

Not long after I moved to the North, I accidentally got into the lines of traffic that were headed into the Holland Tunnel, and of course, that traffic only goes one way. I had driven to North Jersey to take my son to a camp, and I thought that I was headed back to South Jersey. I began to notice that the cars were moving slower and were edging closer and closer toward me. They had gotten uncomfortably close, and I realized that this was not the team huddle at the beginning of the football game. I sensed danger. I had never driven in New York City, and at that time, I hadn’t even driven much in Philadelphia. City traffic scared me to death. I reached a toll booth, and I am sure that fear was scrawled across my face and I timidly asked the lady at the booth, “Is this the way to Atlantic City?”

“Oh, No, Honey,” she chortled “This is the Holland Tunnel. You’re heading into New York City.”

I nearly cried. “Please, can you do anything to get me out of here?”

That saintly lady literally stopped the traffic and got me turned around. Just before I darted away, I explained, “I’m from Mississippi. We have cows, not cars,” and she laughed. The entire freeway rang with her laughter.

That was a close call, and unfortunately, I often find myself tangled in the webs of my own mistakes. The upside of this scenario, however, is that until now [knock on wood], I have always managed to survive. All of my life, I have heard that when cats fall, they always land on their feet. I never tested the theory, but I wonder if it is true, and I wonder whether this tidbit about cats is part of understanding a greater truth about life. Regardless of how wildly I spin through my own universe–regardless of how many times I flip and flail through the air–and regardless of how far I manage to fall, I always seem to land on my feet, too. When I finally learned to believe that things in life do tend to work out, I became calmer in simply living.

Worry is like a rocking chair. It requires a lot of work, and it gets you nowhere.

At times in my life, I have been a worrier. In fact, I still find myself being anxious too much of the time, but I am getting better. In my observation, worriers are afraid. While some people mask their emotions, I believe that beneath a control freak’s facade, there often lies a fear that at any moment, his entire world is going to implode.

Among other things, control freaks are perfectionists and are afraid of making mistakes, and because of that, they are terrified at the prospect of loosening the reins with which they control everything about themselves, including the people that surround them, and they tend to limit the amount of risks that they take.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

Years ago, I was more of a perfectionist and I was more concerned with control than I am now. Controlling is an exhausting lifestyle.  In fact, mere survival can be fatiguing.  At times, I become exhausted by the energy it takes to simply persevere. I’m not fond of the idea of shooting myself or slicing my wrists and slowly bleeding out, but there have been times that I have thought that just maybe it would be nice if I could go to sleep peacefully one night and simply not re-awaken. But I always come back to the realization that living–even if it is only surviving–is a good thing.

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” – Agatha Christie

The good news is that we don’t have to be perfect. Absolute control is not necessary. It is not even good. A little chaos is actually a better thing than absolute control. Because of my creative nature, I have never been completely in control. Einstein makes me feel better about my being chaotic.

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign? ” – Einstein

The control freak would look down upon the creative’s chaos, thinking that the chaotic is weaker than he, the one in control. In reality, it is the creative [his chaos and all] who should question those who cannot function without absolute order. I wonder about the strength of a person who can only function in limited, controlled environments.

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

While the orderly are excellent at attending to facts in their limited constructs, the creatives are the ones who invent those constructs. Without the inventiveness of the chaotic creative, the orderly businessman would have nothing to sell.

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein

Inventing is a chaotic business.

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.” ― Mary Shelley

And inventing requires a process of free-fall during which ideas spin and twist and contort, and sometimes, the ideas finally land on their feet. Yet, sometimes, they do not. Hear me: that is ok. It is ok that some of our ideas work and that others do not. Fear of making mistakes causes a painter to quit painting and it causes writer’s block. The victor is the person who can re-examine what he has done, toss some things away, and save the better stuff to polish into a pearl. This is an artist’s life and it is a writer’s life. Embrace the challenge. Face the traffic within your own life, and let yourself flow.

©Jacki Kellum May 25, 2017

“Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that is where I renew my springs that never dry up.” Pearl S. Buck

 

Survive

The Blind Leading the Blind – Learning to Atually See and to Say What We See

Have you looked carefully at Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s painting The Blind Leading the Blind? It was painted in 1568, and yet, it still speaks clearly to humanity’s goat-like tendency to thoughtlessly follow the crowd. Following the crowd can have severe adverse effects upon any of us who would like to create.

In most cases, we follow the crowd because, for one reason or another, the crowd seems to offer us some kind of security. Perhaps we like the crowd because it seems to be the popular place to be and has the seeming safeness of numbers. We think, “There are more of them than there are of me; therefore, ‘they’ must be right.”

When we create, the crowd becomes part of what Julia Cameron calls the Censor in her book the Artist’s Way, where she said that people have logical and linear behaviors embedded within them. She says that this logical behavior is part of one’s survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior that makes us believe that we need to be the same–or part of the crowd.

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What… is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

While our logical tendencies seem to be safe, they are an enemy to creativity, and logic is the haven for the Censor. The Censor wants to scare us into editing the very life out of everything that we would otherwise like to create.

When I was a kid, a teacher questioned crowd behavior, asking: “If the crowd was jumping off the cliff, would you do the same thing?”

In Bruegel’s painting, the blind man seems to be leading the blinded crowd behind him off the edge of a cliff. What if the blinded crowd were actually a bunch of sighted people who refused to see? What if those who seem to be blindly following along are a  bunch of minds with their lights turned off? If those who refuse to see and those who deliberately dull their minds are desperate enough for acceptance, they may very well turn off their own lamps–simply to follow the crowd. Those people will have difficulty creating something original.

Before we can begin to be authentic creators, we must dare to step away from the crowd, and we must dare to see and to think and to create from what is true to our own selves. While being an individual can be scary, it is the only way to create something new. Furthermore, creation, by its very definition MUST be about something new–the scary, the unproven, the unsafe, and the different.

A couple of days ago, I began to question whether I truly wanted to create or whether I was merely playing at creating. I was tallying all of the excuses we make for not wanting to go out on the limb with our writing and our other creating. While we are great at finding excuses for not taking risks, the bottom line is that we love to live in denial. We love to be safe. We resist change, and we love speaking in code so that others may not guess too much of what we actually are–so that even we don’t see too much of who we really are.

Image result for kids drawing of a house

When we were very young, someone that we accepted as authority told us the “correct” way to draw a house and a sun and clouds and trees and flowers. Afterward, we learned those images and accepted them as symbols to represent the simple things in our lives. in the same way that the letters “H-o-u-s-e” spells “house,” we learned to draw boxes with triangles to say “house” in another way. Our simple little drawing says nothing about how we feel about the house, it simply says “house–the house that everyone in the crowd accepts to be a house.” If we want to write about a house or to paint our feelings about the house, we must move away from the code that the crowd has taught us. We must dig deeply within ourselves and find a way to say something that actually is deeper than words. We must move beneath the external and into our own internals, and sometimes that journey is scary.

As we mature, we tend to find more and more complex codes to reference things that we have difficulty saying, and that we have difficulty acknowledging to ourselves. As we become better and better with language, our codification grows complex, but any time that we reach within our tricky selves and pull out a pretty phrase or groups of paragraphs to replace the act of digging deeper for true meaning, we are still using code. Creating requires of us that we remove our own blinders and to shine a bright light on who we actually are and to speak from what we see–and not from the pretty phrases that we have banked to keep us from saying what we truly see.

©Jacki Kellum April 10, 2015

Blindly

The Artist’s Way Versus the Queens of Denial

Today was the end of the first full week after my Writers Group had begun “Working?” Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way Program and I was a little stunned by the outrage of the voices as we listed the reasons that the Artist’s Way would not work for us.

The first and foremost tenet of the Artist’s Way is that it is essential that EVERYONE write 3 pages of morning dribble every morning. We should get up 30 minutes earlier each morning and write, whether we feel like doing it or not, and we should not expect anything great to come out of the writing that we do. We should simply do it, and what’s more–we should commit to doing it. Here are some of the excuses that I heard from my group:

  1. I am commitment phobic – I refuse to commit to anything.
  2. I am too busy. I don’t have 30 minutes to toss at something that I don’t want to do.
  3. I am not creative. Some people simply aren’t creative, and I am one of them. Again, this is a waste of my time.
  4. I have a better plan.

Although I wholeheartedly agree with almost every word of Cameron’s book, I found myself saying, “Well, when I write, I need a topic–I can’t, won’t, just free-write. I need a topic. I heard myself saying that and Hey! I am teaching this course. Shortly after I got home, I thought that  ALL of US Are QUEENS of DENIAL.

I have decided to step back and reconsider my own behavior, and I challenge others to join me:

  1. I am not smarter than Julia Cameron.
  2. I did not write and publish trillions of break-out books that have improved the creativities of thousands of people.
  3. I am not operating at the level of production and success that I want.
  4. Yes, I am worth 30 minutes of dribble drabble writing each day.
  5. Yes, I WILL commit to working the Artist’s Way Program EXACTLY the way that Julia Cameron prescribes it.
  6. Yes, I will get out of my own way and try the Artist’s Way.

From the very beginning, Julia Cameron warns us that we will probably go through a period of clinging to old behaviors–simply because they feel safe to us. On one hand,

“Many of us wish we were more creative, but….Our dreams elude us. Our lives feel somehow flat. Often we have great ideas, wonderful dreams, but are unable to actualize them for ourselves….We hunger for what might be called creative living–an expanded sense of creativity in our business lives, in sharing with our children, our spouse, our friends….” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 5.

BUT we still resist making the changes that are required to become as creative and as fulfilled as we might be.

“Working with this process, I see a certain amount of defiance and giddiness in the first few weeks. This entry stage is followed closely by explosive anger in the course’s midsection. The anger is followed by grief, then alternating waves of resistance and hope.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 5.

Excuses that we might make for not committing to creative change [Examples of our own denials}

  1. It’s too late.
  2. When I make enough money in my real job, I’ll work on my creativity.
  3. My thinking that I could be more creative is only my ego.
  4. My dreams don’t matter. I need to be more practical and more sensible.
  5. My family and friends will think that I am silly or even crazy for trying to be more artistic.
  6. Creativity is a luxury–one that I cannot afford.

[This list is paraphrased from Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 7].

Julia Cameron says that we have logical and linear behavior embedded within us. She says that this logical behavior is part of our survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior. Cameron says that our tendencies to mercilessly self-edit and censor ourselves are linked to this logical behavior.

“As blocked artists, we tend to criticize ourselves mercilessly. Even if we look like functioning artists to the world, we feel we never do enough and what we do isn’t right. We are victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic, the Censor, who resides in our (left) brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth. The Censor says wonderful things like: You call that writing? What a joke. . . .

“…always remember that our censor’s opinion doesn’t count.

. . .

“Think of your Censor as a cartoon serpent, slithering around your creative Eden, hissing vile things to keep you off guard. ” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 11.

When we convince ourselves that we must be in the MOOD to paint or to write, we are buying into denial behavior.

“Your mood doesn’t matter. …We have this idea that we have to be in the mood to write. We don’t.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 12.

Cameron says that free writing every morning trains the Censor to stand back, and it teaches us that we don’t have to be in the mood to write.

“I didn’t have to be in the mood. I didn’t have to take my emotional temperature to see if inspiration was pending. I simply wrote. No negotiations. Good, bad?? None of my business. I wasn’t doing it. By resigning myself as the self-conscious author, I wrote freely.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. xiv-xv, 1992 Edition.

Some of us ARE writing and creating, and we tell ourselves that we don’t need the morning pages to spring us into action. Yet, perhaps we too are in Denial.

Perhaps our denial wears a different face. Perhaps we are writing and painting but we are not digging deeply enough when we write or paint. Perhaps we are writing or painting what is safe and familiar and we are not taking the necessary chances to take our work to the next level of self-examination. I believe that Cameron is saying that by working her program and by writing the morning pages, we can find ways to dig deeper–into the realm of greater truth and more originality.

Logic brain is our brain of choice in the Western Hemisphere. It is the categorical brain. It thinks in a neat, linear fashion. As a rule, logic brain perceives the world according to known categories. …

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What the hell is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

Some of us who have written and painted for quite some time have developed ways of writing and painting that SEEM to be very creative, very deep, very pretty, very elusive, and very truthful, but we need to examine ourselves carefully to be sure that we haven’t created code art that we hide behind. We need to be sure that some of our own pretty little devices have not evolved into creative trickery. Any time that we reach for some familiar tool or stylistic jargon without considering whether it is truth or whether it is a mere habit, we run the risk of writing and painting trickery and not truth. I believe that the morning pages can ferret out some of that behavior.

Some of us seasoned artists and writers may think that we are feeling bored when we are writing morning pages, but I remind myself and others of the great truth: Don’t Believe Everything that You Think.

Julia Cameron tells us that this Boredom with the Morning Pages is probably masked fear.
“Boredom is just What’s the use in disguise. And “What’s the use?” is fear, and fear means you are secretly in despair.”  Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 12.

How do we know if we have any level of blocked creativity?

Julia Cameron’s answer to this question definitely hit home with me:

Jealousy is an excellent clue. Are there artists whom you resent? Do you tell yourself, ‘I could do that, if only…..? Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 7.

OUCH!!!!! The truth does hurt!

All in all, I do believe that most of us are guilty of hiding in rabbit holes. Our rabbit holes may be the simple excuse that we don’t write because we aren’t in the mood or it might be a stylistic habit that camouflages our true feelings. In my opinion, most of us need to repeatedly commit ourselves to the type of self-examination and creativity renewal that Julia Cameron’s program can foster. But before we will get anywhere at all with the work of the Artist’s Way, we need to dare to shine the light on all of the ways that we are lurking within our own systems of Denial.

©Jacki Kellum April 6, 2016

Denial

A Tribute to Julia Cameron – Life Coach, Spiritual Guru, and Author of The Aritst’s Way

Several years ago, I found myself wading through a set of personal trials that made my life tedious. It didn’t take long for me to find myself creatively blocked, frozen, and silent. A friend recognized my struggle and gave me Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, and gradually,  my creativity was restored. Since then, Julia Cameron has written several books similar to The Artist’s Way, and I believe that most artistic people who are familiar with Cameron’s work would agree that she has made a massive contribution to people who are trying to live more mindfully, more spiritually, and more creatively. I have decided to begin a series that will explore Julia Cameron and her vast reservoir of tips for living. I’ll begin by discussing her first book The Artist’s Way:

Most of Cameron’s books are set up as a series of training sessions that are presented as weekly studies. I teach an offline writing class, and as part of that class’s agenda, we will begin to work through Cameron’s training program one week at a time. My class members are waiting for their books to arrive, and you might like to order a book and begin this program with us. My class has been assigned the reading of the Introduction to the Artist’s Way during the week of March 23, 2017, through March 30, 2017. We’ll discuss the introduction  though page 24 of the book on March 30, 2017, and we’ll study Week 1 the following week. After March 30, we’ll study one week of the program each week for twelve weeks. In many ways, The Artist’s Way is a type of 12-Step Program Designed to Help You Recover Your Creativity. You are welcome to join us free online via this blog site. I strongly recommend that everyone buy their own books. Julia Cameron’s books are treasures. You will want a book to mark and highlight and to keep for reference.

Julia Cameron teaches us how to quieten our own inner critics or self-editors and to quit trying to control our own creative processes.

Julia Cameron is synonymous with the wisdom of writing morning pages. She urges all creatives, and not just writers, to write morning pages.

We’ll discuss our study of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way more during the next week. For now, I want to encourage everyone to get their own copy of The Artist’s Way and to begin preparing themselves for the learning opportunity of a lifetime.

©Jacki Kellum March 16, 2017

Massive

How Fear Causes Us to Doubt Ourselves – Especially When Creating

Fear is the worst thing that can happen to anyone who hopes to create.

Fear causes us to doubt ourselves and what we are trying to create.

Fear prevents the painter from painting, and he forces the writer to edit himself literally to death.

Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know: Ten Principles for Total Emotional and Spiritual Fulfillment by [De Angelis, Barbara] Barbara de Angelis wrote an excellent treatise on Fear: [image credit Amazon]

“Imagine that you had a person in your life who followed you around twenty-four hours a day, filling you with anxiety, destroying your confidence, and discouraging you from doing the things that you wanted to do. Every time you were about to make a change or take a risk, the person would say, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. What if you fail? What if you get hurt? All kinds of things might happen if you go in that direction.’ Imagine that before each conversation you had with friends, family, or loved ones, the person would pull you aside and caution you. ‘If you open up, you might get rejected. Watch what you say! Don’t trust anyone! . . . ” Barbara De Angelis

Fear is like an emotional roommate that lives with you day and night.

“It’s your fear. Fear is like an emotional roommate that lives with you day and night. It talks to you, manipulates you, and tries to convince you to avoid doing or expressing anything that may cause you any kind of discomfort or involve any sort of risk. It says, ‘You can’t’ . . . and ‘You shouldn’t.,’ and it eats away at your confidence and your self-esteem. It tells you not to act, not to reach out, not to try, not to trust, not to move. It steals the life right out from under you. . . .” Barbara De Angelis

Fear is one of your most powerful inner enemies. It is a force that can sabotage your happiness.

“Fear is one of your most powerful inner enemies. It is a force that can sabotage your happiness. How does fear do that? It keeps you stuck in what’s not working. It prevents you from growing. It keeps separation between you and other people. It talks you out of your dreams. It keeps you stagnant, frozen, unable to become all you were meant to be. . . .” Barbara De Angelis

“It is fear that keeps us standing on the cliff when we know that we need to leap to the other side. But fear does more than just hold you back–it steals your aliveness, your passion, your freedom by shutting down your heart. . . .The extent to which you allow fear to control your life is the extent to which you are living as a prisoner.

I read De Angelis’s book 25 years ago, and it is undoubtedly the most inspirational of any self-help book that I have ever read.  Although the book is supposedly for women, I feel that the passages about Fear are appropriate for most artists and writers. Fear is one of a creative’s most crippling forces.

After years of being muted by my own fear, I finally gained enough stamina to simply override my restraints and to create in spite of my fear. But that was a long and uphill climb.

 You can read excerpts from De Angelis’s book on her Facebook Page Here

You can also read a great deal of her writing at Google Books Here

Sometimes it simply helps to hear a knowledgeable person give you permission to move beyond your fear and to do what you want and need to do. Sometimes it also helps to know that powerful and famous people also deal with Fear.

John_Wayne_-courage
“ Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

One of the biggest mistakes that many of us make is that of allowing ourselves to believe that only the weak and the unsuccessful people deal with Fear, but that is not at all true.  Even in her greatness, Judy Garland was never comfortable with herself and with her life.  My all-time favorite movie is the Wizard of Oz.  More times than I could count, Judy Garland has carried me Over the Rainbow and back again.  Years ago, I did an entire body of art work based on the theme: “Over the Rainbow.”  For me, “Over the Rainbow “is a kind of heaven–a heaven that Judy Garland unlocked for me and for many, many other people.  In many ways, The Wizard of Oz and the song Over the Rainbow  molded the course of my life; yet, Judy Garland never felt that she was enough. Imagine that! Judy Garland battled her fear and yet, managed to serve as a great inspiration for me.and for many other people.

From what I have read, Barabara Streisand is similarly haunted. Long ago, when she was at her peak, I heard Streisand talk about how difficult performing was for her–and she hardly ever performs now.

Loud and clear, the messages that I hear are that most of us are not the best judges of ourselves and that we never feel that we are great enough–at least not great enough to please ourselves. Yet, even in our weaknesses [this is the BIGGIE], we have MUCH to offer.

Allow your cups to be filled by two women who were often scared to death and yet who “…saddled up anyway.”

“Even in our weaknesses, we have MUCH to offer.” – Jacki Kellum

We must all realize that when we don’t share of ourselves, we fail to give other people the gifts of our own lives. We also steal from our very own lives the joy that we deserve.

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

Is Fear preventing you from truly living your life–from becoming your true self? Eileen R. Hannegan also talks about the paralyzing effects of fear that drain our energies and damages our spirits:

“The combination of discovering what is not you but not yet knowing what is you is very much like being cast adrift in space, free-floating with no sense of attachment to anything solid. In this transitional process, it is easy to become disconcerted and frustrated. What you previously knew as your self begins to fade away, and a new set of knowns based on true self begins to emerge. As the old passes away, familiar habits and thought processes also begin to wither and die, but new ones have not yet replaced them. Because of . . . paralyzing fear, many people choose to continue living a false existence. They are generally very adept at doing this, and living a false existence works for them to some degree because they manage to stay in a neutral zone, half alive and resisting the life force of true self. a considerable amount of energy to hold back and maintain a neutral course of life. But living a false or a half-truth existence eventually takes its toll, both emotionally and physically. It takes a considerable amount of energy to hold back and maintain a neutral course of life. It goes against true self and drains the soul and spirit. We think that if we keep sacrificing self long enough, things will get better. So we invest in situations that go against true self, and as a result, we deplete the soul. Our energy is being drained to maintain this facade and keep up the pretense of well-being.”

Regardless of how great of a hold that Fear has on us, we can overcome it and we can create, in spite of it. We owe it to ourselves to limit the damage that fear imposes upon us. You may not realize it, but when you do not write or paint or dance or sing, in spite of your fear, you not only cheat yourself. You cheat the world.

©Jacki Kellum March 2, 2016

Doubt

Finding the Courage to Submit My Writing to a Publisher Was A Breakthrough

On Friday, I shared that had reached the point in my writing that I felt it was necessary for me to take the next step. It was time for me to Submit my work to a publisher. My deadline to submit my writing  was midnight on Saturday night. 18 minutes before the Deadline, I submitted my first piece to a publisher, and I already feel more powerful, after having done so.

test-submit-for-publication-jacki-kellum-1000

For the past year, I have blogged something almost daily. I have begun writing several first drafts for one piece or another. I realized that it was time to take my first test. I searched through as many upcoming writing competitions as I could find, and I selected one for my goal. The deadline for midnight on October 1, Unfortunately, I didn’t begin fine-tuning my piece early enough, and I waited until about two days before the deadline to begin assembling several memoir vignettes that I had written. Clearly, I procrastinated too long.

After I had assembled the parts of my essay, I began combing through my writing. The maximum word count for my finished piece was 8500 words, and I had not yet tried to manage an essay of that length. It was more difficult than I expected to edit that many words. It seemed that I would edit and re-edit the first two pages, but I had difficulty being satisfied enough to move farther. The deadline was drawing nearer and nearer, and I still hadn’t edited the bulk of the essay.

Initially, I did what I believed all along that I would do. I decided to simply back out of the race. I began looking for the next important competition, and I decided to wait until then to submit. Besides, I had to work the day of the submission deadline. The miracle is that I worked with an editor that day, and when I told her my plight, she gouged me until I decided to just do it. Whether the thing was perfect or not, I decided to jump from one cliff to another. I decided to simply submit. And I am glad that I did.

After I had pushed the button “submit,” I realized that it didn’t matter whether I won the competition or not. My breakthrough lay in having pulled a quantity of writing together and to have gathered enough courage to try to move forward.

On October 2, I began making a long and detailed calendar of upcoming writing competitions. I am ready to face the next dragon, but next time, I’ll begin editing sooner, and I’ll truly be ready. Next time, I might allow myself a chance to win.

©Jacki Kellum October 3, 2016

Breakthrough

Stephen King Discusses the Problems Faced by Timid Writers – Overuse of Adverbs & Use of the Passive Voice – Just Jump In and Write

Fear is the worst thing that can happen to anyone who hopes to create.

Fear prevents the painter from painting, and he forces the writer to edit himself literally to death.

Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know: Ten Principles for Total Emotional and Spiritual Fulfillment by [De Angelis, Barbara] Barbara de Angelis wrote an excellent treatise on Fear: [image credit Amazon]

“Imagine that you had a person in your life who followed you around twenty-four hours a day, filling you with anxiety, destroying your confidence, and discouraging you from doing the things that you wanted to do. Every time you were about to make a change or take a risk, the person would say, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. What if you fail? What if you get hurt? All kinds of things might happen if you go in that direction.’ Imagine that before each conversation you had with friends, family, or loved ones, the person would pull you aside and caution you. ‘If you open up, you might get rejected. Watch what you say! Don’t trust anyone! . . . ” Barbara De Angelis

Fearful writers face an abundance of problems that I have discussed before, but in his book On Writing,  Stephen King reminds us of another set of problems caused by fearful writing–the problems associated with timidity. He begins by saying that time writers make the mistake of using passive verbs:

“Verbs come in two types, active and passive. With an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing something. With a passive verb, something is being done to the subject of the sentence. [p. 122].

. . .

“The passive voice is safe. There is no troublesome action to contend with; the subject just has to close its eyes and think of England, to paraphrase Queen Victoria. I think unsure writers also feel the passive voice somehow lends their work authority, perhaps even a majesty.

. . .

“The timid fellow writes The meeting will be held at seven o’clock….Purge this quiggling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back you shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write The meeting’s at seven. There, by God! Don’t you feel better?

. . .

“You should avoid the passive tense….Suppose, for instance, a fellow dies in the kitchen but ends up somewhere else. The body was carried from the kitchen and placed on the parlor sofa is a fair way to put this, although ‘was carried’ and ‘was placed’ still irk the shit out of me…. What I would embrace is Freddy and Myra carried the body out of the kitchen and laid it on the parlor sofa. Why does the body have to be the subject of the sentence, anyway? It’s dead, for Christ’s sake! [p.123].

. . .

The writer threw the rope, not The rope was thrown by the writer. Please oh please.

. . .

“Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind. With the passive voice, the writer usually expresses fear of not being taken seriously, it is the voice of little boys wearing shoepolish mustaches and little girls clumping around in Mommy’s high heels. With adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or the picture across.

“Consider the sentence. He closed the door firmly. It’s by [p. 124] no means a terrible sentence…but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there.

. . .

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s–GASP!!–too late.

. . .

“Just to make sure we all know what we’re talking about, examine these three sentences:

‘Put it down! she shouted.

‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’ 

‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.

“In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions: [p. 125]

‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.’

‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’ 

‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.’

. . .

“Such dialogue attributions are sometimes known as ‘Swifties,’ after Tom Swift, the brave inventor-hero in a series of boys’ adventure novels… ‘Do your worst!’ Tom cried bravely and ‘My father helped with the equations,’ Tom said modestly.’

. . .

“Some writers try to evade the noo-adverb rule by shooting the attribution verb full of seroids. The result is familiar to any reader of pulp fiction or paperback originals:

‘Put down the gun, Utterson!’ Jekyll grated.

‘Never stop kissing me!’ Shayna gasped.

‘You damned tease!’ Bill jerked out.’ [p. 126]

“Don’t do these things. Please  oh please.”

. . .

“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.

.  . .

“Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. [p. 127

. . .

“Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, pgs. 122-128.

Stephen King is a prolific writer, and he is anything but timid. I do believe that his favorite word is “fart.” See my previous post that recounts his story about the babysitter Eula who was prone to farting on his head. Herehttp://jackikellum.com/?s=Stephen+King+Eula After sharing a poorly written Shayna line, King said the following: “Oh, man–who farted, right?” Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, p. 123.

When I wrote the Eula-Beulah post, I said that I personally am a bit of a prude, and I wouldn’t typically use the word “fart” in writing. I admitted, however, that King made his point, and I believe that the same is true in the advice offered above. Stephen King he tells us to do what Dumbo did. He tells us to stop quiggling and mugglilng and to Just Jump. We don’t need the magic feathers that we seem to feel naked without. We simply need to Jump.

©Jacki Kellum September 22, 2016

Jump

Mindlessness & Denial – Things That We Do to Protect the Fragile Self-Esteem

Earlier this week, I ran across a new term:” Mindlessness,” which has nothing to do with the amount of one’s intelligence. In fact, the most intelligent around us might be some of the most mindless people that we know. Mindlessness is a condition that we will upon ourselves to help ourselves block out unpleasant thoughts.

Mindlessness Is A Type of Denial

There are several ways to become Mindless

Workaholics work all of the time for a reason. If a person’s mind is completely consumed with work and success in the workplace, there is no available brain space left for worrying about failed marriages, dysfunctional families, children who are on drugs, etc.

The same is true about being a sexaholic or a foodaholic or an alcoholic or about one who is addicted to exercise. When we allow any vice to paralyze our minds or to block out unpleasant emotional stimuli, we become mindless, and that is a way that we protect our fragile self-esteems.

When we are able to pinpoint that people have become addicts of one kind or another, we tend to look down on them.  Sooner or later, we recognize the alcoholics. They eventually drink at the wrong time and in the wrong places, and they begin to stumble in public and slur their words. When an alcoholic begins doing these things, society tends to regard the alcoholic as weak or less than desirable.   It might be more difficult, however, to identify the workaholics, and the workaholic might escape scrutiny.  But if we look carefully at the workaholic’s behavior, we might begin to see that he is behaving as undesirably as the alcoholic.

In many cases, the workaholics are the most financially successful people in our midsts. They usually drive the nicest cars, wear the most expensive clothes and jewelry, and live in the largest houses. Because the workaholic has the finest things–the things that we regard as the outward signs of success–most other people tend to idolize him. But the workaholic becomes very me-oriented, and his self-obsession can become greedy and can even reach the point of narcissism.

Narcissists Do Not Identify with the Feelings and Needs of Others.

“Lack of empathy is one of the most striking features of people with narcissistic personality disorder. It’s a hallmark of the disorder in the same way that fear of abandonment is in borderline personality disorder.

“Narcissists do not consider the pain they inflict on others; nor do they give any credence to others’ perceptions,” says Dr. Les Carter in the book Enough of You, Let’s Talk About Me (p. 9). “They simply do not care about thoughts and feelings that conflict with their own.” Do not expect them to listen, validate, understand, or support you.” Read the rest of this article Here 

Being Successful Is Not the Same As Being Correct

Because the workaholics tend to become the corporate demigods and the politicians, the public is often blinded to their more negative qualities. Because the narcissist seems to have everything and because he wins everything, the public tends to believe that the narcissist’s behavior, whatever it is, must be correct.

Narcissists Are Masters of Deception

In many cases, narcissists are relentlessly charming, and the narcissist’s charm is probably his most powerful weapon. Narcissists are masters of deception. Because narcissists seem to have it all and because they seem to be happy, other people do not realize that they are basically insecure.

Narcissists Deceive Themselves

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about a narcissist is that the narcissist himself has managed to block his own feelings of insecurity. As I  mentioned before, this is the benefit of being mindless. When a mindless person begins cheating others and disregarding the feelings of others, he doesn’t recognize his own selfishness. Like an alcoholic, if a person cannot see his problems, the problems cannot be fixed.

Narcissists React Violently to Criticism

If someone around a narcissist tries to show him ways that he is behaving poorly, he will react very negatively. In most cases, the narcissist’s self-esteem is fragile, and he became a perfectionistic workaholic to escape his own feelings of fragility. Because of that fact,  a narcissist, cannot tolerate any criticism at all. If someone else suggests that he has not behaved perfectly, he is only enraged.

Narcissists Are Vindictive

And then there’s hell to pay.

For more information about narcissism, the following article from Psychology Today is helpful:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201311/6-signs-narcissism-you-may-not-know-about

The following are some of the narcissists’ traits as mentioned in Psychology Today:

1.Narcissists are highly reactive to criticism

2. Narcissists have low  self-esteem [but they seem to be overly self-assured] This facet of their psyche is complicated because superficially thy seem to have high self-esteem–they appear to be more assured than just about anyone else. Additionally, because they are driven to success, it’s not uncommon for them to rise to positions of power and influence and to amass a fortune (and see the post “Narcissism: Why It’s So Rampant in Politics”). But if we examine what’s beneath the surface of such elevated social, political, or economic stature—or their accomplishments generally—what typically can be inferred is a degree of insecurity vastly beyond anything they might be willing to avow. ..

3. Narcissists can be inordinately self-righteous and defensive. Needing so much to protect their overblown but fragile egos, their ever-vigilant defense systems can be extraordinarily easy to set off. …

4. Narcissists react to contrary viewpoints with anger or rage. Because the narcissists are charming, they may hide their rage, but it is like a ticking time bomb. It may be hidden and out of sight, but it is still threatening

5. Narcissists project onto others qualities, traits, and behaviors they can’t—or won’t—accept in themselves.

6. Narcissists view others as “extensions” of themselves, and they regard them as existing primarily to serve their own needs—just as they routinely put their needs before everyone else’s….

Most people are narcissistic to some degree.  I certainly recognize that I have some of the traits listed above. But I am aware that I can become selfish and me-oriented, and I continuously buffet myself.  If I have a saving grace, I believe that is my it: I DO recognize some of my own narcissism.  A severe narcissist does not.  Have you met the Queen of Denial? She is probably a narcissist, and there seems to be no way to change his or her mind about that.

What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive ourselves.

Where ego and self-esteem are concerned, most of us are fragile, and we do a variety of things to protect our fragilities. Denial is often a result of a person’s attempt to protect his own self-esteem. All of us need to monitor ourselves and our denials, however. We need to be sure that in providing for our own fragile egos, we do not trample the egos and the needs of others.

©Jacki Kelllum September 16,2016

 

Fragile

Thoughts about Fear & How It Keeps us from Writing & Painting

Fear is the worst thing that can happen to anyone who hopes to create.

Fear prevents the painter from painting, and he forces the writer to edit himself literally to death.

Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know: Ten Principles for Total Emotional and Spiritual Fulfillment by [De Angelis, Barbara] Barbara de Angelis wrote an excellent treatise on Fear: [image credit Amazon]

“Imagine that you had a person in your life who followed you around twenty-four hours a day, filling you with anxiety, destroying your confidence, and discouraging you from doing the things that you wanted to do. Every time you were about to make a change or take a risk, the person would say, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. What if you fail? What if you get hurt? All kinds of things might happen if you go in that direction.’ Imagine that before each conversation you had with friends, family, or loved ones, the person would pull you aside and caution you. ‘If you open up, you might get rejected. Watch what you say! Don’t trust anyone! . . . ” Barbara De Angelis

Fear is like an emotional roommate that lives with you day and night.

“It’s your fear. Fear is like an emotional roommate that lives with you day and night. It talks to you, manipulates you, and tries to convince you to avoid doing or expressing anything that may cause you any kind of discomfort or involve any sort of risk. It says, ‘You can’t’ . . . and ‘You shouldn’t.,’ and it eats away at your confidence and your self-esteem. It tells you not to act, not to reach out, not to try, not to trust, not to move. It steals the life right out from under you. . . .” Barbara De Angelis

Fear is one of your most powerful inner enemies. It is a force that can sabotage your happiness.

“Fear is one of your most powerful inner enemies. It is a force that can sabotage your happiness. How does fear do that? It keeps you stuck in what’s not working. It prevents you from growing. It keeps separation between you and other people. It talks you out of your dreams. It keeps you stagnant, frozen, unable to become all you were meant to be. . . .” Barbara De Angelis

“It is fear that keeps us standing on the cliff when we know that we need to leap to the other side. But fear does more than just hold you back–it steals your aliveness, your passion, your freedom by shutting down your heart. . . .The extent to which you allow fear to control your life is the extent to which you are living as a prisoner.

I read De Angelis’s book 25 years ago, and it is undoubtedly the most inspirational of any self-help book that I have ever read.  Although the book is supposedly for women, I feel that the passages about Fear are appropriate for most artists and writers. Fear is one of a creative’s most crippling forces.

After years of being muted by my own fear, I finally gained enough stamina to simply override my restraints and to create in spite of my fear. But that was a long and uphill climb.

 You can read excerpts from De Angelis’s book on her Facebook Page Here

You can also read a great deal of her writing at Google Books Here

The amazing thing is that you won’t see anything that you don’t already know, but sometimes it simply helps to hear a knowledgeable person give you permission to move beyond your fear and to do what you want and need to do. Sometimes it also helps to know that powerful and famous people also deal with Fear.

John_Wayne_-courage
“ Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

One of the biggest mistakes that many of us make is that of allowing ourselves to believe that only the weak and the unsuccessful people deal with Fear, but that is not at all true.  Even in her greatness, Judy Garland was never comfortable with herself and with her life.  My all-time favorite movie is the Wizard of Oz.  More times than I could count, Judy Garland has carried me Over the Rainbow and back again.  Years ago, I did an entire body of art work based on the theme: “Over the Rainbow.”  For me, “Over the Rainbow “is a kind of heaven–a heaven that Judy Garland unlocked for me and for many, many other people.  In many ways, The Wizard of Oz and the song Over the Rainbow  molded the course of my life; yet, Judy Garland never felt that she was enough. Imagine that! Judy Garland battled her fear and yet, managed to serve as a great inspiration for me.and for many other people.

From what I have read, Barabara Streisand is similarly haunted. Long ago, when she was at her peak, I heard Streisand talk about how difficult performing was for her–and she hardly ever performs now.

Loud and clear, the messages that I hear are that most of us are not the best judges of ourselves and that we never feel that we are great enough–at least not great enough to please ourselves. Yet, even in our weaknesses [this is the BIGGIE], we have MUCH to offer.

Allow your cups to be filled by two women who were often scared to death and yet who “…saddled up anyway.”

“Even in our weaknesses, we have MUCH to offer.” – Jacki Kellum

We must all realize that when we don’t share of ourselves, we fail to give other people the gifts of our own lives. We also steal from our very own lives the joy that we deserve.

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

Is Fear preventing you from truly living your life–from becoming your true self? Eileen R. Hannegan also talks about the paralyzing effects of fear that drain our energies and damages our spirits:

“The combination of discovering what is not you but not yet knowing what is you is very much like being cast adrift in space, free-floating with no sense of attachment to anything solid. In this transitional process, it is easy to become disconcerted and frustrated. What you previously knew as your self begins to fade away, and a new set of knowns based on true self begins to emerge. As the old passes away, familiar habits and thought processes also begin to wither and die, but new ones have not yet replaced them. Because of . . . paralyzing fear, many people choose to continue living a false existence. They are generally very adept at doing this, and living a false existence works for them to some degree because they manage to stay in a neutral zone, half alive and resisting the life force of true self. a considerable amount of energy to hold back and maintain a neutral course of life. But living a false or a half-truth existence eventually takes its toll, both emotionally and physically. It takes a considerable amount of energy to hold back and maintain a neutral course of life. It goes against true self and drains the soul and spirit. We think that if we keep sacrificing self long enough, things will get better. So we invest in situations that go against true self, and as a result, we deplete the soul. Our energy is being drained to maintain this facade and keep up the pretense of well-being.”

Regardless of how great of a hold that Fear has on us, we can overcome it and we can create, in spite of it. We owe it to ourselves to limit the damage that fear imposes upon us. You may not realize it, but when you do not write or paint or dance or sing, in spite of your fear, you not only cheat yourself. You cheat the world.

©Jacki Kellum August 13, 2016

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