Picking up hookers instead of my pen

Yesterday I alerted my Twitter followers and perhaps others to my most recent post to this blog, after adding a couple links (including one to my new client). After all, Twitter, like Facebook and Linked In, is a pillar of my laughably anemic social media strategy.

My to-myself attaboys didn’t last long, though: I checked and saw my most recent update was nearly a fortnight ago, and any semblance of work on my novel was even farther in the distant past. So what the hell else have I been doing besides writing?

Well, unlike the protagonist of the Willie Nelson classic penned by Sharon Vaughn, I haven’t been picking up working girls, exactly. Instead, I’ve let the words of my youth fade away by picking up other kinds of “hookers” — those little foxes that spoil the vines of creation and productivity.

Cigar smoking under the warm and abundant summer sun. Dinner and drinks out with friends. Any manner of perquisites, the rewards of gainful employment, which sap time and ambition.

In other words, living life. But life is necessarily a balance of work and play and, like a distracted deli clerk heaping pastrami on the scale, I’ve piled up too much of the good stuff, ignoring the cost.

But today’s a new day.

Keep your inner censor at bay

What’s keeping you from doing what you really want? What prevents you from embarking on a new career?

What’s thwarting my efforts to bring my long-planned, yet infrequently worked-on, novel across the finish line?

Rank laziness is part of it (I’m speaking of myself, here). But something else is standing in the way, and this is the part I bet also applies to you or someone you know: The insidious inner censor.

About a dozen years ago, I literally dreamed of the protagonist of my oft-started-and-stopped novel and, in addition to the aforementioned lack of gumption and drive, my efforts have been undercut by the critic inside my head (who has an uncanny ability to imitate my own speaking voice). It challenges me each day, demanding to know what kind of decent person thinks the kind of thoughts I’m putting to paper.

You were raised better than that. Your late aunt and grandparents will certainly be ashamed. What will your friends think?

I suspect we all have this critic inside us (and suspect it has a Rich Little-like talent for imitating your voice, as well). How did it get there, and how do you expel it, or at least ignore it?

I haven’t, yet, found the answer, or at least a good one. Whiskey, cigars and day-to-day work have a certain palliative effect, but those are only quick fixes, at best. (At worst, they become habits that sap all ambition, urgency and life itself. I’m struck by something the late Christopher Hitchens said about alcohol being a good soldier but a terrible master.)

At some point, I suppose, one has to just ignore one’s inner critic. Just avert your eyes even if it means staring at the ground as you pass it in the corridor on the way to the writing laboratory or the interview for the job you really want, or whatever.

The examples of people you admire help a little, as does the encouragement of the friends, family and others who comprise your personal cheering section. But, ultimately, you’re on your own. That’s what I think, anyway.

One thing is certain: The cost of failing to disregard the inner critic is greater than the ease of giving into it. I hope so, anyway.

You have a terminal condition. Now what?

You’ve just been diagnosed with a terminal condition. I’ve just diagnosed you.

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I have no knowledge of your medical history, and possess only a scant understanding of my own, yet I know this: You’re going to die. You might have six months or six hundred, I’m not sure. So what do you do with the time you have left?

That’s the question I struggle with, not just at this moment, but continually. Continuously, really. Yet, for all the reflection, as the sun sets on each day I’m stuck for a satisfactory answer.

I’m not passing this off as an original concept. Recently, an episode of one of my favorite television shows posited correctly that “each life comes with a death sentence.” That message has been underscored in books ranging from the supernatural fiction genre to self-help tomes to, I’m certain, a surfeit of “classics,” yet the answer on how to translate this truth into important action eludes me.

In addition to struggling to pay bills, fretting about a lack of adequate retirement savings and being vexed by brand-new yet still somehow out-of-round tires, I’m troubled by my own ability to “get on with it.” At this age, I believe I should have figured things out by now, right?

I mourn the money, education and time I’ve squandered, but mourning has to be restricted to a defined period. It can’t last forever. Each day you, and certainly I, must resolve to spend the majority — if not the entirety — of our days doing only those things that make us the people we want to become. You’ve got to fight fear, indolence and a legacy of self-defeating habits and, to quote John Paul Jones, I have not yet begun to fight.

But our time on this planet is coming to an end. We’ve just been diagnosed with a terminal condition.

Now what?