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The Evil Elf, or how my negative thoughts sometimes threaten to derail me

The Evil Elf

I’ve noticed accumulating fears about my Novel Writing Workshop, that begins in about a month. When I signed up for the workshop I was excited about finally getting the guidance I need for my fiction writing.

The creeping fears since then come from the scary questions the evil elf persists in whispering into my ear: “What if you have no talent? What if you just can’t write? I don’t think you know how to tell a story. You just pull together a list of ‘interesting’ fragments and put it out there and leave it to the reader to piece together. You can’t close the deal!!!”

The ugly munchkin is shouting by now. And he’s traded the questions for accusations. “You’re stuck trying to write complex sentences. You’re so damn ambivalent about everything. Why can’t you just spin a tale and let ‘er rip?”

Good question. I don’t know why. Maybe I can, and just need to get on about doing it. Maybe my characters will guide me wherever they need to go, and all I have to do is take some notes. Edit later.

“You’ve started too late. You’re over the hill,” he whispered. I never noticed this before, but the malignant elf has a lisp, like that character in Runaway Bride.

“Teasing and humiliation won’t work! You can’t distract me from telling the DISMAL TRUTH about you!” Louder now. Dith-tract and dith-mal dissolve some of the elf’s authority, as I listen more closely.

“Go to hell,” I reply and return to my typing.

“Oh, you think cursing makes your writing interesting?” (cur-thing; intereth-ting)

I am trying to distract myself from the elf’s observations. Why do I listen to him at all?

“You listen because you know I’m right. I’m the only one who’ll tell you the truth about yourself,” he opined.

“Yeah? Then why is that so-called truth you’re telling me always blistering and negative? Why is the truth only about my faults and imperfections?” I demand.

“I tell you the negative stuff because you’d get a swell head if you just listened to the positive stuff about you all the time. You’ll try to get above yourself. I’m just trying to save you from disappointment. You used to think you were the smartest person in the world, remember?”

“I did think that once, but I was 8 or 9 years old. I have a bit more perspective now.” At the time I also wore red cowboy boots, a white Roy Rogers hat, and a hand-tooled holster with my toy Colt when my dog Brownie and I went to explore the fields and woods near my childhood home in east Texas.

The elf jumps onto my desk and turns to face me, sneering. His twisted face and oily hair are the stuff of nightmares. His breath at close range is foul. “You know what I really think? You’re just a smartass. You’ve always been a smartass. Smart aleck. Too smart for your own good. You think you can beat the odds every time. You think you know better, and that bad outcomes won’t happen to you. Well, now. You flunked out of college. You’re divorced. You tried a business, and it failed. You tried another business and it failed, too. God knows what you’ll do next!” He paused to take a breath.

“And your point is?” I ask.

“YOU HAVE TO BE MORE CAREFUL!” he shouted. “You’re never careful, you’re always launching yourself out into something new, like a kid doing hang gliding off a cliff. Don’t you ever look down?”

Okay, that’s a point. In fact, much of what this mucky elf is saying is true. I choose to believe it’s not the whole truth about myself. I don’t think the story is over yet. I have learned from my mistakes.

“Yes, but have you learned ENOUGH from those mistakes? That is the question,” he shouted in triumph.

“Perhaps not. But here’s the deal.” I fumble in the drawer of my old rolltop and pull out a broken piece of chalk. With it I draw a heavy line on the floor, a wide circle around my writing desk. “I’m going to write. I’m scared about it, I don’t even know why anymore. But I’m choosing not to listen to this river of crap. I’ll take your observations into consideration, JUST NOT WHILE I’M TRYING TO WRITE, OK?”

The elf scrambled down off his perch on my desk. He stomped across the floor behind my chair and went out into the hall. From where I sit I can just make him out in the shadows, standing with his shoulders hunched and his arms crossed over his sunken chest. I’m sure he’s scowling, but at least he’s not yelling anymore.

“Turn around,” I snarl. “No looking!” I hear him shuffle his gnarly feet on the floor.

Now where was I?

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