Monday, March 14, 2011

Bringing Outrageous Vanity To The Party

“Every author, however modest, keeps a most outrageous vanity chained like a madman in the padded cell of his breast.”  Logan Pearsall Smith, American essayist, 1865-1946

I read that quote last night about 1AM, while trying to absorb some inspiration for the novel I’m working on. I’m 22,000 odd words into it and another 50,000 to go. Did you know that a manuscript should be at least 60,000 words long to be considered a novel? According to a study at the University of Pennsylvania, the gender breakdown of number of words spoken each day looks like this: male = 6073 words per day, female = 8805 words per day. I’m more like 10G a day, but did I really say anything at all? That’s debatable. At that rate though, I’ll toss out 60,000 words every week; over 3 million words a year. Though writing 60,000 words on paper, on purpose, in a pleasing and entertaining fashion, is a far more daunting task. It can be done though; just one word at a time.

As I started to drift off, with the brilliance of Smith's statement about barely contained “outrageous vanity” whirling around my thoughts, another presence stirred. It was the part of me that taps me on the shoulder as I write and asks what makes me think anyone will want to read this drivel? It’s that damn Shameus again. If you’ve followed these blog-isodes, you’ll remember Shameus as the self defeating voice that’s always there to knock us down a peg, bring us down to size, or put us in our place when we get all high and mighty. He’s there to shame us, hence the name.

Shameus hangs out in the bleacher seats while I write and he also likes to hang around my makeup table and my closet when I get dressed (the perv). He’s there when I longingly smooth the fabric of that dress I want to fit into this summer and I hear his barely muffled guffaw, like I’m pipe dreaming to think it will ever fit again and I’m a complete fool hanging on to it anyway.

You know what shuts Shameus up? Outrageous Vanity. I need to dig deep and pull out that woman who stood once, across the room from my heart’s desire, and boldly stepped forward into the unknown because it was worth the risk. We all need to dig out those photos of us when we were goddesses and gods and we moved through the world with confidence and poise and yes, outrageous vanity and be inspired. We need to locate that powerful part of ourselves and post it as guard and guardian to bar the way when Shameus shows up with the mac and cheese or the one little piece of pizza that he knows would turn into three.

There is not a painter worth their brush or a writer worth their pen or an athlete worth their medal or an actor worth their Oscar that has not silenced their own Shameus and allowed their outrageous vanity to lead them to their goal.  

Author, Ph.D, M.D. and nationally known psychiatrist, David R. Hawkins, wrote a book called Power vs. Force. It’s a brilliant piece of work and it contains a “map of consciousness” that he developed after years of extensive study. On this map, he identifies 17 levels of consciousness; levels we might be functioning at during any given period of time, and they range from the lowest, which is shame, to the highest functioning level, which is enlightenment. On this map, pride ranks 8th moving up the scale towards enlightenment. He says that we must rise up through each of the levels to become what we were meant to be. The levels reflect individual progress but they also accurately reflect societal and cultural evolution as well. Cities can function, predominantly in shame or fear, or anger or pride or courage or willingness or even love. On the map, Pride sits one level higher than anger, which is #7, and as Hawkins points out, we have to “get mad” enough about something to actually get up off our asses and do something about it. We have to get mad enough to uncover the pride we have in ourselves, our families, our communities and our futures and then we become motivated to make some changes. Guess what the next level #9 is? Courage. We have to get mad about what is, gather some pride about what could be, so we can locate the courage to really make the changes that need to be made; anger and then pride and then courage. Genius, isn’t it? I love it.

So I’m telling you and I’m telling myself, the way to get back on a program or to stay on a program so we can shut Shameus up once and for all is to not only find Outrageous Vanity inside us, but to make her our Plus 1 when we R.S.V.P. our future. I mean really, who would you rather take to a grand opening gala when you reach your goal and you’re finally wearing that outfit you’ve been waiting to wear; Shameus or your new/old pal Ovie? Time to let her out.

Power Vs. Force is available at Amazon or at Veritas Publishing:

Another book Hawkins co-authored:
A Multivariant Psychopharmacologic Study in Normals Reprinted from Psychosomatic Medicine Vol. XXIII No. 1 1961

Um. Yeah. What he said.

And if you’d rather listen to some music about it, here’s a promo from Paula Cole’s amazing 2007 album, Courage: