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On Betty Sue Flowers’ Madman and Judge
And how the story doesn’t end there
In reading Bryan Garner’s excellent book on the style of law writing, I read one of his essays that he gave where he talked about former UT English Professor and head of the LBJ Museum in Austin, Betty Sue Flowers. In it, he talked about the excellent way Flowers taught her students how to write.
In the writing process, Flowers eloquently and expertly broke down the writing process into four ideas: the madman, the judge, the architect, and the carpenter.
When I read her thesis, it felt her words spoke directly with me not just with the way she described her way of how the writing process works, but for me, it broke down sometimes how mania and depressive episodes can make me feel.
She first talked about the Madman. She describes him as “full of energy, ideas, writes crazily an, writes crazily and perhaps rather sloppily, gets carried away by enthusiasm or anger, and if really let loose, could turn out ten pages an hour.”
The next role she describes is the Judge. The judge can come in and be self critical of the mad man and often times recognizes a typo or sentence fragment and seems to be the direct enemy of the madman.
I found these two particularly ideas of a madman and a judge fascinating. It seems like I often had this large ideas (some may say delusions of grandeur) and can go crazy imagining all the possibilities.
Late at night I find myself talking to myself a lot. I guess it’s what happens when I’ve lived by myself a lot. Now my poor dog hears a lot of it, but I will see that he’s an excellent listener and hasn’t judged me for them, yet.
The way she describes the judge however is what really struck me. You see too often we let the judge overrule the madman. You become your own worst enemy and judge your ideas more harshly than you probably you should.
I think there’s a parable for life. Yes you may have wild ideas or let your mind wander aimlessly and yes they may seem like ranting. My dad recently asked me if maybe we could have a normal dinner and not talk business or debate. I was hurt. What do you mean? This business is my life. With that, you can really judge yourself in a much harsher way than others would. Once, I was being really self critical and really down on myself, and my friend called me out on it and said “would you say that about me?” I, of course, said no I wouldn’t. What she told me next was one of those things that made me think for the next two days. She said, “well don’t talk about my friend like that.” In it, she basically called me out in saying that I was judging myself much more harsher than I would anyone else. Sometimes it’s hard but you have to forgive yourself.
In the Old Testament, there was a character named David. Now, David was seen as a man after God’s own heart. He defeated a Goliath. And was generally seen as a hero in the Old Testament liturgy. However one thing about David was that he was far from perfect. In fact, he had his own pretty horrific “me too” moment when he had a man killed in battle just so he could sleep with his wife. Again, it’s so interesting that this man did that and yet was seen as someone who is so revered by religious leaders. Because of that, the prophet Nathan basically told David that because of his sin, his first son with Bathsheba was cursed. The story goes that the baby was born but became sick. That night David stayed in prayer all night in hopes that his son might live. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late and the baby did die. David’s self inflicted wounds caused this action.
If the story ended there, it would be pretty depressing.
Which is where I come in, for too long I’ve held on to hopes that a relationship would be restored or friendship not end. I think I’d be a Debbie downer and instead of having hope, I’d be down. I would tell friends I would just want one win. Just one. But thankfully, in Flowers’ way of describing the writing process and in David’s Life, the story doesn’t end there. With David, after he found that his baby had died, grieved and then got up and got on with his life. He continued to be married with his wife. You might have heard of his next son, Solomon. He turned out to be wise but also had a problem with a wife or one or two more.
I recently rented a book from the Stephens Tom Green County Library, entitled “Whole Again” by Jackson McKenzie. In it, the author talks about trying everything to heal and move on from trauma from cbt, to exercise, to everything. He just felt that it was physical. He told his mom this and she reminded him that she sent him a devotional. Yikes again. Here again, my saint of a mother. The person who gave birth to me would send me Jesus calling devotionals on Sunday mornings when I would try to sleep in on a Sunday because I couldn’t sleep the night before (not because I was out. I was just a nervous wreck.) not that it matters. To me it was easier to take a benzodiazepine and try to sleep the pain away than deal with the trauma. I would rather forget and not slow down than gather regret for what I can’t do now.
That’s not to say that taking yourself away from a toxic situation wouldn’t be good for me. I had a good friend tell me repeatedly to go home to be with family. I was too stubborn to listen until it was too late. Once I did, it was peaceful. I found a new friend in a jack russell terrier mix and while I was in a familiar place, still felt alien. San Angelo now is not the San Angelo I grew up in. That’s great to hear. There’s always local comstruction. Days roll by, roads improve. I was so excited about a chipotle coming to town or a Starbucks that when I lost the opportunity to drive, I discovered the greatness that is downtown San Angelo. From going to check out Cactus books to Cowboy up chocolate to local library. You see I once told someone that my biggest fear was dying alone. That raised alarm in them but for me, I was over sharing. Kinda like I’m over sharing now. Hey it’s therapeutic. But back to being a stranger in a new place. One of the people I most admire is sportscaster Michelle Beadle. I loved that someone from the San Antonio area had grown up interviewing Tony Parker (at trinity I believe) and had gone one many adventures but eventually found herself on a show with Colin cowherd. From there, it was a rocket ship to stardom until it wasn’t. And she found herself out of a job not for liking for football or for taking a hard stance about a certain #2 with an Uncle of his own but rather through what seemed like frustrating circumstances. I listened to her first episode of her podcast with the athletic, I was reminded of how funny she was. Wow is San Antonio lucky to have her back and to have people like shea Serrano, Joe Straus, and Danny Anderson as locals. Dr. Anderson, If you’re reading this, my parents still talk about seeing you at a taco cabana before you were officially president of Trinity and regretting not going up to you and saying hello.
It reminds me of the whole nature vs nurture argument and debate. I like to watch Gordon Ramsay from time to time and while I sometimes feel like putting two pieces of bread between my ears and calling myself an idiot sandwich from time to time, I would never want to do that to my dog. I sometimes get frustrated and yell at him and then remember that he is a rescue. Thankfully. He is so forgiving.
I apologize for this long winded post, but you might have noticed, I haven’t talked yet about Betty Flowers’ last two characters in the writing process: The architect and the carpenter. She described the architect who comes up after the wreckage of the battle between the madman and calmly and unsentimentally goes through and cleans it up. After that, a carpenter goes through and fixes that up.
If I’m being honest, I’m not quite there at that process as I’m still working through things but I realize that I need to get there. I need to mourn the loss of friendships and trauma and address them and move on. In the Sopranos, that’s what Christopher played by Michael Imperioli did. He overcome horrific loss and found happiness with a girl after the girl most of us fans fell in love with for several seasons. I hope that this helps you in some way it helps me.
Some bullet points:
To the friend to just sent a text to just do it. Thank you. (She wanted me to run and that was her way of reminding me.)
To the friend in New York who has a pug named Dewey and loves broadway shows. Thank you for humoring me by letting you send pics of my dog.
To my friend from Pennsylvania who went to Florida after trauma and used it to heal up. I’m sorry I was selfish and saw it in a certain way and I’m sorry I’m just seeing how wrong I was now. Thank you for always being there for me. I hope you’re doing well
To Michelle beadle: thank you for being funny about a situation that for you probably wasn’t
To Patricia N: I have been asking my mom to text you about some certain pups named Bernadette and Bailey at concho valley paws. She was insistent that I reach out. So if you see this, this is my way of reaching out
Some pieces of journalism that I’ve enjoyed and also not enjoyed recently but made me think:
How it feels pulling away Wally from something he wants to smell but he can’t at that time for his own good