Harpies: the official definition is from Greek mythology - creatures with the upper bodies of women, the lower bodies of birds. The spirit of sudden gusts of winds, sent by Hades to steal the souls of people and carry them off to the Underworld to torture them. They appear as both beautiful, winged maidens and ugly old women with sharp talons.
But I'm more interested in a modern interpretation, one that I first encountered when reading Women Who Run with the Wolves by the Jungian psychologist Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Her definition of Harpies: those things that claw at us like predators, draining us of our creative energy, our sense of well-being, our sense of confidence.
Our sense of Who We Are.
Such as the fear of expressing oneself, of using one's voice. Do I have the strength and confidence to tell the truth in my writing? As Alexandra Fuller, the author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, says, "I think you have to write about a million words to clean out of the pipes. I think we are afraid of our own voices and very self-censoring, and we write as if the book is going to publish and be read by people. Once we realize we're never going to get published and we just write; that's our voice."
Sort of reminds you of the old saying by William W. Purkey:
"You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth."
So wherever I find myself in the world
Fully aware of those Harpies standing over my shoulder, waiting to pounce
Letting their clattering beaks and flapping wings fade away, back into the Underworld.