One of the bad things about getting old(er) is that it seems I don’t dream quite as often as I used to. I used to have so many dreams, so vivid in place and time and persons, that I kept a notebook by the bed. As soon as I woke up, I’d write down what happened so I would remember it later. Even though I mostly dream about real people in this world, my subconscious world is quite strange and exciting, not at all like my Real Life. Many of my dreams have ended up in bits and pieces of my writing.
I’m quite a fan of the unconscious state, although lately, I have too many things on the agenda to take advantage of sleep. When I was younger, I used to be a napper, but these days I feel guilty if I’m not cramming every spare minute with some sort of productive activity. I can’t remember the last time I napped in the middle of the day, but there must have been a malady or jet lag associated with sleeping while the sun shines.
The other night, I had a very weird dream. It was about my 40th high school reunion, which will be coming up shortly. (I know. How the hell did that happen?) I was speaking with my best friend from high school, who I haven’t seen nor spoken to in thirty years. He’s always been an artist; I’ve always been a writer. What was odd about this dream was that he congratulated me on my successful novel.
I woke up, sans notebook, and quickly jotted down the gist of the dream into my iPhone (where would civilization be without it? I ask you.)
Later, I opened my Notes and thought about the dream. First of all, I hardly ever think about my once high school best friend, although he comes to me in dreams occasionally and we have cogent discussions about what’s going on. Secondly…success? What does that mean? I’ve self-published the one short, romantically leaning novel. It was fun to write, and for some readers, fun to read, but can’t be considered a financial success. I mean, I’m not swimming in dough, lunching at chi-chi restaurants, and schmoozing with the elite over it. I’m still a coupon-clipping woman sliding into middle age and worried about retirement.
Success is relative, and you can look at success in other ways. For example, I completed the novel. That alone is a difficult task. I (with my Editor for Life) worked it over and reworked it over. Editing a piece is even harder than writing, if you want my honest opinion. Then after a year of rejection email from agents all over the country stating my work was too “out there” for them, I got the bright idea to produce it myself, to design the cover, and to market it myself (not a hard sell salesman yet).
So I only sold 100 books. It seems like a mere pittance, certainly not enough to quit the Day Job over, but it’s something. I know of authors with agents and contracts and hard covers who don’t sell 100 books. Writing isn’t a lucrative vocation, and if you think it might be a goldmine, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.
Perhaps the “success” comes from the fact that writing, like any other art form, is something that must be honed. It’s a skill that needs constant attention and practice. Perhaps the “success” comes from being able to touch and entertain a few readers with your words.
Gore Vidal is quoted as saying, “Ideally, the writer needs no audience other than the few who understand. It is immodest and greedy to want more.”
Got that, I guess I’m a success. 🙂
In the meantime, I’ll keep dreaming, not of money or contracts or fame or fortune, but of another story to tell. And therefore, I will write.