Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dream a little dream

Or conversely, The Importance of Being Dreamist. I should warn you, this is a long rambling post with lots of parenthetical statements (as I am wont to do), so maybe grab a cup of coffee before you start in on it.

I get a little soft-eyed around the holidays, with the weather turning grayer and the fireplace more inviting, and the end of yet another year looming fast. You really only get six days to think about the impending new year after Christmas, which isn't much time to pack in those end of year specials the networks love. So I start my own personal JEMiniscing (see what I did there?) a little early.

This year, I've discovered that trying to be an author is HARD. Plotting a book is hard, finding the right words to convey your story is hard, sharing that story with others is hard, editing is hard, querying is hard, and I'm sure it's just as hard to try and get that book published and loved by the general audience. I hope to find out some day. But the hardest part of all of this, at least for me, is keeping my spirits up during this whole process. When taken as a whole it seems an insurmountable task to actually write and publish a book that people will love. And standing at the beginning of a new story, starting all over, is kind of like trying to love again after a failed marriage. You're not even sure you're ready to trust someone new, and SNIs have a funny way of luring you in and then betraying you after 60,000 words.

I've run up against this mountain of a molehill a lot this year. I finished a manuscript that I hoped was ready for querying, and have spent the better part of this year editing, writing queries, revising said queries, sending my work out to everyone I could trust/bother to tell me how to make it better, and sending out queries. I didn't have a spare moment for any new stories, and when I tried writing them they floundered after a couple hundred words. I needed all of my energy for the book I wanted to query.

But I found out soon enough that the energy wasn't there. Every query felt like a hundred ton weight around my neck. The research, the personalizing, the endless editing, only to get a form rejection after 30 minutes (or never hearing back again). I knew this was part of the process, and I haven't given up, but it took a lot of the fun out of the story, and I found myself questioning every decision I ever made (should she really have eaten chicken soup?!?). I consider myself a pretty strong person, but I started questioning why I thought writing was the path for me in the first place.

I took a step back from the whole process a couple of weeks ago to collect myself and my thoughts and devise a new game plan. And what I discovered is that I need dreams. All day, all night, staring out the window type dreams. I need stories that fill my head with people who seem more real to me than my own best friends. Stories that whisk me away from gloomy days to even gloomier days with dark and stormy nights and tall handsome strangers. I need to be a princess, a warrior, a gypsy, a thief, maybe even a tramp. My poor little grinch heart feeds on dreams, and I was starving myself.

I started writing again. I started at page one, word one, and let myself dream. And now, even though the querying is still hard and the plotting trips me up (but how do I get them OUT of the cave?), I'm happy. I'm entertained, and I'm renewed in my efforts to fight for these characters to share their story somehow, some way. I've unstoppered the bottle and let the genie out, and he's running amok with my imagination. I think they're planning a timeshare in the Poconos.

So my advice to you, no matter where you are in the journey, is to keep dreaming. Dream all day, dream all night, ignore your emails and celebrity gossip sites and laundry and just dream. And if that doesn't work, just dance.


Laurel Garver said...

Picking up the next project can be so tough! I think it's because revising brain is so different from drafting brain, and it's tricky to make the switch.

I found it helpful to play for a while with short form work--poems and flash fiction--until my drafting brain was up for longer work.

mshatch said...

I completely agree. If I didn't have dreams and hope I'd be a pretty sad little person.

Tere Kirkland said...

Yes! Those dreams are my motivation, too.

Good luck with your SNI and happy JEMiniscing! ;)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I know that restless feeling after you've completed one project but before you've found another to inspire you. It's dreadful.

I'm glad you've found your next dream!

(And querying is soul-sucking. Hang in there! *hugs*)

Lola Sharp said...

Oh, love, it IS hard to be an author.
And, yes, this is a time of year for reflection, looking back, looking forward, wool gathering.

It squeezes my heart in good ways and bad to read this post. But I'm glad this post has a happy ending, the best kind of happy ending. The kind where you are dreaming and writing and feeding your poor little grinch heart and making it grow three times as large.

Dreaming and dancing is pretty much the answer to all things. :)

Love and hugs and happy Christmas, my friend.