About two months ago, I thought that maybe I’d like to keep a dream journal.
My dreams are like most people’s – odd, disjointed, sometimes a blurry mirror of what’s happening in my life.
I have a few standard recurring dreams, or at least themes of dreams. Tornadoes. Planes falling from the sky. Attending high school or college (again).
I remember hearing that keeping a dream journal is one of the best ways to become better at remembering your dream’s. The act of writing it down keeps those images from slipping away as you wake up. I thought that was true.
To my surprise, ever since I started keeping this journal, I’ve had a much harder time remembering my dreams. I wake up, reach for the journal on my nightstand, open it up, touch the pen to paper, and the dream disappears, caught there like that work on the tip of my tongue I can never remember when I need it.
Of all of the entries in this dream journal, so many of them are “I don’t remember” or “I thought this happened but it’s a reach” and few are the detailed accounts that I anticipated I would be writing each morning in this dream log.
And none of them have been my standard recurring dreams or themes, which surprises me even more. I often think of those as so regular that they outnumber everything else, and perhaps they are. Perhaps those recurring ones are the ones I lose in the time it takes me to reach for the journal and click out the pen.
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I consider myself brave, but I don’t know if that’s entirely true. There are too many things that I hold back from doing to be truly brave.
If I were brave, I would take chances when I don’t know the outcome. Or I wouldn’t hold myself back from doing something I want to do just because it’s not an ideal situation. Or because I’m not sure about cost. Or because I’m worried. Or because I’d probably be doing this alone. Or any number of other things.
Sometimes I play around on Google Flights. I found a really good flight deal to London for several dates this fall. I hesitated. Could I buy a flight, go to London, plan a trip? Could I do this on my own? Do I have enough money, vacation time, will to do this?
Other people travel all the time. I see my friends on Snapchat, instagram, Facebook – traveling alone, visiting a place for a second (or third) time. And every time I ask myself, why aren’t I doing this? Why am I stuck in a rut? Why haven’t I been out of the country in years? Why can’t I even just take a long weekend and drive to Canada and eat some food and relax and enjoy myself in a new place?
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I’m not writing (much of anything). I don’t even want to. Both the idea of revising my latest novel and starting something new makes my stomach twist. It makes me lightheaded and weary. The very thought causes my palms to sweat and my head to ache. The sight of a blank page, paper or computer screen, turns me off. Stringing even these words together is ten times more difficult than it has ever been for me before.
I could go on and on about what writing means to me, about how people tell me that being a writer doesn’t mean being published, that some writers never get published, that I ought to just write for fun, that I should – I should – I should love writing for writing’s sake.
I don’t. I want to be published. I want a book on the library shelf and the bookstore shelf. I could do that. I have the skill set to self publish. I wouldn’t make any money but it would look good. I could probably even market it a little bit, get a few people to buy it, to read it. But I don’t want to do that.
I want validation. And I’m not talking about from friends and family. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to connect with an agent, then an editor, then a sales team, then a marketing team – to have a group of people I don’t know rally behind my writing. It’s not unreasonable because there are thousands of people who have that happen to them all the time. I’m just not one of them.
I wish I could say that I was okay with that. I wish I could say that I just love writing so much that it doesn’t matter if people ever read it. That it doesn’t matter if all my stories and novels remain on my hard drive for the rest of my life. I envy people who write for themselves. If I could change that about myself, I would. But I can’t.
And the very fact that it’s out of my control (and don’t tell me that “it’ll happen next time” or “just keep writing” or “you just need to write another novel”) is maddening. It has sucked all the joy I have ever felt at writing right out of me.
Some days (most days) I want to stop writing.
To be honest, I’m not where I thought I’d be. I don’t know if I could have told you point-blank what I thought I’d be doing at 31 years old, but I had a few ideas. Married with kids, probably a stay-at-home mom, writing, a book (or two) published. But I have none of those things. I’m single, living alone, working 40+ hours a week. Writing-wise, I have a hell of a lot of rejections, no agent, and a huge heaping hole that hope once filled.
I’m not writing this for sympathy. I’m not writing this for anyone’s encouragement. I’m writing this as a confession because it’s hard for me sometimes to come to terms with this. It’s hard for me to keep writing when all I can see in front of me is more rejections, another discarded novel, ideas piling up, time and energy spent on doing what I love without the chance of it going out there into the world for everyone to enjoy.
I feel like I don’t have the time because I have a full-time job and have to work every day and when I get home and on the weekends the last thing I want to do is work on a novel. I feel like every time I see another 16-year-old or 20-year-old or early-20-something with their debut, second, third, fourth novels, that I’ve missed my window. I’m too old, too busy, too — something.
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