Dream On!

No one accomplishes anything in life without goals.  We hear this every day on talk shows and read it in newspapers and online.  This is because it is true.  Unless we establish reachable goals and stick to them, we are subject not only to what life throws at us, but to our own short-sightedness and bad habits.  Goals are proactive.  Goals are concrete, unlike wishy-washy dreams and ‘what-ifs’.

Of course, writers live with ‘what-if’.  That’s how we spin ideas into words on a page.  I’ve never heard a writer say “I just thought of some great goals to write about!”  For that matter, I’ve never heard a business person explain that “I started this business to sell my wonderful action plan.”  Goals tells how we’re going to achieve something.  But dreams remind us of why we should put in all that hard work.

I call them dreams.  Others refer to their vision, or their aspiration.  Under whatever name, they are unique as our DNA and just as necessary to our existence.  Show me someone without a dream and I’ll show you someone living in a form of poverty.  Dreams give us something to hope for.  Who wants to live without hope?  I don’t, because that is called despair.

“Ha,” you mutter.  “Dreams are fine for creative people.  But I’m just a banker.”  Or “a beautician.”  Or any other occupation.  If you think you’re out of dreams, as soon as you finish reading this, go find a copy of the book ‘Wishcraft’, by Barbara Sher.  Seriously.  Get to a bookstore, library or open a tab to search for it online.  I’m sure it’s at B&N.com or Borders.com.  Beg, borrow or buy it for yourself.

One of Sher’s exercises is to write down your ideal day.  Not a day in the life you have right now, but a day in the life you (probably secretly) have always wished for, be it as a movie star or a cabinet maker or a stay at home mom.  What we crave defines not only our wants, but our needs.  And when we know what we need, we can figure out the smaller, reachable goals to get it.

My own ideal day includes a large old house (and the staff to clean it!), writing in a garden and a glamorous red carpet event in the evening.  At this point, the day as a whole is achievable only on the holodeck of the USS Enterprise, but many elements are do-able by themselves.  Think I’ve gone off the deep end?  Maybe, but I used to dream of being a published author, too.

So dream on!  Dream big!  I told you a little of my wildest dreams…what are yours?

Resurfacing

Having turned in my revisions after weeks of steady work, I spent a week mentally catching my breath and another one literally looking around me.  I don’t know if this is the case for all writers, but after days and weeks of immersing myself in characters and their time period, returning to my own life is a bit like breaking the surface in a pool.  Under water, the sights and sounds of life above the surface can be heard, but they’re muted.  When you come up for air, that first breath of air fills your lungs in an exhilarating rush, but you’re also taking in bright sunlight, vivid colors and shouts, music and laughter.  All of these are delightful, but the first two seconds almost assault the eyes and ears.

Once I hit the ‘send’ button to the editor, I looked around and started wondering: When did summer get here?  How can it be time to get my hair cut again already?  What is that pile of laundry doing in my room and has it been washed or not?  Who broke into the basement and left that mess all over my desk???

As  post-deadline life settled down, I’ve given myself permission to not sit at the computer for hours day after day.  In between writing sessions, I’ve cleaned, cooked, gotten my hair done, spent time with my family, spent time with fellow writers (hurrah!), danced at a wedding with my beloved (double hurrah!), and just generally acted like a normal person.  Or at least as normal as we ever get in my family.

I’ve also visited two works-in-progress and decided they weren’t total wretched pieces of crap, and plotted my next book.  Most of it, anyway.  Writing is a process as well as a craft and an art.  I know it will take a bit of time before I am really pulled under again into the world of my next set of characters.  But settling down to work on each day’s pages, I look forward to the next dive into the pool.

Romanticism and Reality

First of all, let me say how happy I am that MY REVISIONS ARE DONE…for now anyway.  I got an unexpected reprieve from finishing them when out power went out in my neighborhood for a couple of hours last week.  I composed this post longhand while I was waiting for the lights to come back on.

I’m writing this at my grandmother’s table by candlelight while a light rain patters outside the open windows.  All that’s needed is the presence of my beloved in a swallowtail coat and knee breeches.

Alas, the comparison breaks down quickly.  I’m not writing with a quill dipped in ink, and my beloved does not own a set of Regency formal wear.  (Nor will I reveal the exact phrase with which he declined my suggestion that he acquire one.)  Nevertheless, the mood has shifted.  ‘A quiet night at home’ in the twenty-first century differs from its counterpart one or two hundred years ago.

Candlelight instead of electric light is only the surface difference.  The shadows come forward, flickering with the flame.  I had to adjust the candles so the shadows cast by my hand didn’t hide what I wrote.

We think electric and electronics are quiet, but that’s not the case.  The absence not just of the television, but of the hum of the fridge allows me to hear the noises they cover:  rain against house, the stealthy movements of our cats across the carpet as they stalk each other.  Through the open window, the almost still night carries voices from the street.  Not words, but the rhythm of a conversation and occasional laughter.

On the other hand, some things aren’t terribly romantic to think about at all.  I just went into the kitchen and couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to do dishes by hand in dim light.  Did the scullery maids miss a lot food particles? (Ew.)  And there were no really cold drinks before electric refrigeration!  Ice houses existed, but only for those who  had the space and money to build them and the energy or staff to fill them.  I’ve had my share of ‘fresh’ beer and soft drinks while traveling…it’s not the same.

The lights came on shortly after that, along with the blare of the TV and my daughter’s music.  I got a cold beer and put the dishes in the dishwasher.  Then I snuggled with my beloved, so I can’t say my romantic idyll ended.

What is more romantic to you?  A setting that reminds you of times past?  The here and now?  Or a fantasy world people with angels (fallen or not), vampires or a sexy beast or two?