Writing Thoughts

Lucid Dreams and a Nearly Finished Book

Half awake. Need more coffee. Which is only helpful in theory, given that I drink decaf. But there is some caffeine in there and enough cups will eventually equal one cup of regular joe. (ha!)

I’m currently wrapping up my third (!) book. What I’ve learned with each project is that, for me, the home stretch is more of a roller coaster than the last leg of a marathon.

Some days I’m excited and confident. I can’t wait for people to read this!!! Others I’m overwhelmed with self-doubt. I will never finish this book and no one will like it anyway.

However, my writing style is to revise and polish as I go, so I’m nearing the finish line. At this point, my early and middle chapters are just about publish-ready, the last few chapters need a bit more revision, and the final chapter is the only one left to be written.

(In other words, I’m on track for a spring release!! – More on that soon!!)

Back to my restless night sleep…

My dreams tend to be vivid and I often interact with them. It’s a phenomenon known as lucid dreaming. I know they are dreams, but they also feel like a different form of reality. As if there’s an actual dream world where the rules are similar but not quite like my waking world.

Despite knowing I’m in a dream, it can be hard to separate truth from fiction. Some elements of the dream are “correct,” while others are not strictly true but perhaps symbolically true. I might know that I am in my house, but the house looks nothing like my house in the real world. It may have fantastic features that seem entirely normal in the dream state, like a massive waterfall in the living room or a glass-walled bedroom that is suspended above the house.

Last night, I dreamed I was editing my new book. (Not surprising since I was up late adding in some dialog that occurred to me just before bed.) The trouble was that part of the plot suddenly made no sense. The entire story of one character just didn’t fit in with the rest of the book.

I don’t know how long I was dreaming, but I went over and over that part of the story in minute detail. For part of the dream, I was writing it out on my laptop. In another part, I was talking it through with someone (not sure who). Finally, I went inside the book to talk to the characters and try to understand what they were thinking.

Eventually, I woke up in a panic, convinced that I had my work cut out for me and terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make this vital part of the book make sense. I was up worrying for ages, then tossed and turned until morning.

When I properly woke up, it was with a lingering sense of dread. Until I tried to think over that part of the book with a clear head. That’s when I realized the real problem with my dream: that part of the story didn’t fit because it actually does not exist in my book. It was a story only included in the dream edition.

(sigh)

Thank you, brain, for keeping me up half the night. Now I’m off to continue editing and look for any symbolic truth in that wacky dream.

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Note: if you like this topic, my lifetime of lucid dreaming may have influenced the premise of my next book. Follow me here or on Facebook (SusanQuilty.Writer) to learn more soon!

Advice For a Young Writer

I was recently invited to a local book club where they were discussing The Insistence of Memory. It was a fun night and they had great questions about the book and about writing in general. One of those questions was:

If you could go back in time and tell your young writer self anything, what would it be?

That’s an interesting thought. There are a lot of things I’d wished I’d known when I was younger, but I’m not sure they were things I could have been told. Sometimes you have to learn things for yourself before you really know them.

That being said, I would tell my young writer self (and other young writers) to stop worrying so much.

By all means, take your writing seriously, but here are some things to not stress over:

  • Writing something that everyone will like – It’s impossible to please everyone and when you try, you often end up weakening your own unique perspective. You don’t like every book you’ve ever read, yet there are plenty of people who do like the books that you don’t (and vice versa). If you love your writing, someone else will, too. People who don’t like it just aren’t your audience—and that’s okay!
  • Writing something that is unlike anything else – When I was younger, it was demoralizing to talk about something I was working on and hear, “Oh that sounds like _____!” I’d be so upset because what I’d thought was an original idea was actually derivative of something else. But here’s the thing: something can be original and still a bit derivative or similar to something else. It’s the spin you put on it and the way you put it all together that makes your writing an original work. 
  • Writing fiction that readers will think is about your real life – There’s no reason to worry about this because it is going to happen. You cannot stop it. No matter what disclaimers are in the front of your book, some readers will assume that parts of your story are based on your life or that characters are based on you or people you know. It can be uncomfortable—and frustrating to have your research and imagination dismissed—but it happens to every writer. While your own experiences may shade whatever you write, you know there’s a separation between your fiction and your personal life. You can’t control others’ assumptions, so let it go.
  • Writing drafts that will never see the light of day – Writing is hard work. One of the hardest parts is leaving pieces of your draft (or your entire draft) on the proverbial cutting room floor, but it has to happen. Remember this maxim: Writing is rewriting. The time you spend writing something that gets cut is not wasted time. Forget daily word counts as the only way to track progress. Some of my most productive writing days have daily word counts in the negative. You learn from what gets cut and you rewrite something stronger.  
I’m sure there are a lot of other things that aren’t worth the worry as well, but you get the idea. 
Write more, worry less. 

Spinning Plates That Crash in Silence

I don’t spend enough time writing.

Writing is meant to be my main job (with time out for teaching yoga). Yet, somehow, it ends up slipping down on my to-do list. Instead of writing 5 or 6 hours a day, I’m lucky to squeeze in 1-2 hours. If any hours at all.

I’m not entirely sure how that happens. But I have a theory.

Have you ever watched a plate spinning routine? The kind where the performer gets one plate spinning atop a pole, then adds another plate to another pole, then another, and so on? If so, it’s clear to see why it’s a common analogy for over-scheduling and anxiety.

The plate spinner runs from plate to plate, giving each a spin to keep it from falling. Whenever plates aren’t given enough attention, their motion stops, and they crash to the ground.

Plate spinning comes to mind when I think of all the things I’m managing: personal care and fitness, housework and bills, teaching yoga, marketing and selling books, writing books, etc.

But that’s actually not a very apt analogy, because there’s a key difference between my fiction writing and my other responsibilities.

When my writing plate crashes to the ground, it falls in silence.

Every other plate in my life is noisy when it hits the ground. They’re all squeaky wheels, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, and we all know how squeaky plates get the most spins…. Er… uh… This is why we don’t mix metaphors. But the point is there are rather immediate consequences for other areas of my life.

If I don’t show up to teach a yoga class, my students will be disappointed and I’ll likely lose that job.

If I don’t go to the grocery store or do laundry, there’s soon no food to eat or clean clothes to wear.

If I don’t take care of my health, bad things happen, like fainting and breaking my foot. (Sigh)

But when my writing doesn’t happen? Silence.

Eventually someone may say, “Hey, how’s your next book coming along?” And I can sheepishly say that I’m “a little behind schedule.” Then we can nod together about how “life gets in the way.”

But what if I don’t want life to get in the way?

I want my writing plate to be as loud as the other plates. Louder even. I want it to squeak, and whine, and crash with ear-splitting alarm bells. Bells so loud that I’ll never want to stop spinning them. Uh… I’ve entirely lost track of these metaphors now. Anyway…

Writing wasn’t a silent plate when I worked freelance jobs, because there were deadlines and articles to be handed over for payment. If I didn’t write them, I wouldn’t get paid. And I’d likely lose that client.

That’s the difference I guess. I’m both the writer and the client now, and client-me may be too easy on writer-me. Always knowing that the deadlines are soft. What’s client-me going to do? Fire writer-me? Huh.

I have a feeling other people have silent plates in their lives, too. And it’s pretty likely those silent plates are the ones that represent their deepest, most personal goals. Because personal goals are easy to downplay and set aside when taking care of more pressing basic needs, like food and bills.

But maybe personal goals are the ones that should be loud. Because their crashes may be silent, but when they break, they often cut the deepest.