Wake up, but keep dreaming | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Mar 24, 2017

As a writer, there are times when I find that my words can hardly wait to jump out of my mind and onto the page and suddenly there's so much to say and every word understands its role in the piece and wants to do everything it can to make the process simple and delightful and all this causes me to sit up straighter and type faster and then to look out the window and wonder when it got dark and to marvel for two seconds that I haven't eaten all day and then to notice that thousands of words now march in orderly rows across the screen and none of those words involved any actual effort on my part and the idea I had for the third chapter in the children's book I started four years ago when my first granddaughter was 9 suddenly cries out for completion and I realize that probably I will finish the entire book this week and I am so excited AND THEN I WAKE UP.

Well. What a disappointment.

I'd guess all writers dream – sleeping or waking – of their craft. Perhaps the dreams begin with a child's fascination for words and how their shapes and sounds can mean something special. I will share an early example of my writing I recently found in a box labeled "Treasures."

You will understand why I haven't written rhyming poetry since childhood. It's actually a piece of construction paper folded into a two-inch square, a tiny greeting card for my father's birthday. I don't know how old he was, but I was 7.

It features a tiny colored-pencil portrait of my father on the front and a tiny satin glued-on bow. The words inside? "Daddy, Here's a dollar. Please spend it on your boat. And when you have it finished. I know that it will float."

Clearly, it was one of the several times my father was on a mid-boat-building project. And, equally clearly, it doesn't appear that I showed a particular talent for writing. Of course, the important point was that he loved it, and my mother saved it, and it ended up in my "Treasures" box.

I suspect any writer could think back on some early endeavor similar to mine and relate to the writing of those four lines, the feel of the pencil in my fingers, the frown of concentration, the satisfaction of creativity.

I also suspect that any writer could imagine the grown-up's dream I related, the one crammed with great excitement and success – until the moment I awakened, disappointed.

I think if writers did not tend toward unrealistic dreams, they might as well have gone into engineering or marine biology or computer science, each of which is a more practical pursuit than writing and presumably leads less toward unlikely dreams of great success with little effort and toward more money.

Was there actual effort in my dream? Not much. Only joy, I think. It was indeed a joyful fantasy.

The reality of writing, though, is always the discipline that confines the creative energy enough for the writer to start something, stay in front of a computer for a certain number of hours a day, accept a routine and focus on the completion of the poem, the article, the book.

Sit in the chair. Spend the time. Submit. Spear the rejection slips onto a hook on the wall and get back to work.

But keep dreaming.


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