Last night I received some interesting news from my agent. One of the editors to whom she submitted my manuscript has read it, liked it, and is getting second reads from an unnamed individual in a higher position than she (because publishers work like that). Now, in the grand scheme of "big" publishing, this is neither good nor bad news. If the second-read person, who is likely a senior editor, does not feel my manuscript is a good fit for their line, the first-read person can't make an offer and the house passes. My logical brain knows this is nothing to get excited about.
However, my attention-hungry writer brain that dreams of advances (even small ones), fan mail, and walking into a bookstore to find my name on the shelves (and of course, nonchalantly pointing this out to any book-browser who happens to be near, while jumping up and down and squealing like a schoolgirl on the inside), has other thoughts. It's not easy to suppress that dream-is-almost-coming-true feeling -- even when I know this is only one more spoonful of dirt from the tunnel.*
This suppressed hope did a number on my mind last night while I was sleeping. I had a long and vivid dream. Something awful had happened to the entire world. All the electricity, telephone lines, and utilities were gone. People had been displaced. Everyone was wandering around, dazed and shocked, looking for shelter. I ended up with a group of around 30 people trying to settle into this huge old crumbling house. A handful of us, myself included, went down into the basement for some reason.
We found something so terrible down there, my mind refused to show it to me. Whatever it was didn't want to let us go. We barely escaped with our lives. The house was evacuated, and we were once again displaced with nowhere to go.
At that point, the dream became personal. I invited these 30 lost, hungry, tired people to stay at my house. Now, in the dream, my house was the same as it is now: small, untidy (I work full time and write full time, and I'm a terrible housekeeper), and absolutely unfit for company. In real life, I only allow my immediate family into my house, and only under duress. Still, these people needed something, and I was not about to let them suffer when I could offer them shelter, no matter how inadequate. So, we set off walking down the road, while I worried and fretted and wondered where in the heck I was going to put all these people (and what horrible things they'd think about me when they saw my disaster of a house), but still remained determined to get them safe and make them feel comfortable.
Now that I'm awake, I can understand at least part of the dream. Writing is like that. Through our work, we invite people into our lives, into ourselves. We worry that we will be found inadequate, that people will see our dirty laundry and unwashed dishes and turn away. But we can't stop offering the invitation, because we feel that someone, somewhere will benefit from the escape we're offering - the shelter of our stories. We believe that underneath the clutter of our minds, we have something interesting to say, and we risk ridicule and disdain just to reach those who would look past the occasional mess and derive some happiness from the surroundings we offer.
My dream told me that I'm still scared, but I'm ready to offer everything I have. Maybe, just maybe, it is finally time to come out into the light.
*Brilliant analogy of the journey to publication being akin to digging out of prison with a spoon, like Edmund Dantes and that crazy guy from The Count of Monte Cristo, courtesy of my husband, who would love for me to see the light on the outside.