Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Intricacies of the Human Mind (or: WTF?)

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.


s.w. vaughn said...

Addendum: "that crazy guy" being Abbe Faria, or "Priest", brilliantly portrayed by the late, great Richard Harris . . .

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Oh, yes. This hits home so well. Your analysis of your dream and our writers' psyches is appropos, SW.

And, wow! Another great step forward for you - the second read... Mmmm, there's even something almost mysteriously sacred about that phrase. Let's hope the upper editor (is that what we call them?? LOL) has the wit and smarts to recognize the immense talent you offer our crazy world. Once they sample and absorb your riveting words, there's no turning back. At least IMHO.


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Guess that should be "senior editor." Duh.

s.w. vaughn said...

Thank you, Aaron! :-) You have so much more confidence in me than I do. LOL

I can't even put into words how much I appreciate that.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron Paul Lazar said...

You're welcome, SW. But it's not hard to have confidence in your writing skills. I've read almost everything you ever wrote, right? And next to your soul mate (whose name begins with And,) I think I'm your biggest fan. 'Nuff said. ;o)

Unknown said...

I think the second reading is great news. If nothing else, it shows you that the first person thought enough of your work to pass it along. Like any other workplace, I'm sure that person knows that only by passing along promising, publishable work are they ever going to move up in the company. You must have made them believe that it is good enough to make them look good to their boss.

Marta Stephens said...

Excellent article! You've gone much further than others could ever hope to go. Keep positive and good things will happen!

Kim Smith said...

yay! i love this!! and i know this has happened to all of us in one way or another (the dreams, i mean!) -- it would make a great story too, if you should ever wanna capitalize on your mind's wanderings :)
crossing fingers for ya!