It came to me in a dream

It came to me in a dream

So I submitted another story.  It is always such a good feeling — no story really feels *done* to me until I've sent it off to be rejected by someone who knows what good writing is.  I sent this one to McSweeney's, which is the longest of long shots, but they do say to start with your preferred markets.  For those who don't know of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern and wonder why I would submit to them over any of the better-known spec-fic venues, it's because they make books — not magazines — that make me tingly to the point of indecency.  I would rather be printed there than anywhere else, because what they make is so goddamned beautiful.

So having done that — having gone over my manuscript one last time, cutting a few more extraneous words, formatting for their specifications, typing up a brief cover note and finally sending the thing off — I was left with that production greed, that sense of wanting more.  More finished product, more submissions to track, more rejection letters to collect, more of that feeling of being an actual writer.  I looked at my backlog of unfinished stories and was unhappy to see that there are fewer of them than I thought.  Two of them are very close to done.  I will need to start something new, and soon.

I went to sleep worrying about it, not knowing what to write.

This is going to sound incredibly stupid.  I may have already confessed this at some point in the past, but it's weird and embarrassing anyway.  Whenever I have some kind of writing dilemma, I dream of Neil Gaiman, and I wake up with some sort of answer.
 
See?  Totally stupid and embarrassing.  But also totally true. 

There is often a sense of urgency to these dreams.  He is Neil Fucking Gaiman(TM) and I am me, Just a Fan.  In the dreams there is the knowledge that this is probably the only chance I will ever have to talk to him, to ask him anything, to listen to what he has to say in person.  This one was no different.  For whatever reason, I was the only Just-a-Fan in the room, and the Dream Gaiman (no pun intended) was sensitive to my fandom, and he spent some time talking to me, and ultimately he read my favorite piece of his to me: 'Instructions,'* a poem from Fragile Things.

It took me a while to sort it out when I woke up this morning. What did that have to do with the problem of creating new material?  Maybe nothing at all.  But by mid-day today I was thinking about what it is that I love about 'Instructions,' and what it is that got me to write the stories I've written, and I think I found (or maybe forged) a connection after all. 

I am a science fiction and fantasy writer, as opposed to a writer of anything else, for a reason.  'Instructions' is my favorite piece of writing in the history of ever for a reason.  It embodies the sort of thing that I like to read.  And that's what I came out of that dream with:  Write the story that you want to read, that you wish someone would read to you on a cold night, bundled in blankets on the sofa.  Household chores forgotten, the darkness outside ignored, the baseness of life pushed aside and the complex majesty of what it is to be human illuminated by the words.

Such a high a bar.  I wonder sometimes if it's worth it to even try.

I have some down time this week, and I want to spend it writing.  We'll see how far I get.  I will not hit the mark that I'm ultimately aiming for, but maybe I'll still write a story that I'd like to read.

* this page provides an audio file of Gaiman reading the poem.

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