This post was first published on The Creative Penn in September 2011.
On Writing and Daydreams …
If you are reading this then it is likely that you are a writer and you happen to own an overactive imagination. You have perhaps added an unusual literary hero to that mix and then allowed yourself to indulge in some weird daydreams.
I sometimes wonder if I could have gone without shoes and kept on writing just as Samuel Johnson did. I doubt it, but I still like to imagine myself in dark eighteenth-century Britain sacrificing my toes to literary achievement.
We all dream of distant places and different times. We assure ourselves that were we in that situation; we would overcome adversity to become the great writers our heroes became. But what about the challenges we face now? Well those are a different kettle of fish.
We don’t have a time-machine and we can’t go back but every time you read a favourite classic, you recognise what your heroes did right. Learn from them. Learn how to tell a good story, create memorable characters and colourful dialogue. Use it to create something new of your own.
As a writer nowadays, you’ve almost inevitably been carrying around another daydream since you first picked up a pencil and scribbled on a wall. It normally involves your brilliant novel being tripped over by a publisher who loves it, jumping straight from discovery to bestselling, lots of applause and you sit pretty for the rest of your days.
That’s very pleasant but where’s the story, the challenge and the adversity? If that dream came true you wouldn’t be anyone’s hero, you’d just be lucky. It’s a good thing then that it’s not likely to come true. You don’t have to give up all the interesting bits just because we live in a different time. You can be a hero.
In the opening to Bleak House, Dickens imagines dinosaurs waddling about London in the mud. Well the mud has gone but the dinosaurs are there, only they seem to have become publishing houses. Dinosaurs always need to know where their next meal is coming from. They’ll take no risks on unproven writers or new ideas whilst they’re unsure of their own survival on a changing planet.
There’s the challenge.
We’re here in the beginning; we have a chance to do something new, innovative and brave. We can be a new species of writer and publisher: shed the scales, grow feathers and fly forward to meet the future. The worst that can happen is that you try and fail but even then, you’ve lost nothing more than if you had stood still.
Opportunity knocks! Now is the time to try Write something, publish something and let us know what happens.