Today is January 3, and I have made no New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions (at least mine) are made for breaking. I resist them mightily. And yet, here on the Web, I feel surrounded by energy and optimism and lofty resolutions and writing challenges like Elissa Field’s January Challenge: Finish, Begin, Improve, Plan and Khara House’s January 2013 I Love My Blog, both of them worthy of note. I’m summoning the will to participate. Really, I am.
But the last of our holiday guests left yesterday, and I’m doing laundry. The Christmas decorations need to be taken down and put away. The grocery store looms. We are having our usual Mississippi winter weather, which means cold (by our standards) and rainy. These are days meant for sipping tea and reading a good book, not for challenging the mind. These should be days for rest and re-fueling.
Playing the Lead
A couple of nights ago, I dreamed I was playing the lead role in a Tennessee Williams play. I’m not sure which play it was–maybe A Streetcar Named Desire–and I’m not sure whether I was Blanche or Stella or a combination of the two, only that my role required a certain level of undress on the stage (yes, this was live theater), and my parents, who died in the early eighties, were in the audience. The play turned improvisational, and I felt it was up to me to carry it. I remember thinking in the dream that the action was plodding, the players sluggish and uninteresting, and the audience was losing interest. I woke up just as I was standing on the stage, anxious and alone, wrapped in a bath towel!
Why am I telling you this? I suppose I’m hoping for a dream expert among my readers, although I don’t really need one to interpret the dream. It’s about writing, and certain words are keys: undress, improvisational, responsibility.
First, the state of undress: I am most vulnerable when I’m writing, when I strip the facade and put words on the page.
And don’t we all feel naked before editors and contest judges and critics and agents with their pre-printed or email rejections at the ready? Those are our words. They are sacred to us, and when others don’t love them, it can be devastating. Or it can be motivating.
Life at the Improv
Back in the fall, when I was revising my novel, I focused mainly on a particular subplot. I had to improve my sense of when things moved along well and when they lagged. I needed to create a little mystery. I had to try to read my own book as any reader might, without any sense of what was in my head that hadn’t made it to the page. Remember that the play in the dream was improvisational, and I felt I was carrying the success or failure of the play on my shoulders. It was up to me to make it work, and when I felt it was slow and uninteresting–the flaws I fear most in my fiction, or here on this blog–anxiety kicked in, and I woke up, feeling quite undressed and vulnerable and responsible for the outcome. Nothing miraculous; just teeth-grinding hard work.
Turning . . .
What does all this have to do with the turning of another year?
I may not make resolutions, but the dream and its meanings have everything to do with resolve: to keep writing, to value my own work, to protect my time and organize it better, to say no when necessary (and to know when that is). To be brave, to take risks with the work. To send it out, as honest and as strong as I can make it.
So, for the record, I’m taking the stones out of my pockets for 2013. I will not be weighed down by whatever else is happening in my life. I will walk on water. I will be involved in a miraculous act of making.
And whenever I start to feel weighted down, I want to remember that dream because it was telling me some important things: to embrace the vulnerability and not be afraid, to embrace the time I have, to embrace the words, even when they’re messy and cantankerous, and especially when they go naked into the world.
When, in your writing hours or days, do you feel most vulnerable? What gives you resolve and strength? Tell me about it!