I Had a Dream Last Night
It was my subconscious begging me to just do that thing already.
Hello, my favorite Everlastings.
I had a dream last night. A good dream. I dreamed I pulled out an old, unfinished manuscript and I loved what I was reading! It was so good! And it was already half finished! Then I was writing a query letter and everything I said in it was a guarantee of its success. This book had everything! I woke up trying to remember the query letter so I could use that brilliant piece of marketing when the time came to get back to selling this long-neglected work that obviously deserved another chance.
All I remembered is that I should mention I grew up in Detroit. Why I thought that was important is lost now in the ether where dreams go to die, but the book in my dream is real. It’s my half truth, half fantasy memoir and it’s so old it’s only in printed form. I’ve only transcribed one chapter to my computer. Only one. I just never got around to adding more.
It’s not that I never tried to move it online. Years ago, I bought Scrivener, thinking that would help me organize the thing and get it going. (Because that’s what Scrivener promises.) Oh my god, it was a chamber of horrors! I tried. I really tried. I wasted so much time trying to get that program to work for me, I lost interest in ever writing another word of that formerly delightful, incredibly clever memoir.
My book—my potential book— is called Nana, Girl of the Fifties (you read it here first), and parts of it are funny as hell. Parts of it will have to be totally scrapped—even the parts I used to froth over. Now, after all these years, they’ve grown stale and maybe even smelly. It’s crazy how that happens.
I’ve owned the domain name for years, and I keep renewing it on the off-chance I might do something with it someday. I am a girl of the fifties, so who better to write this? Except because I was a girl in the fifties, and the fifties were so long ago, I’ve forgotten how it really felt. The details are sketchy, as are the memories of my fears and hopes and dreams. It all seems so distant now. I barely even recognize that girl, let alone understand her.
It was ages ago. Ancient history. I’d have to spend a lot of time looking up the dates of real events in order to get it right. Things like that. It sounds like a real job now, and not just great fun—as it was when I started the thing.
Why didn’t I ever finish it? What stopped me? I don’t remember. Life happens. It was going so well and I was having so much fun with it. I laughed out loud. I marveled at my cleverness. I loved who I was, not just then, in the fifties, but when I was writing it. And it shows.
I can see it now but I can’t feel it. And I would never write it the same way now. What a damn shame.
I’ve read books where it’s obvious they’ve been written at different times in the writer’s life. Sometimes the first chapters have been honed over time to perfection, while the remaining chapters can only hope to achieve that initial promise—but rarely do. It’s near impossible to sustain perfection. We have to learn to live with that in order to keep on writing, especially when it comes to book-length efforts. That’s where the hard work comes in, editing it to make it so damned good Oprah will choose it for her Book Club. Or, at the very least, someone will pay us to publish it.
It’s damned heroic to keep going until the end. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never finished a single book. So who am I to judge?
But moving on:
Sometimes it’s like reading two different authors at odds with each other. They’ve each worked so hard on it, often years apart, and they’re clearly not on the same page, but neither of them wants to give in. They’ve gotten in too deep. They can’t stop now, even though neither of them knows where the other is going. When a book ends abruptly or ends up making no sense, it’s a clear sign neither of them won.
But a book is like a journey. You start out reading it with such promise and if it turns out as you expected, all you remember are the good parts. There are moments when all you’re doing is getting from there to there—like going across the flatlands anticipating that glorious mountain ahead. You won’t remember the flatlands; you’ll only remember the mountain. That’s what a good book should do. It should move you along effortlessly from one moment to the next, with enough interesting words to make you forget there’s such a thing as monotony.
It doesn’t have to be beautiful or brilliant from beginning to end, it only has to leave you feeling satisfied. When you arrive at your destination and it’s everything you wanted it to be, everything about the trip will be memorable. Except the boring parts. You’ll have forgotten them because the writer kept her promise. She took you along. And wasn’t it wonderful?
It was! It was! That’s how it happens!
The journey is everything! Even the nothing parts!
I’m going to have to remember this.
Maybe even with this book. Or the one that’s pure fiction, mostly funny, sometimes poignant, with odd but lovable characters begging to be made famous, with a title nobody has ever thought to use yet. The title alone made me start it. What would it take now to finish it?
I should try and find out…
I’ll get back to you on this.
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