Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What is your DREAM?

So tell me, what is your dream? If you're on my bloglist then you're a writer. I get that part, but that's only one part of the question.

"I want to be a writer!" you say. You're eight years old. We all started then, I know, because any writer who says they weren't a writer and a story-teller from the day the doctor spanked and severed em isn't being honest.

You loved books. You loved movies. You loved plays or musicals or music. From that young age you felt The Spark.

You sang in the mirror and tuned your voice and wrote your songs.

You dabbled in poetry, and did I just say dabble? No, you didn't dabble, did you. While all those other kiddos were filling up their notebooks with pictures of army men and ponies and airplanes and flowers, you were burning page after page of stanzas, releasing this strange voice obsessed with rhyme and haiku and tangential viewpoints on the world around you.

You wrote short stories that your teacher read to the class and everyone laughed when they were supposed to laugh.

You wrote a novel that didn't make one bit of sense but it was this 120k word beast, this thing, this living entity that still breathes in the lowest drawer of that old cabinet in your old house, never to be published but never to be forgotten.

Your practice novel. We all have one of those. You do have a practice novel, don't you?

And inside of all that, you have this dream-fantasy. It's a rattling thing, a kid's shake-toy, something so personal you won't even mention it to your therapist. Not your spouse, not your mom, not your dad, not your sibling.

Maybe your Golden Retriever. I used to tell her all my secrets, and she took em to her much-too-early grave. (God, please throw the ball for Lexi. Amen.)

Me, I had all these dreams. First, I wanted to be a doctor. Yep, a doctor. I worked like hell for it, too, placed 2nd in my HS, but didn't get the right grades in college. Homework and over-education dull the mind, and I'd take a 0% on that 10% homework, knowing I could get an A on the tests, and settle for easy Bs.

Lazybones. I guess I didn't want to go into medicine enough. Maybe that wasn't an honest dream after all.

And I wanted to be a writer.

I knew I could tell stories on the side. No money in writing, is there. You could hit the lottery, sure, but the odds are five-nines against you: 99.999% chance you're either unpublished, or your royalties are just enough to buy food for that Golden Retriever who shares your secrets.

So in high school, for my 17th birthday, my aunt -- and she was more a grandmother than an aunt, far older than my seventh-born mother -- she bought me this Brother word processor and asked for a story.

See, I'd shared that dream already. "I want to be a doctor," I'd say. They all nodded.

"And a writer," I'd add.

Boy, that got their attention! Pluck a living heart from a pig and sew it into a dying man and you'll raise some eyebrows, sure.

But pluck a silent heart from a soul long-dead and burned by life's wildfires, and will it to beat life with nothing more than a series of 27 letters in random order, and you'll gain something far beyond eyebrows.

Because anyone can cut open a pig, see.

I didn't dream of being published. When someone said, "That'd sell a million copies!"

I would shrug. "Maybe."

I guess now I've modified that dream to be published. Sure, I want to get some hardbacks out there. Sure, I'd like to see my name on a bookshelf.

But I look at those shelves and I see plenty of idiots up there. We all do. I hate to say that, but talent and a good story won't get you published. I think of my stories, my babies, my darlings, and I'm not sure I'm ready to put them on the shelf next to these books.

I review my novels and wonder if they're worthy of asking you to read em in the nightlight. Do I really want to put anything on the shelf that is not the most incredible story I can write?

Is that story good enough? Your time is precious to me.

I'm not all about that space, see. I'm not obsessed with my book's number in the Library of Congress. I don't care about the word count or the plot lines.

My dream, if I had to line it up and spit it out, is this: Write greatness. Touch the reader.

That'd be it, I guess. Being published is a form of greatness, I won't dispute that, but my goal is to write stories that not only entertain, but also inspire the reader, and leave a lingering after-taste in their mind.

Which brings up my point on Reader Arcs. Arc the READER, not the character, folks!

I don't dream of 500 followers on my blog, nor of huge lines at my book signing. I'm not dissing those dreams -- that's cool -- but it's like, not my bag, man.

I dream of that one reader who says she cried at the ending.

I dream of that guy who shakes my hand and says, "Man, I get that. I really get that. Good job."

After 9/11, on 9/12/2001, I sent an email to my wife and my cousin. That's it. I started getting email responses from people all over the world, even had a personal note from a powerful business man here in Dallas (my now ex-wife is a CPA). He said he cried when he read it, and thanked me for writing down his thoughts. I got responses from Navy guys all over the world because my cousin was in the Navy at the time. His father still has that email taped to his fridge.

I passed off a short story to my boss dealing with space. He's a space nut. He said the story took him back to his childhood. "They don't write stories like this anymore."

He handed it to his wife and children and they loved it. The story was about a guy named Percy Freebottom -- ironically, soon to be published!

My boss and his wife were at a baseball game and something reminded them of Percy, the stars and the moon.

"Sorta like Percy Freebottom," his wife said.

THAT is my dream folks: Touch the reader. Leave that after-taste!

For me, it's not about profit or word count or fame or anything else. I can get those things -- especially profit -- in easier ways than writing.

This post is a fine example. I'm not trying to write my weekly or daily word count.

I'm writing something personal, hoping it'll touch at least one fellow blogger. I'm writing it because the worms insist it must be written, because this is important, because my squigglies, my slimey loves, they only dig where the soil is feral.

Yes, feral soil. That's where I dig.

See how that works?

Thoughts? What is your dream? Your passion? Your goal wrt writing?

- Eric

PS, I want to be clear: In no way am I belittling other goals, such as obtaining blog followers, being published widespread, or writing strict genre books. Please don't think that.

It is not my intent to come across as one of those belittling ideologues who believe in art only for the sake of art, and consider those who seek profit to be sellouts. No no no. I simply want to state that this is more than profit to me.

I respect your passion, your job, your goal, whatever that may be, and would love to see that shared.


Jemi Fraser said...

Great post! I have a few passions and dreams. For writing, I'd love to touch a soul as well - make someone laugh, cry, think, believe, hope. Incredible.

Andrew Rosenberg said...

My dream is to sell one more book than you do.

Seriously, my dream is to live off my writing. I have no idea how. That's why it's called a "dream."

dolorah said...

For the longest time I dreamed of becoming a social worker. A CPS social worker. I chased that dream, getting my BSW (late in life) and took other jobs in the same career field until I landed the social services position I've been in for the last four years.

The job is amazing, and every bit as fulfilling as I thought CPS would be. Recently I had a social worker interview, and did my best, and long before I got The Call, I knew I was #1 on their hiring list.

It was the best high in the world. I can't imaginge anything that would feel better.

Except maybe being published. To someday have someone stop me and say "I read your book. I loved . ."

BTW, I turned down the dream job because I find myself very content in my current position. New and exciting things were happening at the time I'd be changing jobs again, and I decided to see where this path will take me for a while longer.

There is always time to change my mind; and at least now I know I can.

Right now I'm kinda happy hanging out in the writing community; tickling my creativity with contests, blog fests, and prompts. Each new follower I get is still an emotional high; but the comments they leave and the communication is even more heartening.

The dream is still there. Someday, it will be satisfied. Then, I'll have to come up with another dream . .


Eric W. Trant said...

Jemi, we share the same dream, then! It's sorta goofy to think of it like that, but I consider writing to be a form of confession.

Andrew, I think you already have me beat, or at least will have me beat! It's possible to live off writing, but lots of time you have to live in your mom's basement.

Donna, Social Worker, huh! That says a lot about you. I'm with you on being happy with random comments, meeting some online writing buddies, and establishing some ongoing relationships with some of them.

- Eric

Anonymous said...


I loved your post. You touched my heart very unexpectedly. I'm not sure what s expected when I followed your comment on my blog here, but it was not to get lost for hours before returning to comment.

So, my dream is to give back to kids the same life line I had as a child. Reading is such a freeing experience and someday I want my words to make an impact on the next generation.

I would love to see every child have the advantage of literacy, whether it is reading my words or someone else's.

In a nutshell, my dream is to provide a book that makes a difference to just one child. (Though many would be nice.) Hope, love, strength, inspiration, laughter, encouragement, passion, faith, motivation. Whatever.

And to do this, a publishing contract would be uber helpful!

Eric W. Trant said...

Cat, funny that you said UBER! Today I was cutting my first draft,doing some character outlines and trying to figure out some scenes, and I decided Uber is the name of one of my characters. Uber Munoz.

Just Another Sarah said...

Consider the goal of your blog post met for one more person...I hadn't ever expressed it in this way, but I do feel the same way. Writing is a way of communicating, of reaching out with ideas and thoughts and help and love. I like your idea about the Writer's arc.

This post reaffirmed what my writing should be, and is, to me. And reminded me of my first thoughts about writing, and becoming a writer. Thanks.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I once dreamed of being a ballet dancer, but I have bad knees and I'm clumsy...

Writing suits me better. I'm published in amateur sleuth mysteries, but I dream of writing a bigger book--one that appeals to a bigger audience--and actually selling enough books to make a profit. :)

Just Wendy said...

Much like yourself, I am uninterested in how many blog followers I have. Nor do I want a fan club or a shiny platform to voice my inflated ego. Albeit, I'm delighted you're following me :)

Writing, has never been about fame and glory. Celebrity or otherwise. Nor is it about money. Yet, I would not sneeze at a sizable cheque from time to time!

It is about accomplishment. Pure and simple. Something tangible I can look upon and say 'I did it. I really did'.

Good post! I've thoroughly enjoyed my visit here :)