A few years ago I read some advice from a well-known writer (I don't remember who), who said, "Daydreaming for a writer is a waste of time."
She was talking about the dreams all writers have of their book being bought and read and lionized.
In a way she's right. It is easy to delude yourself, to think you've got more talent than you have. I've always tried to be realistic about my abilities. I've told myself, "My books can't be any smarter, deeper, or more talented than I am."
But even though I understand what she's getting at, I couldn't disagree more.
In fact, I think that is some really fucked up advice.
Daydreaming is what fuels my efforts, even as cold reality is lurking. I imagine people reading my story and enjoying it; I imagine them passing it along to friends; I imagine them slotting it into a place of honor in their bookshelves.
None of that may happen, but the daydream of it can keep me going for the days, weeks, and months it takes to finish a book.
Daydreaming kicks into a higher gear when I send it off to an agent or publisher. Now I wait, and I hope, and I daydream. For weeks at least, and sometimes for months. During that time I wait, I keep my hopes up, even as I tell myself to be realistic.
It's unrealized potential, endless possibility. Like Schrodinger's cat, my story is both alive and dead.
So I daydream. At the same time, I'm brutally realistic. I know, for instance, that when I send "Said the Joker, to the Thief" to Kindle Singles that I don't have a chance in hell. That I'm up against the Stephen King's and John Gresham's of the writing world. But just that tiny, tiny sliver of lottery odds is enough to daydream, even as I kick myself for daydreaming.
When I get back the (almost) inevitable rejection, I'm crushed for days, sometimes weeks. I ask myself if there is any point in continuing. And then it wears off; I accept the reality that was there all along even
as I daydreamed.
So I write something new, and the daydreams start all over. I send it off and wait for weeks and months. In effect, I'm trading months
of hopes for days
of crushing rejection, and it seems like a fair trade.
I have faith in myself even as I know the odds. I don't let others tell me my chances, either those people who don't care (the vast majority) those who look down on me (though usually not blatantly to my face) and those well meaning people who have even more unrealistic expectations. ("When is the movie going to be made?")
There is a great scene in "La La Land."
The heroine has just put on a one-woman show, writing her own script and stage design, hiring the theater. No one shows up. She gamely goes through with it, and then sits dejectedly in her dressing room.
She overhears some stagehands mocking her efforts, "...and she isn't even any good."
But in that audience happens to be the one stranger who can help her.
I've had that mocking happen to me. It's harsh and it's hard to overcome, though a little success can help put that in it's place.
And a whole lot of daydreaming.