Many times as a newbie author–heck, sometimes a seasoned author–we get a whack in the head, or a face-full-o-concrete from a little thing called reality. For many of us writers, the moment we type “The End” on our first full manuscript is the moment we sit back and begin to daydream about huge book tours, TV interviews, movie deals, having our favorite band write a song inspired by our novel.
Yes, I seriously imagined that last one. 🙂
The Dream Scape
At the start of our writing journey, we set goals. These goals can range from, “I’m going to snag a large, multimillion dollar contact,” to “I’m going to as famous as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Danielle Steele.” Even our family and friends will say things like, “Don’t forget about us little people when you become a big and famous author.”
After thinking these goals, we sometimes sit back and imagine how our first TV interview would go. Maybe it’d be on Good Morning America. Maybe it’ll be Matt Lauer. OR … maybe it’ll be with Baba Wawa herself. Oh, that’d be so awesome, wouldn’t it?
Dreaming and imagining future interviews, movie deals, and everything in-between is okay. Day dreaming is what our imaginations do. And our imagination is what made us an artist in the first place. So turning that part of our brains off is impossible. And even if we could our imaginations off for a moment, would we even want to? Hellz no. Because we’re artists. We’re writers. And we can’t imagine going a second without the vivid imagery our brains conjure at various times of the day.
At what point–and when–do we draw the line in the sand between dreams and reality?
When should we reign in our imagination? When should we begin telling ourselves, “Ya know, it’d be great to nail that TV interview with Baba Wawa. And it’d be great to sit on a movie set and watch my characters come to life. But maybe I need to think small-scale. Baby steps. How about I snag the title of published author first?”
The answer to those questions are for each of us to decide. Maybe we don’t start telling ourselves to slow our day-dreaming-roll until after we knocked down by a brutal critique. Maybe we pull our heads out of the clouds when we attend our first local RWA chapter meeting.
It doesn’t matter when we stop and come back to reality. What matters is that we do, at some point, take a look at our writing journey from a realistic standpoint.
I recently had a conversation with a mother and her oldest son. Mom told me that her youngest son wants to be a published author. Older son told me that he felt bad because he might’ve discouraged his younger brother by telling him, “It takes hard work and it doesn’t look like a goal you’ll achieve quickly.” My response? Well, I said that maybe little brother should’ve discovered that reality on his own. However, I also said, “You’re definitely right about what you said, though.”
Because that’s the reality.
Now it’s just a matter of the younger brother’s perception. If younger brother wants to become a published author bad enough, he’ll accept the reality as a challenge and face it head-on. And throughout his entire journey to becoming published, he’ll continue to dream of the day that he signs a publishing contract on a daily basis. 🙂
So the perception question is: Do we fall now? Do we face reality now, in that first moment of typing “The End?” Or do we allow ourselves to hold on to those BIG publishing dreams as long as humanly possible and run the risk of doing more damage to our hearts at a later time?
For me, personally, I wanted a cold, hard dose of reality as soon as possible. The more time I spend day dreaming of meeting Matt Lauer in person, the more my heart’s going to crumble when I realize I have a snowball’s chance in hell at that ever happening. The more I keep going through life believing I’m already the best at my chosen profession, the more I’m going to look like an idiot. And I already embarrass myself enough as it is, thank you very much. 😉
So even though I waited a little longer than I might’ve liked to get my dose of reality, I still sought out the facts and welcomed the smack of reality. Searching out articles like “Author Reality: Today’s Book Publishing Industry” is my way of bringing myself back down to earth. Which is just my style since I’ve never really been one to make large decisions without facts (in life, not writing–that’s a whole other topic). After I got the facts, I knocked a few items off my “ultimate goals” list. And now my goal list is a bit more in line with what’s realistic and possible.
Though I still dream of having Michael Sheen playing one of my first characters in a movie one day. 🙂
Note: The best part about being a writer on a journey like this is that there are many of us who prefer to keep that high dream alive and on the top of the goals’ list. And that is A-OK. Because we’re individuals, and what works for one of us, motivates and drives one of us to do and be our best, may not work for others.
Which means this particular debate–the dream vs. the reality–is an individual decision. One that only we can decide.
I’d love to hear from you! Which side of the scale do you fall? Do you have an ultimate goal for yourself? Did you shoot for the moon, or did you pull back a little? What was your “published author daydream” when you first began this journey?
Previous Advice to My Newbie Author Self posts:
Part 1: Patience, Young Padawan
Part 2: Buh-Bye Self-Doubt and Introverted Tendencies