There are the results I want and then there are the results I get. For years, I called the latter disappointment. I believed that growing up was about learning to accept the difference between expectation and reality. Though we still want what we want as much the child wants an ice cream cone, the adult understands this is not how life works. Life, in this way, becomes an exercise in managed disappointment. Yet how often does the story we finish differ from the story we first expected? For that matter, how often does the scene we write differ from the one we first imagined? I have learned too well not to expect too much from my ideas. They are enough only to be bring me to the desk where my imagination meets the blank page, and that intersection becomes the reality known as a story.
There is usually much discomfort between idea and reality. There are those narrative roads I travel that don’t work, and sometimes I must go a long way down a certain path before I understand that the growing irritation under my boots is the story telling me turn back. I do not always want to listen to the story. I want what I want. This is my story, isn’t it?
It’s hard to tell sometimes. If I’m very honest, when I get to the end of a story, I am most pleased when that story feels like something I followed and found, not something I made. I cannot make the truth, after all, any more than I can make my life. I can only follow my life, and think how grateful I am, long after the fact, for all the burrs in my boots.
“Why, wasn’t it good luck,” I said to my wife the other night, “that Penguin didn’t buy that book of mine twelve years ago? How could I have ever done the work I’m doing now?” I could vaguely remember the disappointment I felt at the time. I’d been so close. Only now I cannot even see what it was I thought I’d been close to, any more than I can stand beside a dream after I awaken.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.