Dreaming of Reality

The day after I sat down to write my first novel, I began picturing myself speaking to groups of people about it. This fantasy did not aid in the writing of the book, but it did not stop either. Eventually I wrote poetry and sketch comedy, both of which put me in front of audiences, but when I returned to novels, so did my fantasies of speaking to groups of people about the books I’d written. It is not quite accurate to call my daydreams of speaking to people fantasies; they felt more like preparation. Sometimes, I would rehearse exactly what I would say about a certain subject, rewording the important parts of my lecture just as I would rewrite the novels I sent to agents and editors. The only thing missing in this experience was the audience, those other people to whom I would speak. It was their absence that kept this dream feeling like a fantasy, something a better version of myself might do in a different life.

Until one day I was taking a walk and speaking once again in my imagination to a group of people about creativity and fear and free will, when I stopped. I had learned by this time that it was one thing to have an idea for a story, but another thing altogether to write that story. It was only in the actual experience of writing a story that I would learn if it were truly a story I was interested in telling. As powerful as it is, the imagination cannot fully simulate lived reality.

You actually have to do it, Bill, I said to myself. It was the first and only time in my life that I had given myself this ultimatum. More importantly, on that day I allowed for the possibility that the reality of speaking to people would be less appealing than the dream of speaking to people. It was just another story, after all. If I didn’t want to live the story of Bill Who Spoke to Groups of People, I could find another one.

As it turns out, this was a story I wanted to tell. And as is always the case, the lived reality was more delicious, more stimulating, and more satisfying than the fantasy. Reality is always complete and always growing, eager to give life to those seeds we call dreams.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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