Remembering Reality

If you’ve ever written, and enjoyed doing it enough to want to do it again, then you probably had the experience of disappearing into the dream of whatever you were writing about. This may not happen every time you write, but it happens often enough that it brings you back to the page again and again and again. The promise of that dream we call a story or poem or essay is ostensibly to finish something and share it with other people and maybe even get paid to share it, but in truth you know that the disappearing itself is the true promise of the dream. It is a kind of happy, productive forgetting, where the world you live and work in ceases to mean anything while you give the imagined world you are creating your full attention. And forget you must. If you’re going render this world that exists only in your imagination, you cannot be in two places at once. You cannot think about politics and learn how your hero will escape the dungeon; you cannot think about your kid’s homework and watch your heroine leave her unhappy marriage. You must choose, there at your desk, which is more important at that moment. To do this work, you must choose the dream over what we have all agreed to call reality.

This is no small choice. If you are an adult, you have likely invested much time and energy and worry into the reality of grocery stores, websites, publishing contracts, agents, money, and sex. This reality can seem like a game you must learn to play as well as possible to have success and happiness and love and friendship. And yet for all the time you’ve invested in that reality, for all the attention you’ve given it and all you’ve learned about it, the moment you forget it, the moment you give that dream your complete attention, you are released into the reality of your full creative potential.

You will never be more original and inspired and productive than when you give something your complete attention. That is you at your very best, which is to say you as you were meant to live. The reality of the world away from your desk isn’t going anywhere. But it is not waiting for you to resume your role in some vast game, dangling the carrot of victory while the game itself cannot end. That reality, like the stories you tell, is only waiting for you to choose where you will give your full attention and remember who you are.


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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