Posts Tagged ‘dreams’


mercy kill

Mercy Kill

I saw you in a dream

At the top of the stairs

Your lips were sewn shut

To stifle your prayers

Your skin looked so tight

You looked so afraid

You looked so bewildered…

You looked so betrayed

In a hot panicked frenzy

Devoid of all grace

You were trying to scream

While you clawed at your face

As dark scarlet red

Dripped from your lips

 I tried to find answers

With blind fingertips

But as inert as a painting

I stood there so still

Thinking murder’s a mercy…

An act of good will

  © Jerod Scott

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I live my life these days according to an ongoing list of weekly to-do‘s that I design every Sunday night; each day of the upcoming week containing a set of challenging-yet-reasonable objectives that I cross off the list as they are accomplished. I’ve found that otherwise, my life loses direction and time passes by until one day I wake up and wonder what happened to the last week, month, year, etc. I’ve lost enough time this way to take my little to-do list very seriously at this point in my life.

It’s taken many years of soul-searching to pin down my real priorities and learn that I need to focus on those and let go of the little time-wasters that hinder me. This is, for me, the only effective way I’ve found to live. Future-based goal setting is great, but the trouble I have with that is the excuse I will invariably make: “I have plenty of time.” I’ve learned that I’m the kind of person who needs to not only set goals for the future, but also smaller goals that I need to do today which will ultimately lead me to the accomplishment of the bigger goals.

There are two kinds of goals on my list: those things that need to be done daily: exercise, eat right, read, write, make some kind of spiritual contact and go to work (on work days). Then there are the things that are more sporadic: meet with my critique group, clean the house, write a blog, query a few literary agents, meet with friends, etc. In both cases of the daily and the more intermittent to-do‘s, it becomes mind-numbingly monotonous after a while, and eventually you reach a point when you feel like you just can’t do it anymore.

I suppose that all of us reaches a kind of breaking point at one time or another, no matter what path we’ve chosen – and today, I hit a big one. I have the day off work, which means my to-do list is going to be extra long. I woke up and looked at the list, thinking I was ready to tackle the day. But when I saw “query five agents” at the top of the list, my heart plummeted, my spirit sank, and for the first time, I considered putting a big black X on the page and going back to bed.

Instead, I made some coffee, played with the dogs and argued with myself in silence. It’s been several weeks since I queried any agents and I know the rules: do not “query-bomb” (meaning don’t contact every agent under the sun in one blow – they know each other, they talk with each other, and they don’t like it when authors clearly don’t even know who they’re querying.) I know the rules, I respect the rules and I play by the rules.  The point is, it’s been several weeks since I queried anyone, and today it needed to be done. So in the end, I lost the argument with myself and sat down to query some agents.

Here’s what querying agents means for me: first, I need to block out a good hour or two (sometimes more) of my day. Second, I need to locate the agent, (which can be terribly tedious in and  of itself) then research what genres they accept, what kind of writers they’re looking for, and find out if they accept e-mail submissions, snail mail only, or both. Then I need to learn as much as I can about the agent and what he or she represents, and contact them according to their personal guidelines, which varies from agent to agent. Some want just a query letter. Others want a query letter with a synopsis. Some want a query letter, a synopsis and a specific amount of sample writing. Some want all of this, plus a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. Some want all of this in the body of an e-mail (if they accept e-mail submissions). Others want sample chapters as an attachment. Some want you to include not only your bio and platform, but your marketing strategy plans as well. Needless to say, every agent has different guidelines – and that’s okay. The point is that this can be a very challenging process for authors, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s just part of my job. But there comes a point in which you just can’t help but feel exhausted by it all, and that’s where I am today.

I queried the five agents today over the course of about two hours. I followed all of their rules and was a professional through and through. But I was less than enthused about doing it. Counting the five I queried today, I have been through this process 135 times. Of the 135 agents I have queried, one asked to see my entire manuscript, and three asked to see the first five or six chapters. That means 131 literary agents have looked my query letter over and passed without asking to see any of my actual writing. And here’s the best part: this is not only normal, it’s expected. Statistically, I have a good seven to nine more years of this before someone takes an interest in my work. Every writer I’ve ever talked to went through this part of the process too, and they all tell me the same thing: “It’s not personal. Just keep writing.” So I do. And I do so with an unshakable determination to get better and better at my craft.

But… today… I’m creatively bankrupt and void of all inspiration.

As The White Room treks the globe, accumulating endless rejections, my other manuscript, Gallery of Dolls, is several thousand miles away being revised and polished by Kim Williams-Justesen, co-author of the novel. Also, I am at the beginning of chapter five of Alejandro (working title). The plan is to have Gallery ready for submission by the end of January 2012, and Alejandro ready by May of the same year. Under normal circumstances, thinking of the future of these books (and the ones that have yet to be written) gives me a shot of optimism and boosts my spirits. But today… just for today… I’m going to allow myself to dread my future as a writer. I’m going to accept where I am rather than fawning over where I wish I were.  Today, I wish that I wanted something simpler. Today, I wish that all I wanted from life was to get a good job, have a couple kids and settle into the comfort of a nine to five job. Today… I wish I was someone else because I know without a doubt that I will never be happy with any of those things. Today… I surrender.

But tomorrow is another day and I won’t give up on it. I never wanted a simple life. I never expected this to be easy. I had the luxury of walking into this business with my eyes wide open. As Kim told me over a year ago, “writing the book is the easy part.” And she was right. There isn’t much room for pity and there are no shortcuts. Nothing worth having ever comes easy and despite the rejections, I’ve had some wonderful experiences. I’ve met many of my heroes. I’ve had agents tell me some wonderful things and point me in some good directions. And above all, I’ve been able to do what I love: write… and I’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of help along the way.

No, I won’t give up. The people who love me wouldn’t let me and more importantly, I would never forgive myself if I did. I’ve worked too hard for this and I’ve spent too much time to justify walking away. But more than all of that, I don’t want to give up. Today is a bad day and that’s okay… but overall, this is what makes me happy, despite all the heartache along the way.

I started this blog to document my adventures in the world of writing. I’ve always told the truth but I’ve never really said much about the strains and pains of this business because I never wanted to discourage anyone. But to maintain the dignity of my blog’s overall purpose, I can’t really forfeit the darker side, either. The truth is that being a writer has a hell of a lot more to do with sitting down, writing and maintaining a smile while the world tells you you’re not good enough than anything else. It has more to do with working than playing. It’s about getting good at your craft and playing the game. It’s about accepting that there are no shortcuts and loving the process in its entirety, despite its flaws. It’s about understanding that the dream is always preceded by the nightmare. Your job is to write and let the business of getting published take care of itself. In the interim, hold tight to the little things that happen along the way which propel you in a forward direction and prove to you that your path is true.

In New Orleans this summer, I spent some time with my best friend from childhood. He said something that I hold onto. He said, “You’re a writer. You’ve always been a writer and one day you’ll be published. You always had a way of setting your mind to something and getting it. You will get this too.”

And I will. But not today… and that’s okay.


    

     I don’t believe it’s possible to not be creative.  While some people may deem themselves “artists”, and others may think they don’t have a creative bone in their bodies, the only difference between these two groups, in my opinion, is their opposing senses of self-perception. But the truth is, we are human and we create… whether we mean to, whether we want to… or not.

     I’ve come to believe that, with or without our consent, the mind refuses to not be creative in some form or another, and that if creativity is suppressed, it will find whatever cracks it can to seep through and get the message to us. One of the most fascinating ways the mind tricks us into being creative is through our dreams.

     I read an article a while back in which Stephenie Meyer said that one night she had a dream about a girl in a forest with a boy. The girl was heartbroken and didn’t know what to do because she was in love with him but knew they couldn’t be together because he was a vampire and she was human. When she woke up, she wrote down what she could remember from the dream, and then started asking questions like how did the couple get into the forest, and where were they going from there. And that is how the whole Twilight series began.

     I have a friend who is a writer and he gets many of his ideas from a recurring dream where he is in a bookstore. In the dream, he is surrounded by books he has never seen or heard of. He browses books and reads the premise on the back covers, then when he wakes up, he takes those ideas and begins writing them.

    My own dreams generally make little to no sense, but once in a while, I dream something that either solves a major problem in my story for me, or gives me an entirely new story idea, proving to me that being uncreative is not possible. One dream in particular stands out to me as a good example of how the mind’s need to be creative imposes its will upon us.

     In this dream, I was in a monster-sized Barnes and Noble. I say monster-sized because it had to have been a thirty story building, and it was full of books. Rows and rows of books. Wall to wall, ceiling to floor books. It was beautiful. But that’s beside the point. I was sitting near a window at a small table by myself. I knew I was waiting for someone, but I didn’t know who. For some reason, in this dream anyway, that made perfect sense.

     A boy approached my table. I guess he wasn’t a boy really, but more of a young man. I remember looking up and being a bit stunned by this guy’s ornamental appearance. He had curly blond hair, eerily flawless skin, perfect teeth, and he seemed to exist inside a golden globe of light that somehow radiated from inside him. I knew this was the person I had been waiting for.

    The guy sat down and introduced himself. He told me his name was Alejandro. I remember being a little confused by his name. He didn’t look like an “Alejandro” to me, but whatever, I figured~ not my business. He was very cordial and smiled at me non-stop. He reached into a bag that he had apparently brought with him and pulled out a few sheets of paper that were stapled together. I looked it over and realized it was a resume of sorts.

    At some point, I realized I was giving this guy some sort of employment interview. He seemed eager to get the job, and although I don’t remember specifics, he went into a long monologue about his experience and the ways it would benefit me if I hired him. As he spoke, I noticed he had golden halos around the irises of his eyes. I asked him about them and he told me he was an angel who wanted to be the star character in my next story.

     I don’t remember anything else that we talked about; the details of the conversation were lost as soon as I woke up, but I guess I must have decided to “hire him”, because about a week later, I got this great idea about an angel whose original  mission is intercepted, landing him in a trailer park in Podunk, America where he must learn what it means to interact as a human, to help others as a human, and above all, to find and maintain his faith as a human.

     This dream was one of the most compelling and fascinating moments in my life. I would have never thought the mind, especially when unconscious, could conjure up and direct such effective methods of creative execution. Since dreaming this, I have looked deeper into the phenomenon of dreams and have found an astounding number of artists and creators who have pulled details from a dream and made it into something tangible in the waking world.

     All human beings are artists;  just being alive makes you an artist in your own right. I believe that the human mind will stop at nothing to find an outlet for creativity and that eventually, that need for creativity will stop taking no for an answer, and one way or another, whether conscious or unconscious, we will all be forced, by one means or another, to leave tangible strands of our inherent, creative DNA on the face of this planet. Creating is not our talent. It is not our right and it isn’t even our duty. Creating is our nature.

     Write on, and…


    

     Life is incredibly short.  The saddest part about this is that we spend so much of what little time we have wondering how to spend it, and once we do figure out how we want to spend it, we are met with resistance, negativity and that two-letter word we all hate most of all: No. After so much of this, we just want to throw our hands in the air and go back to our places in line, accepting the grind as our lots in life and carrying on, moment to moment, day after day, playing it safe and making sure not to rock the boat of monotony.   This might work for a while, but eventually, those notions of something greater, something more meaningful, will catch up to us, tackle us, and pin us to the ground, demanding we heed our own instincts that we’re capable of more.  When we’ve reach that point in life where we’ve put fear in its place and thickened our skins enough to take the punches, there are a few things we can do to counter-balance the effects of the coming obstacles and impediments in order to keep our spirits and our passions in check.  At the forefront of that list, in my opinion, is to have a support network. 

     Whether you’re a writer, a college graduate, a stay-at-home mom, or a poodle groomer, you don’t have time to divulge in anyone else’s version of reality, unless it supports your own success unequivocally.  The fact is, no one but you knows those core truths about you that, if listened to and acted upon, will carry you to your root allocation in life.  We’ve all been out of our elements.  We’ve all taken jobs that simply paid the bills, we’ve all catered to the fear of failure and we’ve all fallen into the designs of someone else’s masterpiece.  It isn’t a good place to be.  We struggle, we fight, we get by… and we don’t even know what for; and all the while we try to ignore the fact that we simply don’t have time for that; that sadly, life comes… and then it goes.

     I’ve reached a point in my own life where, if someone dared to tell me I couldn’t do a thing, I would smile, nod and walk as far away from them as my feet would take me.  My own mother wouldn’t be afforded the luxury of discouraging me, so one can imagine how I might feel about even the gentlest of promptings from a stranger, a friend of a friend, or a stagnant and embittered second cousin through marriage.  If I let these people affect me, I will be discouraged and impotent,  and, as far as I’m concerned, if I let these people make my decisions, I have no right to occupy my own body. 

     So I surround myself with people who have dreams of their own and who believe in mine.  I don’t view this as a simple choice so much as a strategy move essential for survival.  Whatever paths we choose to execute in life, we will be met with enough interference, restraint and discouragement.  It’s just not lucrative to allow it into your immediate personal space.  Your social life should be reserved for those who foster your goals, stimulate your drive and help cultivate your personal empowerment.  In his book, The Master Key to Riches, Napoleon Hill refers to this as the “Mastermind Alliance.”  While I am not typically a fan of self-help or motivational literature, I think he was definitely on the right track with that one, and I recommend the book to anyone.

     If you’re walking, talking and breathing, you have passion.  Even if you have to look for it a little, it’s there.  And passion without purpose and precision is just white noise.  Part of who and what you surround yourself with is part of that precision, so I’ve come to believe in the value of choosing wisely my immediate environment.  I’m standing in a foreign place in my life right now.  Not just in my writing but in everything else as well.  I am at a precipice, looking over the edge at everything I know, just daring the wind to blow a little and knock me off my feet.  But everything I feared is twice removed.  There are a million reasons I can’t succeed and yet all I can think about is the one reason I can: because I want it that damned bad.  Now, more than ever, I’m glad I have nothing around me except the highest caliber of believers, and I’m grateful that, as depressing as it is, I realize how little time there is.

     There isn’t time to listen to anyone else tell you what you should do.  All you need to know is that fish belong in water, painters belong on canvas and writers belong on paper.  It’s just a matter of finding out who you are… your station in life will follow.  Time is precious.  So, if you’re going to stop and smell the roses, first be sure you’re not standing in someone else’s garden.