My Resistance Dream Diary #2
Picking up where we left off last week …
I’m starting a new fiction project, very heavy with Resistance, self-doubt, doubts about the viability of the project, etc. I decided to keep a dream diary. Last week I posted the first two dreams. Here are the next two.
This first one comes about a week into the work (3/28/16). Self-confidence in very short supply. I’m committed, but still feeling extremely tentative …
I was a pilot. I had somehow gotten the training and become qualified. I was traveling via ship and train to Antarctica with my friend David and one other guy that I didn’t know; they were both pilots too. We were going to join some kind of military force in operations somewhere around the South Pole. The planes we would be flying were WWI-era biplanes (though these didn’t appear in the dream.)
The landscape was gorgeous as we traveled south toward Patagonia, like I imagine Alaska looks: spectacular mountains, bays, valleys, all wild and unpopulated. But through the whole trip, I kept worrying, “We’ll have to fly over hundreds of miles of open water, water so cold that you’re dead in ninety seconds if you hit the drink–and those old-time biplanes are just fabric and balsa wood, with only one engine. How reliable can they be?”
We reached our destination—the last place on dry land. David and I and the other guy were driving, each in his own little car, south toward the jumping-off point. We came to a checkpoint, manned by a single Aussie female. David drove up. The female guard challenged David aggressively, asking him what we thought we were doing. He answered by singing, “We’re off to see the Wizard … “
I take this dream to be a spot-on depiction of my state of mind starting this new book. I feel exactly like a newly-minted, zero-experience Sopwith Camel jockey about to take off in a rickety crate to fly over hundreds of miles of sub-zero ocean into the polar unknown.
Somehow the dream encouraged me. I thought, “Yeah, that’s the situation. That’s exactly how I feel.” It is what it is. Let’s get on with it.
Two nights later, still very shaky, I had this dream:
It was the aftermath of the Civil War, the immediate days after Lee’s surrender. I was a rebel. A bunch of us—ragged and starving, but still carrying our muskets (with bayonets)—were straggling on foot toward home, apparently back to South Carolina or Georgia, wherever our little farms were. Parties of Yankees kept passing on the roads, celebrating their victory, not just soldiers but civilians in carriages, dressed up in their finery, just driving like a parade. Union troops in large numbers were closing in everywhere as well.
Some sort of very serious announcement was being made by the Yankees to us, not by loudspeaker since that hadn’t been invented but the equivalent. Something like, “You Johnny Rebs have ceased to be granted the status of soldiers and now will be treated as traitors. You no longer possess any civil rights and are not protected under the laws of the United States.” More announcements followed. Each one was more grave than the one before, letting us know that we were even more screwed than we thought we were. It was as if the stakes kept getting raised and then raised more after that. A few of our guys had gotten shot by the advancing Union troops. It was clear that the rest of us were in for a long, hard haul just trying to get home, hundreds of miles overland on foot, through the woods, hiding out.
At one point someone of our party, possibly even me, gestured with his bayonet close-up toward a carriage of Yankee civilians, revelers, well-dressed, men and women, who were passing and abusing us verbally. This soldier (like I said, maybe it was even me) pointed his rifle at the Yankees, with that long steel bayonet aimed right at them. He said, “We may have lost the war, but we’re still men, we’re still armed and still capable of taking a life. So shut your mouth.”
Again, I take this dream to be about the new book. Its message to me seems to be, “No matter what anyone else says, or how dire realistically the situation is, you’ve still got your skills and your will. You’re still viable. Don’t lose faith. Keep heading home.”
I had a third dream, a week later, that continued this theme of marching home, heading south. In this dream I was just myself, wading through a swamp thick with alligators and praying that I didn’t run into one. At dream’s end I spotted a cabin up ahead with a chance to get a meal and a short rest.
Here’s my takeaway from these five dreams, which came over the first three weeks of starting a new and, to me, extremely daunting project:
As writers, artists and entrepreneurs we all look for “creative capital,” i.e. something we can “take to the bank” and call upon in moments of self-doubt, isolation, hesitation, and fear.
What works? Is it prior success? Can we call on that? Is it past praise from book reviews, editors, agents, from the writers’ group we meet with every week? Is it the love of our spouses or lovers who believe in us? Is it our number of “likes” or “followers?” In our darkest hours, what resource can we call upon that will actually help us?
To me, it’s dreams like these. Or other visions and insights. (See the chapter titled LARGO, pages 128-9 in The War of Art.)
Dreams like these are God’s currency, solid gold, legal tender in any country. They’re absolutely free and absolutely self-contained, springing forth from our unconscious to support us and encourage us. When we speak of “the Muse” or “the Quantum Soup” or “the Divine Ground,” this is what we’re talking about. Dreams like these are worth a million bucks.
I can tell you that, based on these five dreams (though any one of them by itself would suffice) I will bust my butt for the next two years writing this book I’m talking about. Yeah, I’ve laid the idea on Shawn for real-world feedback and gotten his blessing. That definitely helps. And a couple of other trusted friends have stamped it with their approval too.
But the dreams are the money shot.
This, as I said, is the artist’s inner world. It’s the artist’s interior life.
[Back next week to continue our posts on Theme—though I’ll continue to keep my dream diary and report in from time to time as this adventure progresses.]