My Resistance Dream Diary #2

 

Picking up where we left off last week …

Me, fly one of these? Really?

Me, fly one of these? Really?

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.

Jude Law in "Cold Mountain," the movie

Jude Law in “Cold Mountain,” the movie

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.]

THE WAR OF ART

Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.

The-War-of-Art

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1

THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

noboybookcover

TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

19 Comments

  1. Bret on April 20, 2016 at 6:31 am

    Having read many works by Thomas Moore and James Hillman, I have always found significance in my dreams. I’m happy you wrote these past two entires, as it has helped me to refocus on them in regards to my creative endeavors. Thanks!

  2. Tom Malcolm on April 20, 2016 at 6:37 am

    Thanks for reminding me i’m not alone in my terror!

  3. BarbaraNH on April 20, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Thanks for bringing us along on this heroic journey!

  4. Mary Doyle on April 20, 2016 at 7:02 am

    Thank you for your generosity in sharing such a personal part of your own battle with Resistance. Since last week’s post I’ve been paying closer attention to my own dreams and yes, they are all about Resistance.

  5. Gary Neal Hansen on April 20, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Thank you so much for lifting the lid on these experiences. May you be richly blessed in the process of developing your new work!

  6. Jonah Calinawan on April 20, 2016 at 8:02 am

    This post is so inspirational. I love the ideas and love the words too: “the artist’s inner world” “the artist’s interior world.” Just great. Looking forward to ongoing story.

  7. Mary Van Everbroeck on April 20, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Enjoyed hearing about the manner in which the ‘muse’ works for you. The closest I become to your expressed experience is what I refer to daydreaming. For me heightened creativity is most realized in the midst of ‘heightened activity and/or challenge’. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your ‘current’ work. Best success.

  8. Julie Gabrielli on April 20, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Thank you for this. It rings absolutely true. Even 5+ years into my project, I recently had a dream meant to give me encouragement and instruction in the form of a course correction on how to proceed. This well of creativity is indeed a mystery and a marvel. By sharing your dreams, you have given a great gift. As Jung observed, dreams are meant for the dreamer, yes, and also contain universal material that can benefit anyone who taps into them. I’m intrigued that “south” figures so prominently in the last two dreams. The south is the place of flowering, growth and maturation, as well as passion, playfulness, fertility, sex, and the fire that burns within.

  9. David Kaufmann on April 20, 2016 at 10:45 am

    You are a man of courage and an inspiration.

  10. Beverley Ross on April 20, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Wow. Dreams are like a huge radio beacon broadcasting from a mountain top and aimed at the dreamer the they often hold the keyes to perfect understanding and transcendence. Except they are in a grand visual and auditory language that is just different enough to be deeply difficult. That dream was a huge, monstrously glorious dream that offered such powerful clues to you to unlock a lot more than writing a book. Writing a book is a big deal but life and your soul are bigger.
    You describe a terrible journey where you face heartbreaking challenges and humiliation, defeats, and disorientation but keep your courage. Your dreams have become a beacon for me and others who struggle with manifesting their vision and their stories. The the ineffable poetry of their unique soul.

    I am surprised at what you say because your books are tough, straightforward and about courageous people. Also tremendously well researched and somehow you put this in your own crucible to create remarkable stories with depth. Well there ya go….
    it is good to hear such honesty and emotional courage. Out of the realm of war. God knows it is a war out there and humans are primitive and unevolved. Having the illusion that the war is over in life and that it is not always perilous and fraught with
    crowds of people using one for their scapegoat is a relief from feeling overwhelmed and outmanned.
    I think your dreams were so powerful and your beautifully and clearly description were breathtaking.
    I hope you remember that. There is an army of people out there who are cheering you on. Your unique great gift for writing has been a bulwark for me in tough times. More than ever great stories need to be told.

    I was taught never to interpret someone else’s dream to them. It is an intrusion and much better to help with keyes to unlock the dream. Fritz Perls said that one is every character in the dream and roles playing the different parts can losen the dreamer from its …. spell. Everyone lost in the Civil War and the is tragedy in the fact that the two sides couldn’t see the humanity in the other side.

    THANKS FOR SHARING.

    Bev

  11. gwen abitz on April 20, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    The sharing of your dreams have gotten me TO wonder as I wander around in the game of Resistance, that I keep telling myself it is NOT Resistance because I am not a writer/author. Being a writer/author is not my work and have no desire to become rich or famous. BUT to make an impact on the world!!!! MAYBE if I interpret the last 29 years as A DREAM it would HELP me with writing “the story”…BECAUSE how can “it all” be anything but fiction. I could not help but read again [what I copied on a piece of white paper what Callie wrote in her last WHAT IT TAKES] “whether your goal is to be rich and famous or to make an impact on the world you have to share your work. Being there isn’t enough. Message your work in a manner that is accessible to the rest of the world (basically everyone who is not you.)”

  12. Erika Viktor on April 20, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    You have some pretty intense dreams, my man!

    I love the idea you spoke of a few posts ago about pretending your book is a dream. I used it when I was struggling with my recent short story theme and it helped!

    Have I mentioned this before? I believe what we create (story, song, painting, etc) is a direct metaphor for what we are dealing with at the moment and is like a “treasure map” to the answer to the solution. Sometimes when I am looking for theme I will think “What’s really bugging me right now?” and I can usually morph it into a metaphor relating to the story. Then, I magically have my beginning and ending.

    Its good to have these tools.

    Keep going through that swamp. The alligators are your friends and they are winking at you! The best actors only take on roles that really challenge them.

  13. Jule Kucera on April 20, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    -Aahhhh- These dreams are gifts to you and because of your generosity, to us. It’s going to be difficult to leave these to go back to theme. I hope that as you have more of these dreams you periodically share them so we can continue to travel along with you.

  14. grateful on April 20, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    I don’t read your emails when they arrive. I save them for when the wolves of doubt howl at the door. I read you then. By the time I get to the bottom, I am surrounded by silence. You are our Conductor–we, the symphony—our writing–our creativity, restored by your presence.

  15. Jorge Casariego on April 21, 2016 at 6:59 am

    Moving. Helpful and inspiring.

  16. anne marina on April 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Those are some vivid and inspiring dreams and have got me thinking about mine. Thanks, Steve. Had one other night about Brazil I’m trying to turn into gold to push me along with a project I’m in the middle of and having doubts about. The message to me was: stop and listen to the samba and never stop dancing. I’m sure that goes for the writing too. Listen to my muse!

  17. Ethan Maurice on April 22, 2016 at 10:26 am

    I applaud you for your courage to head out over the cold, dark sea. With previous ventures into that void, what you’ve managed to return with, the world is a better place for. Though flying a plane over that void may be new for you, I imagine the void itself isn’t. The stakes will always be just as high, and you might be new to flying, but you’ve gone out into the void before and fruitfully returned, just not as a pilot. And for that reason, I have confidence in your ability to learn to fly.

    Best of luck out there,

    Ethan

  18. Bane on April 24, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Kick some ass Largo!!!!

  19. Stacy on April 27, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    How do you even remember your dreams? I only rarely remember mine at random times.

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