One of the key moments in the life of a writer (painter, actor, athlete or President, if you like) is when they reach the limits of their dreams.
In our dreams, we are everything we’d like to be, no limitations, everything works out just the way we’d like.
Of course, I’m talking about waking dreams, not those weirdo convoluted things that happen when I’m asleep and make no sense at all after – not talkin’ ’bout them, okay?
If you’re like me, very little of your daydream life involves actual work. Most of my daydreams concern the perks, the money, the prestige, the reverence in which I expect to be held (which you could all start on now and get ahead of the curve). My daydreams completely bypass the compromises, frustrations and tedium of getting there. It’s like ignoring the highway and focusing only on the scenic overlooks.
Most writers start out wanting to be somebody else anyway. Dostoyevsky, Mark Twain or Virginia Woolf, John Grisham, Dave Barry or Jacqueline Susann, take your pick. It’s a way to sketch the outlines of what you want to do at a time when your own creativity is still very nebulous and you have no signposts.
But that’s the tricky part of the transaction. Those signposts are crucial for getting started but at some point down the line, you reach a Crossroads where that predetermined destination starts sapping your energy, dimming your intuition and enthusiasm. Because a story is a journey, not a destination.
This is where a lot of writers give up or stop growing, because becoming yourself means letting go of the signposts. It means switching directions and modes of transportation without warning. It means finding yourself off-road with no assurance you’ll ever get back and nothing but a horizon in front of you. And knowing that empty horizon is the only way to get wherever the hell it is you’re going.
The task of the artisan or artist, whatever term you prefer, is to develop your own instinct, your own intuition and inner compass and follow wherever it leads. Which means giving up on who you wanted to be – in order to allow yourself to become who you are.