What do writers dream about?
A friend asked me this years ago, while we sat on bleachers watching our kids play soccer. He was a scientist, so he couldn’t even imagine my world. He wondered what my fellow writers dreamed would happen with their work—he was curious if we share a common hope.
At the time, I’d just read Billy Coffey’s article “Waiting for Applause.” In it, he recounts the story of his daughter’s experience reading aloud to her class a story she’d toiled over. Overcome by pain, she whispered through sniffles that she was crushed because when she finished, no one applauded:
[W]e do not want to be congratulated for our valor. No, it’s for something more fundamental. We want claps so that we may know we’ve been heard, that by exposing our pain we have built a bridge that spans Me and You and creates an Us. To a writer, the only thing that is worse than derision is silence.
Billy says, “Writing is work. Hard, sweaty, painful work.” Those of us who commit to the work of writing are likely dredging up anger and pain to get to the truths we long to express in clear, honest prose or poetry. That is hard. Then we send that into the world. When we do, we want to know that “by exposing our pain we have built a bridge that spans Me and You and creates an Us.”
We want to connect, to be heard, to be acknowledged and valued for what we have communicated.
Granted, even those of us diving the depths to produce our work may write lighter fare from time to time. Yet even if we’ve written a humorous short story or a “7 Tips for Finding Your Ideal Job” type of article, we still want to be heard—applauded, if you will. We want to know our work made a difference—that the short story entertained and the seven tips were helpful or encouraging.
How will we hear the applause if we never stand in an auditorium and read our work aloud? For some, that will be seen or felt in the comments responding to a blog post; for others, it might be the number of “likes” on a Facebook update. It could be represented in the check a publisher sends for an article or, for those who write books, it could be the number of copies purchased and the Amazon reviews.
Is our dream to publish, or is our dream to hear the applause? I think Billy’s right, and even those who say their dream is to be published is voicing a dream to be heard—to know their words made a difference.
I think that’s what writers dream about. Okay, maybe some writers dream of fame and fortune, but most of us dream of hearing the applause of at least one reader who receives our words and feels stirred to respond. I think we dream of building the bridge that spans Me and You so at least for a few moments, on a page or on a screen, we connect: writer and reader.
Is your writing life all it can be?
Let this book act as your personal coach, to explore the writing life you already have and the writing life you wish for, and close the gap between the two.
“A genial marriage of practice and theory. For writers new and seasoned. This book is a winner.”
—Phil Gulley, author of Front Porch Tales