Do you dream of seeing your novel or nonfiction book climb the bestseller charts? Could that dream be hindering your ability to focus on your writing RIGHT NOW?
That question was triggered by blogger Nina Badzin in her most recent post. A number of us bloggers have spent the last couple of weeks writing about the temptation of social media vs. the need to write, and Nina’s new conclusion was this: “I believe the cause of our new-found apathy is our premature worry about our finished products.” (Boldface in original)
Like any artist, Nina has set high goals for herself, and tells herself she’ll meet them. Like any professional, she studies her field, and has learned the odds she faces. She’s read the stories of other’s paths. She’s experienced setbacks. And she wonders if the reason she produces fewer pages now than she once did is because she has a greater sense of how difficult it will be to become a published author.
Like Nina, I have “finished” manuscripts that are unpublished and I’m sure will remain that way. Like Nina, I’ve studied the industry and know the odds. But for me at least I still think there’s a place for embracing the fantasy.
When I traveled the country talking with artists about creativity, the left brain-right brain dichotomy came up a lot. Some of the artists were highly successful, others still earning most of their income from non-arts jobs. But a core lesson emerged on how driven artists think.
It’s our practical left brains that read Writer’s Digest and Publisher’s Weekly, that follow literary agents on Twitter, that calculate the possible return on investment of every hour spent on our art. But it’s our right brains that make us feel alive, that put aside distraction to enter another world, that worry not about RoI. A true artist embraces both brains.
Listen to the left brain and pay the power bill so you can plug in your computer. But indulge your right brain and allow that part of you to engage in flights of fancy, whether it’s imagining a book signing in your favorite bookstore or sitting in the guest chair on The Colbert Report. Your left brain will tell you not to have those fantasies, that they’re impractical, that they’re setting you up for failure. But your right brain needs those fantasies. It operates by working in a place of imagination, not reality. It’s fuel is make-believe, so let it pretend, let it imagine the best possible outcome that could come from the labor it is providing you in producing your art.
In short, allow yourself to daydream. Give yourself permission to say you’ll be that one writer who gets a big, early break. There will be time to be practical, but an art-committed life requires indulging both reality and fantasy.
When you find yourself discouraged with your art, do you feel guilty for imagining great success for yourself? Do you find you were more productive with your art before you knew the odds you faced professionally? Do you see separate roles in your artistic life for your left brain and right brain? What is your dream? I’d love to hear your thoughts.