A New Kind of Dream

My dreams have been changing the past months. Less anxious struggle, more epic adventure, including one about my father, the first dream I’ve ever had about him. This is not that. This is last night’s offering; in the dream, years pass, and in my head, the dream itself felt like it lasted a number of hours, though of course the way our minds play with time, it could have been an instant.

The dream opened with a young man meeting his father for the first time. The young man was bitter, his father, amused.

Followed much rambling between and about the father and son, which I don’t remember, then it switches from third person to first, and jumps back in time twenty years.

Joel D CanfieldThe three of us were hiding out in a park somewhere. She was blonde, he was dark; nothing more than that, just dark. She was with me, and he was with us.

We went back to town and realized the authorities knew, and they were after us.

We ran separately. I went back toward the park. I left my little white breakfast plate with leftovers and a fork under a white plastic chair. Or maybe it was a bush. Went through the gate, around the lake, to a house.

Later, she joined me. I don’t think I was me, so she wasn’t Sue. The old folks and grandkids living there acted as if we belonged.

We knew they’d find my plate and follow the trail here. “We had no choice.” Our 3-year-old didn’t cry when we left him there. They were good people. The look on the old man’s face told me our son was in better hands than ours.

Later, the other guy and I were at the hotel. It’s hazy at this point, but later when she and I went back, the young girl was dead, probably because of the other guy.

She wouldn’t talk to me, just arranged the clothing in the dresser drawer.

In the kitchen, I looked past him to the road. At first I thought the sound was the motorcycle I could see, but then the helicopter noise separated from the big two-cylinder motorcycle engine and I ran out the side door and around the hotel. Up over the ridge; had no idea what would be there.

Below was a vast network of raised paths through a lake, with mountains on the other side. As I ran down the hill, a horseman came toward me out of the labyrinth. We passed each other, him going uphill, me going down.

I kept running.

Commitments, Goals, Dreams

People selling seminars love to make claims about small goals equaling small gains, and that we have to think big, dream big, have grand goals, even big hairy audacious goals, to ever accomplish anything.

As I am wont to say, balderdash. Poppycock. Piffle. The power of small wins is irrefutable. Check out anything written by Teresa Amabile.

Rosanne Bane explains in her book the solid brain science that we should have firm commitments, and that they should be so small that reaching them is a doddle, and that we should also have goals that stretch us, but which we’re not committed to. In that way we can stretch when it’s good without teaching ourselves to fail by constantly falling short.

It’s popular to tell people to shoot for the moon and even if you miss you’ll land in the stars. It makes good poetry and sells seminars. But brain science says that a goal you can reach is infinitely more motivating than one you can’t, plain and simple.

Those “goals” Rosanne talks about—I call them dreams. I have huge dreams. I take baby steps all the time toward those dreams. If I didn’t have a bright light on my horizon, what would I aim for? But delaying happiness, contentment, the feeling of accomplishment, until “someday” when I get there? Nonsense.

Frustrating Dreams

My dreams follow a pattern: someone is waiting for me, I have somewhere to be or a task to get done; essentially, a clock is ticking and it’s my job to beat it. Never happens. Every dream is a cosmic conspiracy to mire me in failure. Now, lest you get the impression I’m having some groovy James Bond Mission Impossible action adventure in my head, here’s what was going on just before I woke up this morning:

We were rushing to get ready to go somewhere important, “we” being, perhaps, my family when I was a kid. People in my dreams tend to morph between past, present, and imaginary. I could not find my one and only good dress shirt. I found a pile of shirts and knew I had to take each one off the hanger before I could see the next one. The first shirt, red rayon or thin cotton, Hawaiian print, had frayed buttonholes. The buttons caught in the threads and it was torture getting each one undone. Every button was buttoned.

Trivial, eh?

At this point in the dream, I’m having trouble breathing, my chest is pounding, I’m in full blown panic, beyond reason, flailing and raging internally like an animal, but carefully stifling any expression of emotion lest others, already tense and frustrated and blaming me, become offended.

I never finished the shirt because I had to put the fish in the freezer. I’d told everyone else to go ahead and I’d come on my own because I knew I’d never be ready on time. They chose to wait for me, but still expected me to be ready on time.

Walking from the kitchen to the bedroom, something was wrong. I went back and walked it again, some giant package which was apparently frozen fish (though it wasn’t cold) in my arms.

The freezer was gone. I’d been walking back and forth through the space where it had been.

At this point the panic reached the point of madness. If it wouldn’t have disturbed the people around me I would have cackled maniacally, knowing my mind had entirely lost its grip on reality. Vague thoughts of doing grievous bodily harm to myself or others hover in the back of my mind; I can no longer bear the madness of confusion, frustration, obligation. I would surrender if I could, but the thought of all those people waiting on me drives me on in my useless, fruitless, hopeless quest.

I could picture my shirt. I kept seeing flashes of the pattern but it always turns out to be that blasted red shirt with the frayed buttonholes.

No one knew where the freezer was. We were all late.

I woke up.

Why can’t I have flying dreams?

Oh, the fish? No idea where it went. Before the dream ended it was just gone.

Dreams Are Not Enough

dreamingSeth writes about Harper Lee’s double miracle at The Domino Project. You should read it. I’ll wait.

# # #

I hope you read it or what I write here will make less sense.

Dreaming is wonderful. It’s vital to an artist. No dreams, no art.

Dreaming is not a business plan.

Continue reading “Dreams Are Not Enough”

Can’t Hurry Love. Or Marketing.

like a caravan climbing a mountainSince I started the focused marketing of A Long, Hard Look, giving away copies in exchange for reviews and to get attention on Goodreads, the total results (over a the past 5 weeks) have been underwhelming. A handful (that means 5, at most) of sales, a few of which were to people I know. A few reviews, mostly from people who read my blog or newsletter.

Like I said, underwhelming. (Not that I don’t appreciate that folks who know me buy, read, and review, but that isn’t a result of all this marketing, it’s a result of our personal relationship.)

There are a million sales tactics, and hundreds of people out there pitching their “sell a million copies” process. If only I could find the magic potion, the secret formula.

Thing is, I already have it, and it’s no secret, nor is it magic.

Continue reading “Can’t Hurry Love. Or Marketing.”

What is Your Writing Goal for Today, for This Project, for Your Life?

what are you aiming for?A subtle theme, more a motif, runs through my conversations with authors. When they talk about their writing, there’s one thing they don’t mention:

When it will be done.

There’s a reason this site is named Someday Box. A reason I chose Getting Your Book Out of the Someday Box as the title for that book.

“Someday” is not a goal. Someday is a dream, a vague notion. Sir Ken Robinson tells the story of chatting with a brilliant pianist whose name I can’t remember. Robinson said “I wish I could play like that.”

The pianist said something like, “No, you like the idea of playing like that. If you really wished you could, you’d be doing something about it.”

Do you want to be a writer or do you just like the idea?

Continue reading “What is Your Writing Goal for Today, for This Project, for Your Life?”

Squiring the Dreamer, Revisited

This was originally posted at Finding Why

a knight and his squiresBeing an idealistic dreamer, this quest to change the world is enormously fulfilling for me.

Sharing this joy with others who choose to follow my lead is gratifying in the extreme.

A Knight’s Tale is a movie about a quest, but it’s not the type of quest won with swords. The entire film turns on a single early scene. (I’ll leave you to review the plot and characters if you haven’t seen it.)

Continue reading “Squiring the Dreamer, Revisited”

You’ll Feel Like Giving Up (Only Moreso)

This was originally at Finding Why and written for entrepreneurs in general. That was before I realized my mission was to help authors.

I will not get out of bed you can't make meOnce in a while someone will warn an aspiring writer that “you’ll feel like giving up.”

That’s a bit like describing drowning as “you’ll have trouble breathing.”

Here’s the truth:

There will be days when the only reason you don’t turn in your Writer’s Badge in a miasma of frustration, anger, and disgust is because you can’t find the flipping phone number of whoever takes the “I Surrender!” calls, and that’s because you can’t bear to crawl out from under the covers to go look for it.

Y’know, like yesterday.

Then sleep, with its magical power to strip us of reason and pour beautiful dreams back into our souls, will gently wipe away the smudges and push you out the door to do it all again.

Y’know, like today.

3 Words for 2014

Last year I tested Chris Brogan’s 3 Words thinking and it was a stupendous success. Last year’s words were dissident, High Priest and performer. The goal is to choose 3 words which remind me who I want to be this year. Words which will inform and affect every action, every day.

These words aren’t in play because of what they mean literally, nor does it matter in my routine what they mean to you. The goal is to give myself a quick and easy touchstone for “Is what I’m doing right now moving me toward my goals?”

My 3 Words

My 3 words for 2014: artist, adventurer, actor.

artist adventurer actor

Continue reading “3 Words for 2014”

Perfect Day

I wrote this the last day of 2009. Still working on it.

It feels natural, waking up in Ireland. Like I was born in the wrong place, and now I’m home. And my life has felt more real since the first morning I woke up with Sue’s hair on my pillow.

There is nothing in the world like Irish breakfast tea, in Ireland (or, at the other end of the day, a pint o’ Guinness in the land where it’s made).

Potatoes should be part of every meal (another indication I’m secretly Irish). And as Sue says, orange marmalade was designed for morning tea.

The bright sun is a treat at breakfast. Since it rises at 4 am in the summer, and still shines almost every winter day, S.A.D. is a thing of the past. As are my allergies. Remember how miserable it was in Sacramento, like a chronic cold?

No flying bugs; no window screens. We could step out the living room windows to the deck above the river—and we often do.

Even with the sun on the deck, it’s cool enough for a sweater. I love sweaters. And hats. I love clothing in general in a not-very-manly way. But when it’s always cool enough for long sleeves, I get to wear something fun and different every day.

I enjoy having a household staff. I know it looks odd to folks who have old views of ‘servants’ and all, but these people are my closest associates, trusted friends. It’s just that their passions and dreams relate to the type of serving and caregiving which I’m glad I can support, financially and otherwise.

Having a valet lay my clothes out and draw my bath after bringing me tea in the morning is a nice luxury. I delight in having a talented passionate chef prepare all our meals. Especially a nice lunch to take on a drive.

My afternoon massage lets me make the most of my nap. And having a house cleaner to keep everything tidy takes a burden off Sue and lets her enjoy her home more. I’m so much more productive now that I have an assistant who takes notes, types, and manages my library.

I’m still not used to our clients never calling, but since they’re all in different time zones around the world, my coaching calls end up at 5 in the morning or 9 at night. I love it. Leaves my days free for writing and naps. And recording my music.

My travel videos of Ireland have been popular in the States. It’s fun to do the whole process, including the music.

There’s going to be a big crowd at the pub tonight. I love it that my work enables me to buy the first round any time I perform there.

Time for our morning walk. Sue’s strength has returned since we’ve been able to get out every day.

After our walk, it’s off to Shannon to pick up the kids. It’s one of the best things in my life, finally being reunited with them.

(Insert Lou Gehrig quote here:
“Today-ay-ay, I consider myself the luckiest man-an-an on the face-ace-ace of the earth-rth-rth)

Joel D Canfield 31 December 2009