Here are a couple little things you probably didn’t know about me:
(1) I’m scared of the dark.
(2) I have Really Truly Awful Terrible No-Good Dreams on a regular basis. Some people call them nightmares. I don’t really like that word. It’s overused to the point of not meaning anything, like ‘awesome’ and ‘literally’. But it’s shorter and easier to say than Dreamscapes Created By Evil Itself, so I suppose there’s still some decent use left in the word.
Here’s another thing that you may (or may not) know about me:
I heart Stephen King. Granted, he’d probably view my work with the same disdain he has for Stephanie Meyer, but whatever. Doesn’t change the fact that the man can spin a yarn like nobody’s business.
My admiration of King started with my mom. She loved all things creepy, crawly, and scary. And she loved Stephen King. She introduced me to him at an early age – way too young to understand most of what I was reading, but even as a young ‘un, his rhythm of writing meant something to me. I liked the way what I was reading flowed. I liked the voice I heard in my head while I was reading it. Even the scary parts, or the parts that my young brain couldn’t fit together just right, sang.
I had bad dreams and nightmares as a kid (now don’t go blaming SK – I was having them long before his books were placed in my hands), recurring ones that were like clockwork: Evil witch + night-time massacre of my entire family while I watched on. They were vivid, down to tiny, minute details – the chip in my grandma’s serving platter, the smell of the exhaust from my dad’s truck, the sound of my grandpa’s voice as he called the cows in (these are the more pleasant details of that dream). As I’m typing this I can still see it in my head – see it, hear it, smell it; and something weird happens in my chest as I do – it gets all tight and achy. It’s an unpleasant memory, almost like a real memory.
The dreams tapered off in high-school and college – which was blissful. They picked back up after my mom died, when I was pregnant with our first child, and have persisted ever since. Some of them are recurring, some of them aren’t. And they all make those early childhood dreams look like child’s play.
So when I have a dream that doesn’t suck, it sticks with me.
I hit a brick wall with Hanna, Hanna, One-and-Two this week. I’ve seen it coming for a week or two now, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it – I was hoping it was a mirage in my brain and wasn’t really there. (It’s never any good to lie to ourselves, is it, pretty little lovies? No indeed.) I hit the brick wall with full force and was left reeling, flat out on the pavement, blood in my eyes, trying to remember my name. When I finally came out of my daze I realized a couple things:
(1) I’ve already written the ending of the book.
(2) It’s time to put meat on the bones.
These are both really fantastic revelations, but it means I’m going to cut a lot of things I’ve already written past the ending of the book, and if you know anything about authors, asking them to cut large amounts of their own written word is pretty much like asking them to cut off their own arm ala 127 Hours. The idea is repulsive and therapeutic all at the same time.
I didn’t write any more that day. I closed Scrivener and baked a cake instead. I cleaned our bathrooms. I did yoga. I painted my fingernails. I think I may have even made my bed. Anything but facing the reality that I have to cut off my freaking arm. (Dramatic much? Yeah, I know.)
I went to bed that night, following all our routines that help me sleep – TV on, the Hubster next to me, staying awake until he sees that I’m sleeping (the dreams double down on their badness if I fall asleep after him), then him drifting off after me.
And I dreamed.
But not the terrible dreams I normally have of dark shapes hovering over my bed eating my soul one slow bite at a time, or of a neon demonic moose that crawls out of the wall (shouldn’t be terrifying, but it is), or the hand that creeps around our doorframe, a hand that is attached to something so terrible that my mind can’t translate it.
None of those dreams that night. Instead, I dreamed of Uncle Stevie. And Hawaiian sweet rolls.
We were hanging out in a storage room of some type (why a storage room? No idea), and there were loads of sweet rolls. (Do I love sweet rolls? Yes I do. Very, very much. But do I eat bread? No I don’t. Do I miss it? I’m dreaming about it, so I think the answer is self-evident.)
“Have a roll,” he says, handing me my very own package of rolls. He nods a little, as if to say, Go on, take it. I pull a roll off and sink my teeth into its soft, sweet flesh. Nir-freaking-vana.
“Thanks.” The word is muffled from a mouthful of bread, but he doesn’t seem to notice or mind.
“So, Salt Mine,” he says, using the working title for Hanna, Hanna, One-and-Two. I look at him and shrug a little (when I wake up I’ll giggle a little over how natural and matter-of-fact it is that Uncle Stevie and I are on familiar enough terms for me to not only call him Uncle Stevie, but for him to use the working title for HH1+2 without me dissolving into my trademark hysterical nervous giggling). “You know what I’m going to say.”
“I know.” And I do. I know exactly what he’s going to say.
“It has to go.”
He smiles a little. The eyes behind his glasses are kind. “You don’t have to like doing it. But you do have to do it. Okay?”
We fall into silence. It’s an easy silence, the kind you can only maintain with a close friend who is completely at ease in your company, and vice versa. We eat rolls.
And I wake up smiling.
Today I know what I’m going to do – not because Stephen King told me to do it, but because my subconscious felt strongly enough about the thing I don’t want to do that it concocted a happy, goofy dream to tell me to do it. When your front brain is too intrenched in its own thinking, sometimes the back brain has to bully it’s way to the front of the class and say WAKE UP, SISSY, AND SMELL THE COFFEE. YOU KEEP GOING THIS WAY AND YOU’RE NEVER GONNA GET THERE. My hero and spiritual father C.S. Lewis said something like this in Mere Christianity:
If you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.
He wasn’t talking about writing – not even close – but it’s a basic principle in life that’s applicable just about anywhere. If you want stuff to go right, you have to get back to the place where they were right in the first place – even if that means cutting off your own arm to do it.
Or, in my case, thousands of words.