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Monday, March 15, 2010

But in this sleep, what dreams may come...

A million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I was in the marching band. A T. Rex ate the drum major, or maybe that was just wishful thinking.

Last night I dreamed I was somehow sucked back in time to those bad old days, and our uniform was a knee-length light purple bathrobe. Band uniforms are similar to military uniforms, they're meant to give a tidy and professional air to a group. All in all, a purple bathrobe is about as sexy and professional as a toilet brush.

While Dream Self screamed and begged and clawed eyes out to escape (they grew back just to add to the creepy/cool factor) Writer Self sat back with a pen taking notes. I'm only cruel to my characters because I'm a little bit cruel to myself. I wanted to see how the nightmare ended, even if it did mean watching a fat guy in a purple bathrobe puff his way down to the end zone.

Before I woke up the band walked past the dancers, AKA The Beautiful Girls. I was a dancer, before the dinosaurs roamed the Earth and amphibians were still working out whether or not to storm the beaches or go back to the reef. I danced and ice skated until we moved when I was eleven or so. Suddenly, no dance class. No ice skating. But Mother Dearest thought band would be a good way to get a scholarship.

I've never met a musical marine biologist. Scientists, I have it on good authority, can only carry a tune when their audience is dead drunk, and even then it's dicey.

In band class I was a mediocre musician at best. Really, I didn't want to be there. But Mother Dearest expected it. The dancers had their own click since kindergarten. And everyone else in the band sort of expected me to be there. I showed up, I did my part, I went home. Like the gear at the back of the clock that doesn't really need to be there, but you'd notice missing eventually when the bigger gears started to act funny looking for the loose screw.

Eventually, as it always does, expect became Expectation. I was meeting everyone's Expectations. I was towing the line. I was miserable.

As the morning light tickled the edge of my awareness I slid out of my nightmare and stared at the bedroom ceiling trying to figure out why on Earth I keep having this repeating nightmare. Granted, the purple bathrobes were new touch, but I couldn't help but think that my brain keeps dragging up those dark memories from the Precambrian for a reason.

All those years I spent hiding myself to meet Expectations were a learning period. I wanted to be the beautiful dancer, but no one ever walked over to me and invited me to dance. So it was easier to slink back down to the band room and do what was Expected. I was miserable, but I was in a comfort zone. There was no conflict.

Dancing would have met open conflict with Mother Dearest. It would have meant muttered conversations and scathing looks from the band. It would have meant taking a risk and doing something new.

When I run into people who describe genre writers as "an army of scribblers" I'm right back down there with the band in purple bathrobes. Genre writers are different, they're beautiful, people actually know their names.

Genres don't receive much literary credit. They don't win many literary awards. Critics don't sell their grandmothers for works of science fiction. But the genres are The Beautiful People.

And it's where I want to write.

Literary explores the world we know, turning over rocks and poking into shadows. Genres create worlds unknown, to bring them to light, and to let us walk away to see our own world anew.

Only in my writing am I free.

When I sit down with my work I'm not trapped down a gravity well on some backwater mud ball called Earth. I'm up in the stars. I'm free. I can push boundaries, challenge taboos, and make mistakes without anyone judging me. When I fall back to Earth I can only hope some of that comes with me.

Lesson Learned: Falling into the dangerous trap of Expectations and Comfort Zones is a slow death. Like a shark that needs to swim to breath, a writer needs to not just push boundaries but break them.

Ballerina art work created by, courtesy of, and copyright to Paradegritar at Deviant Art.


  1. I needed this today. Conflicted over how it applies to my non-writing life, but needed anyway.

    Thanks. *hugs*

  2. Beautiful. Hope tonight's nightmare free.

  3. Great post. Really made me think about all the times in my life i've lived to other people's expectations rather than following my own path. And how, in my case, there's was always eventually a price topay for doing so.

    That price was usually spelled R-E-G-R-E-T. :)