The Red Room, an online literary space where I’m a member, regularly holds writing contests with assigned themes. Recently the theme was flying.
Writing Is Flying
Many years ago I was living in a country cottage with my two small children, without a desk, much less a room of my own. When the kids left for school each morning I would sit in an old, beat-up armchair upholstered in gray corduroy, and write my novel in longhand. At night I’d type it up while they did their homework at the kitchen table. I had frequent backaches, but I was so involved in the writing, I didn’t care.
About a year later my novel was accepted by an enthusiastic literary agent who sent it to just about every major publishing house in New York. I was ecstatic, convinced that this time — it was my third novel — it would be published. My agent took me to lunch at Café des Artistes. I indulged in a world of fantasy 24/7, of making the rounds of talk shows, landing on best seller lists…every writer knows the way these fantasies go.
We human beings might need to hold onto dreams, as Langston Hughes put it, but they can sometimes be damaging. When my novel was rejected by every editor who read it, my agent lost enthusiasm. I lost motivation. I did not write fiction again for nearly five years.
And then I had The Dream.
In The Dream I was sitting in that old gray armchair: Flying. The chair was my airplane, maneuvered by pushing or pulling on the arms. I soared high above treetops, over ocean beaches, towns and cities, my heart light and free.
I awoke from the dream with joy bubbling through every cell of my body, as if I actually had taken flight. Remembering the gray chair as the vehicle in The Dream, I realized what it was telling me: When I write, I fly. The joy I’d experienced during my time with that novel hadn’t just been about over-the-top fantasies, but reality: it was the act of writing itself that made my soul take flight. The gray armchair was long gone, and I now had a desk. The morning after The Dream I sat down at it and began anew.
Many years have come and gone since I first had The Dream. I’ve written dozens of short stories (most published) and another three novels (not). The kids grew up and moved out; wherever I’ve lived since then I have a room of my own.
The Dream has recurred once or twice, usually when I’ve really needed it: that old beat-up armchair lifts me up and carries me over the ocean once more.