Well, that’s a pretentious title for a blog entry that will come nowhere near living up to it, but it encompasses the two sub-subjects I felt like scribbling about.
I’ve had essentially two professional lives, both lasting a couple of decades more or less. The first was as a bookseller, the second as a computer programmer, but when I dream I am almost always a bookseller. Although it’s been more than twenty years since I stood behind a cash register, yet there I am, night after night, as a stream of customers approach and ask me the usual bookstore questions – where is this, what is that, what do I want, who am I and who the hell do you think you are?
Why am I always a clerk and never an engineer in my dreams? Does it really have any significance? Does it tell me who I truly am, who the hell I think I am, or are my dreams merely stuck at a certain age, in a certain locale, like a prisoner in time held captive by some mysterious bond of dark energy or matter?
Then, my fiction writing career has also been in two parts – the first in my twenties and the second in my fifties, spanned between by a long bout of debilitating illness which prevented me from doing any such thing. In the first “bout” of writing, I was mainly concerned with a hyper-realism of poverty and depression, displaying itself in such novels and stories as Cashier World and Phantom of the Mall (* both titles since completely rewritten and re-purposed). The second bout has been considerable more light-hearted, since having been through a sort of hell of both body and mind I’ve had no desire to look back or go anywhere near that kind of pit again.
In my twenties I wrote maybe 30 novels of varying lengths, and in my fifties another 40 or so (mostly shorter ones), and yet, in my dreams, as far as I remember, until last night, I was never a writer.
In last night’s dream I was writing (and re-writing) a story about two immigrants. They were not immigrants to a particular country, or from a particular country, but just from Country A into Country B. They were (in the final revision, if not originally) a brother and a sister. The sister had immigrated successfully. It had not been easy, but she had documentation, she had legal status. She was okay. The brother, though, had no paperwork and was detained, held in captivity by the government and intended for deportation. But where to? Since he had no documentation, the government did not know where to send him to. The sister knew where he was from, but she was unable to prove who he was, or even that he was her brother, that they were family. What proof could there be, outside of some sort of genetic testing which, in the dream, did not exist.
I have been taking the year off from writing, since my last book was so satisfying to me that I felt I could never write something that good again. I recently realized that quality has never been the point. It matters, sure, in some respects, if the thing is good or not, but what has always mattered more is just the act of writing, the fun of it, the process, the giving it a go.
I don’t know if I will write this one, the one I dreamed about, or some variation of it. Aspects do intrigue me. Dreams and the Self. How do you prove who you are. How do you prove your family. How do you resolve an essential unsolvable situation.
The problem for the sister is – maybe she could go back to Country A and find the documentation to prove her brother is who they say he is, but should she risk it? It was not easy getting into Country B in the first place – there was no end of bureaucracy and corruption and danger – so might she not end up in exactly the same situation as her brother, or worse? And what if she cannot get her hands on such papers? What is she willing to risk? What is he willing to let her?
My heart would not let her try, but it would also ache for her not trying. I would need some other angle in order to go through with it. Is there anyone else? Is there any other way? I don’t know. In the dream, there was not, and it left me right at that point.
Probably the dream is only telling me that soon it will be time to start writing again, that the only way to resolve such a roadblock is to start somewhere and then keep going, which is the only way I know how to write.