When we last left our intrepid imaginary protagonist* he had expressed the following fantasy of a “Defining Moment”:
I imagine walking into a bookstore, just for fun, ready to browse and pick up a book or two that might catch my fancy. Like any author, I subtly move to the vicinity of the shelves where my book is on display. I see a young woman walk up to the display and smile as she sees my book, picking it up and eagerly reading the back blurb. She holds it close as she walks towards the checkout, right past me, not knowing who I am.
We had begun the process of dissection, taking the various elements of this dream and ripping them down to their specific components. It looks something like this:
- Leisure time
- Disposable Income
- Voluntary Solitude
- Published Book
- Popular Book (on display)
- Local Fans
- Visible anonymity, literary celebrity
Those are the surface level requirements. You can also go a bit deeper – for example, if you’ve got a popular book on display, you must have an agent, and probably have had to navigate the sinking-ship bureaucracy that is the 21st century world of printing. For that matter, there are not a lot of egos that could resist saying “Y’know, I wrote that…” when they see someone reading their book. Cultivating a sense of modesty, and the related skill of security in your identity, could also be a component.
But you may not need to actually go that far. The Dissection Process is combined with a valuation of each component. Simply put, you look at each separate component and ask yourself “How important is this to me?” Don’t think about it too much – remember, you’re listening to that lizard brain, trying to see what things make you go “Yeah!“.
- Perhaps this is an expression of wanting a partner who values your creativity?
- Perhaps you are just looking for a date and “Y’know, I wrote that…” is the best conversation starter you can think of.
- Perhaps the book is targeted at that demographic, because you were writing a book that you hoped would help their resilience against rape culture.
Now, I’m aware that at least some of my readers look at that list and have objections or reactions to each, ranging from “Eewwww!” to “Privilege!” to “Huh?” That’s why this is a very personal list. This is your Defining Moment, and even if it looks, on the surface, like many others, this one is yours.
Maybe – if you have a friend who is really good at hiding their own reactions, who can function as a good sounding board to get to the bottom of your motivations – you can share this list and valuation process with them. But honestly, it’s going to be hard enough to get past your own inner monitors, that tell you that this thing shouldn’t be important. Or the Arbiter of the Possible, who tells you the odds of some schmuck like you landing a book contract or even an agent are slim to none, so why are you even trying?
Ignore these voices. That’s where a friend might be happy – to keep putting you back on track, so that as you say “Oh, that shiny mylar cover feels important, but I know that’s never on first novels, so it shouldn’t be important…” At that point they need to hit you with a clue-by-four and tell you to stop.
Procrastinate Your Pragmatism
There will come a time for logic, for reality, for wake-up calls. This is not that time. Now is a very simple decision: is this important to you? You don’t even have to justify why it is important. Instead, when you find something that is important, immediately see if that thing can be further dissected.
Again, taking part of the above example: “Voluntary solitude,” the process might go something like this:
“How important is this for you?”
“Pretty important, actually. It feels good to think of myself free to move about and do my own thing in the book store.”
“Only in the bookstore?”
(thinking) “Well, I guess I’d like to have freedom in the rest of my life, as well.”
(not judging that statement) “OK, how far do you want to take it? Does the idea of being a hermit appeal to you?”
(going with gut reaction) “No! I like my family, I like my friends, I just like some alone time.”
(thoughtfully) “Y’know, it kind of does. Plenty of time to write, no need to worry about anyone’s schedule but my own, peace and quiet…huh, I never thought about that.”
Remember, the only thing that qualifies as a “right” answer, a true valuation, is that it be authentically from you. There’s no way to really completely keep yourself from reflecting the conditioning and prejudices of your upbringing, but do your best. Even making the effort is often the stimulus for epiphany.
It ain’t easy. Most of the work I’ve done in workshops and coaching with this method has been simply to be a guardian against those external values and motivations – encouraging the person to accept that it’s OK to dream about these things.
It’s always revelatory. And while it may be scary, keep in mind that you’re still just doing research; you don’t actually have to change anything. Well, except for one thing:
Once you’re aware of what your dreams really are, what your motivations for your Defining Moment are really made of – you can’t un-know that. The bell won’t un-ring. But come now, what’s the harm of a little more self-knowledge?
(Ignore the evil laugh of fate you hear in the background).
Dissect. Valuate. Repeat. Give it a shot! Let me know if you find anything surprising. Let me know if you don’t! After all, this is you being a guinea pig for my rough draft. Be brutal!
See you Friday…