Last night I dreamed I was back at high school and — who hasn’t had this dream? —that I’d missed an entire semester of classes. I don’t remember whether I was naked, the usual insult to injury. But I had to find my way through an ominous hallway maze to the principal’s office, then make the case for why I deserved to be let back into class.
“Why were you away so long?” he asked.
I couldn’t think of an answer. Why had I been away, missed all that math and science? There was no way I’d catch up in calculus now.
Then I realized I was a bit older than my fellow students, and that I hadn’t missed just a semester, but decades.
I stammered, “Well, I’ve been busy.” My throat went tight at how lame it sounded. “I’ve been writing, and doing this literary blog. It’s sort of like editing a magazine.”
He gave a sad nod (sympathetic? or just pathetic?), and handed me my new class schedule. It wasn’t until after I walked out that I thought, Damn, I forgot to say I’d five kids too, and wrote a novel. Those are good reasons, aren’t they?
My dreams are usually much stranger than this — apocalyptic landscapes, gang warfare in burned-out buildings. This one was so transparent I was a little disgusted with my own lack of imagination.
Although I’ve kept writing since having children, I haven’t worked in an office, really in the thick of it, for almost 15 years. I used to fly off on assignments to all kinds of places, interviewing executives or reporting on hurricane locations. I was known for a byline, not my nutty status updates about my kids. And that’s about to change in a few weeks when I start to travel for my first novel.
Still. The old going-back-to-school anxiety dream? It’s not like I haven’t done my homework. I’ve researched the business side of publishing, gone to conferences, made connections. I’ve been working on getting comfortable reading my work aloud (well, sort of), and I clinched a great summer sitter to help with the kids while I’m traveling. But by any calculus, it’s a big change.