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Did You Miss This? To the East





A New Kind of Dream

My dreams have been changing the past months. Less anxious struggle, more epic adventure, including one about my father, the first dream I’ve ever had about him. This is not that. This is last night’s offering; in the dream, years pass, and in my head, the dream itself felt like it lasted a number of hours, though of course the way our minds play with time, it could have been an instant.

The dream opened with a young man meeting his father for the first time. The young man was bitter, his father, amused.

Followed much rambling between and about the father and son, which I don’t remember, then it switches from third person to first, and jumps back in time twenty years.

Joel D CanfieldThe three of us were hiding out in a park somewhere. She was blonde, he was dark; nothing more than that, just dark. She was with me, and he was with us.

We went back to town and realized the authorities knew, and they were after us.

We ran separately. I went back toward the park. I left my little white breakfast plate with leftovers and a fork under a white plastic chair. Or maybe it was a bush. Went through the gate, around the lake, to a house.

Later, she joined me. I don’t think I was me, so she wasn’t Sue. The old folks and grandkids living there acted as if we belonged.

We knew they’d find my plate and follow the trail here. “We had no choice.” Our 3-year-old didn’t cry when we left him there. They were good people. The look on the old man’s face told me our son was in better hands than ours.

Later, the other guy and I were at the hotel. It’s hazy at this point, but later when she and I went back, the young girl was dead, probably because of the other guy.

She wouldn’t talk to me, just arranged the clothing in the dresser drawer.

In the kitchen, I looked past him to the road. At first I thought the sound was the motorcycle I could see, but then the helicopter noise separated from the big two-cylinder motorcycle engine and I ran out the side door and around the hotel. Up over the ridge; had no idea what would be there.

Below was a vast network of raised paths through a lake, with mountains on the other side. As I ran down the hill, a horseman came toward me out of the labyrinth. We passed each other, him going uphill, me going down.

I kept running.


Commitments, Goals, Dreams

People selling seminars love to make claims about small goals equaling small gains, and that we have to think big, dream big, have grand goals, even big hairy audacious goals, to ever accomplish anything.

As I am wont to say, balderdash. Poppycock. Piffle. The power of small wins is irrefutable. Check out anything written by Teresa Amabile.

Rosanne Bane explains in her book the solid brain science that we should have firm commitments, and that they should be so small that reaching them is a doddle, and that we should also have goals that stretch us, but which we’re not committed to. In that way we can stretch when it’s good without teaching ourselves to fail by constantly falling short.

It’s popular to tell people to shoot for the moon and even if you miss you’ll land in the stars. It makes good poetry and sells seminars. But brain science says that a goal you can reach is infinitely more motivating than one you can’t, plain and simple.

Those “goals” Rosanne talks about—I call them dreams. I have huge dreams. I take baby steps all the time toward those dreams. If I didn’t have a bright light on my horizon, what would I aim for? But delaying happiness, contentment, the feeling of accomplishment, until “someday” when I get there? Nonsense.


Frustrating Dreams

My dreams follow a pattern: someone is waiting for me, I have somewhere to be or a task to get done; essentially, a clock is ticking and it’s my job to beat it. Never happens. Every dream is a cosmic conspiracy to mire me in failure. Now, lest you get the impression I’m having some groovy James Bond Mission Impossible action adventure in my head, here’s what was going on just before I woke up this morning:

We were rushing to get ready to go somewhere important, “we” being, perhaps, my family when I was a kid. People in my dreams tend to morph between past, present, and imaginary. I could not find my one and only good dress shirt. I found a pile of shirts and knew I had to take each one off the hanger before I could see the next one. The first shirt, red rayon or thin cotton, Hawaiian print, had frayed buttonholes. The buttons caught in the threads and it was torture getting each one undone. Every button was buttoned.

Trivial, eh?

At this point in the dream, I’m having trouble breathing, my chest is pounding, I’m in full blown panic, beyond reason, flailing and raging internally like an animal, but carefully stifling any expression of emotion lest others, already tense and frustrated and blaming me, become offended.

I never finished the shirt because I had to put the fish in the freezer. I’d told everyone else to go ahead and I’d come on my own because I knew I’d never be ready on time. They chose to wait for me, but still expected me to be ready on time.

Walking from the kitchen to the bedroom, something was wrong. I went back and walked it again, some giant package which was apparently frozen fish (though it wasn’t cold) in my arms.

The freezer was gone. I’d been walking back and forth through the space where it had been.

At this point the panic reached the point of madness. If it wouldn’t have disturbed the people around me I would have cackled maniacally, knowing my mind had entirely lost its grip on reality. Vague thoughts of doing grievous bodily harm to myself or others hover in the back of my mind; I can no longer bear the madness of confusion, frustration, obligation. I would surrender if I could, but the thought of all those people waiting on me drives me on in my useless, fruitless, hopeless quest.

I could picture my shirt. I kept seeing flashes of the pattern but it always turns out to be that blasted red shirt with the frayed buttonholes.

No one knew where the freezer was. We were all late.

I woke up.

Why can’t I have flying dreams?

Oh, the fish? No idea where it went. Before the dream ended it was just gone.


Faster Faster Faster

Not country.

Most of my life my dreams have been about being chased by an unseen pursuer or rushing frantically to get somewhere on time, with life-altering consequences. They are far more disturbing than it sounds. Any time I remember my dreams, I wake up distressed or terrified or terrifically distressed.

Continue reading “Faster Faster Faster”


A Light Between the Branches

heading north across the border to a land that feels like home
to a place a man can step outside and breathe
fill my lungs with all the songs nature’s singin’ out to me
where there’s room to spread my arms and sing along

there’s a light between the branches in a stand of aspen trees
that lift the stream up to the very sky
it whispers with a voice colored blue and white and gold
of peace for every soul that passes by

sky so wide I cannot see it all
trees of every color as far as eyes can see
listen to the rivers as they call
come lie in my arms; find the peace that means so much to me

there’s a voice across the prairie that’s calling out for me
to find my way out to another land
my soul fills all the spaces that are filling up my heart
with the comfort of a warm and gentle hand

sky so wide I cannot see it all
trees of every color as far as eyes can see
listen to the rivers as they call
come lie in my arms; find the peace that means so much to me

heading north across the border to a land that feels like home
to a place a man can step outside and breathe
fill my lungs with all the songs nature’s singin’ out to me
where there’s room to spread my arms and sing along


Dreams Are Not Enough

dreamingSeth writes about Harper Lee’s double miracle at The Domino Project. You should read it. I’ll wait.

# # #

I hope you read it or what I write here will make less sense.

Dreaming is wonderful. It’s vital to an artist. No dreams, no art.

Dreaming is not a business plan.

Continue reading “Dreams Are Not Enough”


Can’t Hurry Love. Or Marketing.

like a caravan climbing a mountainSince I started the focused marketing of A Long, Hard Look, giving away copies in exchange for reviews and to get attention on Goodreads, the total results (over a the past 5 weeks) have been underwhelming. A handful (that means 5, at most) of sales, a few of which were to people I know. A few reviews, mostly from people who read my blog or newsletter.

Like I said, underwhelming. (Not that I don’t appreciate that folks who know me buy, read, and review, but that isn’t a result of all this marketing, it’s a result of our personal relationship.)

There are a million sales tactics, and hundreds of people out there pitching their “sell a million copies” process. If only I could find the magic potion, the secret formula.

Thing is, I already have it, and it’s no secret, nor is it magic.

Continue reading “Can’t Hurry Love. Or Marketing.”


What is Your Writing Goal for Today, for This Project, for Your Life?

what are you aiming for?A subtle theme, more a motif, runs through my conversations with authors. When they talk about their writing, there’s one thing they don’t mention:

When it will be done.

There’s a reason this site is named Someday Box. A reason I chose Getting Your Book Out of the Someday Box as the title for that book.

“Someday” is not a goal. Someday is a dream, a vague notion. Sir Ken Robinson tells the story of chatting with a brilliant pianist whose name I can’t remember. Robinson said “I wish I could play like that.”

The pianist said something like, “No, you like the idea of playing like that. If you really wished you could, you’d be doing something about it.”

Do you want to be a writer or do you just like the idea?

Continue reading “What is Your Writing Goal for Today, for This Project, for Your Life?”


Squiring the Dreamer, Revisited

This was originally posted at Finding Why

a knight and his squiresBeing an idealistic dreamer, this quest to change the world is enormously fulfilling for me.

Sharing this joy with others who choose to follow my lead is gratifying in the extreme.

A Knight’s Tale is a movie about a quest, but it’s not the type of quest won with swords. The entire film turns on a single early scene. (I’ll leave you to review the plot and characters if you haven’t seen it.)

Continue reading “Squiring the Dreamer, Revisited”


You’ll Feel Like Giving Up (Only Moreso)

This was originally at Finding Why and written for entrepreneurs in general. That was before I realized my mission was to help authors.

I will not get out of bed you can't make meOnce in a while someone will warn an aspiring writer that “you’ll feel like giving up.”

That’s a bit like describing drowning as “you’ll have trouble breathing.”

Here’s the truth:

There will be days when the only reason you don’t turn in your Writer’s Badge in a miasma of frustration, anger, and disgust is because you can’t find the flipping phone number of whoever takes the “I Surrender!” calls, and that’s because you can’t bear to crawl out from under the covers to go look for it.

Y’know, like yesterday.

Then sleep, with its magical power to strip us of reason and pour beautiful dreams back into our souls, will gently wipe away the smudges and push you out the door to do it all again.

Y’know, like today.


That Frustration and Despair You Feel Right Now Will Pass. Honest.

This post originally appeared at Finding Why.

poorly trained sea lionIt feels like no matter how many ways and times you try, you measure your progress in millimeters, not miles.

Every time you stick your finger in one hole in the dike, another leak appears.

What you knew was a work of genius yesterday, today looks like the work of a poorly trained sea lion.

You feel drained, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, creatively. If you read one more story about some emerging genius who’s running a $20 million company at age 25 you’ll explode. You’d just like to make the car payment on time. Or at all.

Know this: it gets better. Really it does. Continue reading “That Frustration and Despair You Feel Right Now Will Pass. Honest.”