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Living in the Wrong Universe

Have you ever thought you might be in the wrong universe?

I don’t mean that parallel universe where you won the lottery aged 25 and live a life of luxury — though I suppose that would be nice too.

I mean the wrong type of universe altogether.

The universe you probably want is the one where you perceive things around you with bright clarity and add unique magic to them, conjuring things from dreams that perhaps no one has ever seen quite that way before and presenting them instantly to a wide audience — who are then rapt and full of admiration. Then in turn you watch as the audience members delight you with their own special creations, until your whole existence becomes one big interchange of ideas and images, like some kind of ongoing cosmic orchestra playing an interactive symphony.

Or maybe not. But I suspect that many people reading this would like something of the flavour of that universe around them, at least some of the time.

Instead, in this universe, many of the things which we would love to conjure for others to delight in get suppressed, shoved aside, shelved and squeezed so that only a very few them ever escape or are made visible on a page or screen. We strive to produce such things with power and clarity, but what emerges isn’t always as perfect as we pictured. Many of us struggle to find the time to present anything at all; and when we manage it, the whole process seems awfully mechanical: we have to write stuff down, find the right words, follow certain grammatical rules (or no one would understand anything) and then try to convince key people to turn our notes into artefacts solid enough to be transmitted across space to others.

Then comes the even more tediously mechanical process of seeking out an audience of admirers and then convincing them to part with funds so that they can finally enjoy our creation. Finally, if all goes well, someone else, or hopefully a group of others, comprehend our original communication and express some satisfaction in it.

No wonder we’re exhausted.

Though we live in a hard, mechanical universe in which much of the above is the unalterable truth, it’s the pattern and behaviour of that other universe, the one in which everything happens magically and instantaneously, which shines through and makes anything work. When we get a successful review, experience positive feedback, get a fan following, make some sales, it’s because what we created was sufficiently delightful to find its audience and prompt a response. It’s just that, in this universe, the whole thing is so painfully slow and full of hindrances and obfuscations.

That’s why one of the key pieces of advice I give to new authors is to adjust their expectations. Often, new writers are full of hope that the universe will respond to their creativity precisely as described above: that things will rapidly fall into place around them like a fully trained and rehearsed orchestra, and that all will flow like a beautiful symphony until they see all their dreams coming true. Dreams can come true — very much so — but they only do so quickly and without effort in that other universe.

Where we live, some practical and time-consuming steps must be taken. Patience is required. Setting up new expectations accordingly, writers can still see their dreams taking shape, but over a longer time frame and in different ways than they might have originally imagined.

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