Sharing a Dream


(Please note that once again I’ll be away from my computer and won’t be able to respond to comments. I’ll trust my fellow MWers to comment on my behalf.)

I was thinking the other day that in half my posts here at MW, I wax rhapsodic about how much I love my job and how great it is being able to make up stories for a living. And in the other half I bitch and moan about how hard writing is and what a hard, crazy way this is to make a living.

Both are true. That much should be obvious by now. I really do love what I do for a living. And it really is hard. And this business is truly screwed up. Ultimately I guess all of it goes together, congealing into this nutty thing called the Writer’s Life.

But I have to admit that at times I fantasize about making my living another way, namely as a professional photographer. I’m not good enough to do it. And I’m not about to make the attempt. I’m also not so naïve as to believe that such a career would be hassle free. I have a friend who makes his living doing photo shoots for National Geographic. To me that is THE perfect career. And yet, he deals with many of the same problems that I face in writing — the struggles with the creative process, the crazy incoherence of his business world, the uncertain financial prospects. Still I envy him just a little.

While I know that I will never make the jump to another career, I still do dream. And I’d like to share one of those dreams with you today.

At some point I would like to take a year off and travel across the country camping and chronicling my travels through photography. I would start in the dead of winter in, say, the Everglades, taking photos of wading birds and alligators. From there, I would head north and west. Early spring wildflowers in Tennessee and Kentucky; late spring in the hard wilderness of South Dakota’s Badlands; summer in the high country of Wyoming and Montana and Idaho; early fall in Denali National Park, Alaska; late fall in the Cascades of Washington; and the coming of winter in Yosemite. Or I’d start the whole trip in the hills of Southern California, move north to Yosemite and the Cascades for late winter and early spring and make my way eastward, timing things so that I would be in New England for autumn before heading south.

That’s my dream anyway — some version of that. It would take a bit of money and a lot of time, and I couldn’t really think about it until the girls go off to college and it’s just Nancy and me.

How about you? People sometimes ask, “What would you do with a million dollars?” I’ve come to realize though that the money is secondary; the true treasure is time. So, what would you do with a free year? No obligations, no need to work — just you and your dreams. Where would they take you?

David B. Coe

22 comments to Sharing a Dream

  • Hepseba ALHH

    If I had time AND money: Probably pick 10 countries to visit and spend a month in each, which a month of rest at home at the beginning and end. It’d be really hard to just pick 10, though.

  • My dreams would take me to the beach. I feel like my real self when the wind off the water is tossing my hair, and the sound of crashing waves rocks me to sleep. I’d live somewhere close enough to the ocean that I can always hear the water, and write.

    *happy sigh*

  • In a way, I’d do what you and Nancy want, but looking for water. While you’d be looking to take photos and hike, we’d be looking to take rivers and creeks. (That’s Southern cant, BTW–*looking to*…)

    Rod would drive the RV all over the country, our yaks on top. Every runnable body of water would be fair game. I want to see this nation before I die, live on its roads and rivers. It’s on my list. Maybe after I retire… 🙂

  • This is an easy one! 🙂 I’d travel. Rather than a photography based travel plan (which sounds cool), I want to do a food based travel plan. I want to go all over the country and then all over Europe, and perhaps parts of Asia and the middle east just, well, eating. Eating at the great restaurants of the great chefs of the world. And I want to take friends with me. It sounds ridiculously hedonistic, I guess, but I’ve gotten into Top Chef over the years and I just would love to eat food from people who take it seriously. Who believe it is an art in itself. The same way I like to read books by folks who take writing seriously. And there is something awesome about food–it is so ephemeral. The last of the ephemeral arts, in a way, since recording has made seeing theater performances, symphonies, dances etc. more possible. (granted, watching a recording of a theater performance is different, of course, than seeing it live). But food? You’ve got to eat it in the moment or its gone. 🙂 So, that’s my “if I had time AND money” fantasy.

    Faith> Apparently the Kern River, near where I grew up, is a “must” for rafters. It has one of the steepest grades in the country and level 4 and 5 rapids. And it took me a minute to figure out what “yaks” were. I knew it couldn’t be the real animal, and so I thought maybe dogs? Like, Rod didn’t like the dogs, but that didn’t seem right, so then I wound around to kayaks. So I had an image of a mad rv driver with cartoon-like dogs on the roof careening around the nation. 🙂

  • If I had time and money I think I’d start up my little 2 or 3 acre dream farm, with big raised veggie beds, chickens, and a goat or two. My job would be to run the farm and write.

    Then I read Pea’s comment, and changed my mind. That sounds like more fun. 🙂

  • There are many things I might do, but one would certainly be to travel akin to Steinbeck in Travels With Charlie. Just a small pick-up converted to a camper and maybe a dog and go where the road takes you. I often wonder if the kind of experience he had meeting the “real people” of the US can still be attained. I suspect so.

  • Well, my real dream is to become a successful novelist and screenplay writer, make my family proud of the accomplishments, get a nice house in the woods with a big barn on the property that I can fix up and have get-togethers in, a little garden and a stocked pond, the ability to pay for whatever dream our daughter decides to chase, maybe take a real vacation every once in a while. I’ll pretty much be happy with that.

    However, if I had a year to take off I’d probably want to go to Ireland for a while.

  • Judy B

    Hi David,

    I’m with you! Pack up the camera gear, the laptop, the camping gear and head to the desert southwest!

    I LOVE Capitol Reef National Park and have always wanted to spend a full year shooting all the seasons! The best I can do now is 2 weeks at a time, but I’m working on it!


  • Young_Writer

    I would move to a forest and build a nice, cozy tree house to write in. I would also see some Broadway show on my list, The Phnatom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Miss Sagion, and Love Never Dies.

  • Young_Writer

    Daniel your plans sound great, I’ll second that instead.

  • A year’s time? Free and clear? Can I take a nap?

    I’m the kind of person who likes to go somewhere and settle in for a while, really get to know the place. With that in mind, I’m thinking New Zealand and the surrounding area. Seems to me it would take at least that long to really get to know a wild place like that.

  • Beatriz

    A small sailboat to take out along Jamaica; the rolling deck beneath my bare feet. Racing across the water as the wind snaps the canvas. The tang of linseed oil and warm sun on my back as I oil the teak. Muscles aching pleasantly from a day of work. Falling asleep on the deck, the waves lapping at the boat’s singing a lullaby.

    I grew up down by the blue-green sea, where the sailing men shared their tales with me of wondrous days before the mast. What magic spells their words did cast.–Ned’s Shanty, John M. Barrett

  • I’d write more. That’s all.

  • R.O. Kashmir

    I’m here at MW because my hope is to turn my love of writing into professional writing as I slip into retirement.

    But if all the bills were being paid for a year I’d start by going back to Korea for the month of September. Celebrate our anniversary back where we got married in ’89. See Mr. Oh and get some clothes tailored, revisit the history, enjoy the people, and try to get some ke-go-gi (yum!). Then off to Munich for octoberfest and pick up a new BMW M3 convertible from the factory there. Use it to travel Europe for the rest of the year before dropping the car at the port to have it shipped back home.

    With my laptop along for the ride so I could write whatever the muses gave me.

  • Jonathan

    An entire year? Really? I’d write.

  • That sounds beautiful. I hope you get the chance!

    Well, Vegas aside, I haven’t been very far from Vancouver — just as far south as California and as far east as Alberta. I know the Pacific Northwest and I love it here, but I really would like to visit other parts of the world. Including the east coast of this continent, England/Ireland/Scotland, and several places in Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. If I *do* get a chance to see you all at Con Carolinas next year, it will be the furthest east I’ve ever been.

    I’d also relish the extra time to write, of course. But I really want to visit the places I haven’t been. My favorite uncle is a photographer by hobby and some trade, so he takes weeks off his day job and goes places like China and Bali, and I’d like to see it first-hand.

  • mudepoz

    Return to England and work on cottage gardens. Maybe. I was there for a summer, so maybe I’ve done enough. Getting too old. The problem is, I like my job, it is different everyday, I am either chopping things up (pickled or dividing plants), or writing, or watering, or beating up on grad students. If I get bored I train and compete with dogs. I don’t know, I’ve traveled, I have friends, and a year isn’t enough, or it’s too much.

  • Young_Writer

    Dreams do come true! I got my first writing job toady. Football highlights for the local team! =D

  • Assuming one year and enough money to achieve my dream I’d participate in the world rally championship, do the Paris to Dakar rally and the Australasian Safari off road race. I’d also finally get around to building my house. I have a big sand pit in the sand dunes (Australia) just begging for a Mediterranean style villa. Maybe next year…

  • I think if I had a year and unlimited funds I would tour the ruins and histories of Central and South America. Chichen-itza, Monta Alban, Calakmul, Tenochtitlan, Teotihuacan, and Sacsayhuaman… Manchu Picchu… find someone to take me to the top of a tepui… learn about the arts, songs, and dances prior to the coming of the Spanish…
    Ever since I started researching for my book, I’ve become so fascinated by ancient American cultures. I’ve been to Tulum, but I want to know more!
    Or I could just settle down in a nice little cottage with a big garden hidden away from people and write. 😀

  • Ryl

    I’d build a Baby Clipper and retrace all the old PanAm routes [yeah, I know it mightn’t have the range between some of the destinations], then plot some routes of my own,… photographing and writing about it the whole way. And maybe finally settle somewhere on Kona.

  • I kind of started on mine already. I ditched my 9-5 government job and now work from home on my own schedule. I moved from a DC suburb to a very small town in NC about 45 from Charlotte. Because most of my billable time is generated from email, I can work anywhere I want as long as I have an email connection. As a result I have traveled for extended periods in the UK over the last 2 Christmases and will do so again this year. Also we are able to do more conventions and visit our relatives in Alabama more frequently. All the aunts and uncles are getting very old, so we don’t want to miss the chance to see them while we can.

    Hubby quit his government job too and is writing full time, with a bit of grad school on the side. Hoping the masters degree will help him get jobs teaching writing seminars once our novels get published.