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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dancing with Donald Maass and How a Dream Encouraged Me to Write

Dreams are funny things. Sometimes they’re an expression of the day’s events, other times they connect to the subconscious, ranging from normal to bizarre. There’s no doubt there’s a whole phenomenon gathered around dream interpretations, so when I had a dream that Donald Maass was my drama coach dancing with me ballroom style as I sang “Popular,” I had to laugh and take a closer look!

As far as dreams go, it started out pretty normal. Random craziness with an obscure goal as I traveled somewhere. Sounds like most dreams, right? But when I finally arrived at my destination, I was surprised to find I was in a Donald Maass acting workshop. Yes, acting! While he talked and demonstrated some dance moves, I tried to imitate them, but I was barefoot and everyone else wore shoes. So I put mine on. A pair of black pumps I owned in real life used for my ballroom dance lessons, but they hurt my feet, so I took them off.

Then we were asked to sit in chairs in a semi circle around the dance floor. As Don placed everyone in their seat, I tried on a few pair of shoes I was carrying with me and settled on a funky pair of red flat boots with lace up ties. When he got to me, I was the last one and instead of placing me in a chair he took my hand and spoke to me. How I wish I could remember that conversation, but in essence he told me I was going to dance a scene with him and that it might not be in my comfort zone, but he wanted me to be open minded and try it.

At first, I was reluctant, but agreed. Then we started to dance, ballroom style, first cautiously as I timidly sang “Popular” from the Wicked musical. My steps were small and unsure, my voice muffled as I sang with “cotton in my ears.” Then he whispered, “Follow me and take big steps.” And we glided across the floor as I belted out the song, “I’m gonna be Popular.” Dancing felt effortless as my partner carried me, and I sang my guts out. While dancing, I didn’t worry about what I looked like or how I sounded (because I had no clue with cotton in my ears.) I just trusted my partner and knew by the smile on his face that I was going to be popular.

When the song ended and I poked a baby alligator peeking up from a drain in the floor (after all, this WAS a dream,) I heard the roar of the applause coming through my cotton-plugged ears, and I knew I was popular. Then I took my seat, not in the semicircle, but in the audience.

Was this dream a sign that one day I’d be ballroom dancing with Donald Maass? I highly doubt it! Each part of the dream could be explained away by recent real life events that week like taking ballroom dance lessons, driving my kids to play practice, watching “Dancing with the Stars” and even the “Drop Dead Diva” episode where Jane is in one of her fun dream sequences, dancing with a popular male vocal Chip and Daleish group and her old, frumpy boyfriend shows up for a dance. I’m not saying Donald Maass is the frumpy boyfriend, but I had been immersed in his book, Fire in Fiction, all weekend.

What about signing “Popular?” Easy. My daughter and I had been cranking up the Wicked sound track that week and we did sing it, but we also sang half of the songs on the cd. So why THAT song? That’s when I decided to take a closer look at my dream. And that’s when all the random pieces of the dream came together to confront my conscious dreams, goals, and fears!

When I started reading Fire in Fiction, I was inspired to work on my WIP again which scared me on a couple of levels. It was based on the real life story of my grandmother, and I was writing in a new genre, Women’s fiction. Honestly, I didn’t want this story to be another practice WIP on my way to publication. I wanted this to be my breakout novel! So Donald Maass as my dancing/acting/writing coach made sense. Trying on different shoes until I found a pair I was comfortable in was obviously encouragement to be myself in my writing and not conform to what others thought I should be wearing…or writing. Even poking the alligator in the drain could be interpreted without a dream dictionary. I needed to “poke” my fears and insecurities that seem to rise up from nowhere, no matter how small.

As for the song, “Popular?” No dream interpreter needed either. I want this WIP to be popular and sell!! And if I dig a little deeper and am honest with myself, I want to be a popular author, though my definition of popular has changed and matured over the years.

Dreams are funny things. At first glance, they could be explained away by real life activities, but if you dig deeper than the obvious, they can speak truth to your soul and encourage you in your writing.

What did my dream speak to me? I need to turn on the music/story inside my soul, sing/write my heart out the way I see it, and take giant, scary steps toward publication.

How about YOU? Has a dream ever spoken truth concerning your road to publication?

Gina Conroy, a.k.a. "the other Gina," is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket. She's the founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012.


  1. This is so hilarious! I just dreamed (last night!)that 9 out of the 11 proposals my agent just sent out got a "YES" response. I'm still hoping it's one of those dreams that turns real! If nothing else, we know how much writing is on our minds!

    1. Wow! That would be a dream come true, Heather! Funny how much our dreams are a part of our every day hopes and...dreams! :)

  2. LOL! Love your dream and interpretation.

  3. I love this story. Dreams are definitely funny. I hope someday to get that contract without having to poke any alligators!

    1. Poking alligators is the easy part. Wait until you have to slay dragons!


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