Communion Of Dreams


Looking back: that first novel.

While I’m on a bit of vacation, I have decided to re-post some items from the first year of this blog (2007).  This item first ran on July 1, 2007.

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There was a very good segment on this morning’s Weekend Edition Sunday with Jon Clinch, the author of the novel Finn. Clinch talks about his experience in working on several prior novels, none of which were satisfactory to him, before embarking on Finn. It is interesting that he used the web to first promote himself, then land an agent, then get a publisher for the novel – the same kind of thing I am attempting to do with this site and Communion of Dreams.

But even more interesting was the business with his attitude towards his previous novels, which he thought were important in helping him as a writer, even though they were “failed” projects ultimately in terms of artistic satisfaction (and not being published.) I think we tend to underestimate the value of failure, in our focus on success. I have lots of what would conventionally be characterized as “failures” in my life, but each one was an experience which helped lead me to new understanding about myself and the world. Basically, I’m of the opinion that if a failure doesn’t kill you, it isn’t really a failure. And since none of us gets out of this life alive, anyway, we’re all doomed to “failure”.

The most interesting people I know are not the ones who have only succeeded in everything they’ve tried – that type is either too self-satisfied to be interesting, or so unambitious to have never pushed themselves. Give me people who go too far, who push themselves in what they do past their abilities, who are ambitious enough to want to Paint the Moon. Those are the people who are interesting.

Communion was not my first novel. No, during college I wrote one, another near-term speculative novel, once again based on the notion that a pandemic had caused a general societal collapse. I think it is stuck away in a box someplace in the attic. Even though post college I spent several months trying to rewrite it, it is fairly dreadful, and deserves banishment to the attic. But it helped me learn a *lot* about writing a novel, and allowed me to work out a number of themes and ideas which I then used in Communion to much better effect. So that book (titled Equipoise) was not entirely a failure. And I’d bet that most ‘successful’ authors have one or more such books tucked away in a box somewhere, if you can only get them to admit it.

Anyway, I enjoyed the interview with Clinch, and will have to look up his book one of these days.

Jim Downey

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