Invented Problems

In a dream, I am a single mother of a six-year-old boy. I am attending college. The main problem in the dream is that I have to change dorm rooms. At first I think we’ve solved the problem because I will just move in with two other women; there’s a (small) single bed in their room. And then I remember I have a son who has to live with us.

The dorm rooms are long and narrow, but very nice looking. Wooden floors, plaster walls painted pretty colors, good-looking, solidly built furniture. But they really are skinny rooms. I don’t know how we’re going to fit three beds, let alone three beds plus somewhere for my son to sleep.

Another dream has slipped away from me, but it was a similar logistical problem: Space, sleeping, family dynamics. These are the types of dreams my brain serves up to me. They have little to do with real life.

I do wake up sometimes thinking of things to worry about. “What if the Afghan Whigs tour coincides with trick-or-treat night?” Worse, what if the Afghan Whigs don’t come to Pittsburgh at all, and I have to travel to see them?

Maybe it’s part of this writer’s life I find myself enmeshed in. I don’t know if other writers do this, or to what extent, but my mind is constantly worrying at the fabric of my stories. What’s the next scene, what’s the conflict, how am I going to get my characters out of this room? Better: How am I going to get these characters into this room?

Maybe it’s just how my anxiety manifests itself these days. My life involves a bunch of moving parts. All the to-do lists are hard to keep up with, but at least help me compartmentalize the logistics. Maybe my mind needs a little less structure.

I don’t know. As long as my made-up problems don’t freeze me and keeping me from solving actual problems, I’ll try to just let them go. Or work them into my fiction.

What’s a problem you wish you had?

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