by Stephen Parrish

here isn’t an aspiring writer within the sound of my voice who hasn’t envisioned his or her book at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Or making an appearance on a nationally broadcast talk show. Or autographing copies for fans waiting in line. For my part, I’ve always entertained a fantasy about being an extra in a major Hollywood production of my novel; my daughter pointing at the screen, saying, “Look, there’s dad!”

I think all such visions are normal and healthy, if unrealistic. There is one vision, however, that is not only realistic, it has magical powers: holding your published book in your hands.

That was the vision I kept before me as I wrote my first novel. It was the vision I burnished in my mind as I faced rejections, first from agents, then from publishers. It was the vision that helped me break through. Because I knew all along that it alone, among all my other visions and fantasies, was achievable.

All aspiring authors are naturally book lovers. They enjoy the feel of books in their hands, the smell of open pages. The content of the book is, of course, the point of it all, nevertheless a book can’t help being a tangible entity independent of the words that comprise it, however important or enlightening those words may be. A book is a tactile object, a physical incarnation of the author’s imagination. An artifact.

You’ll pick yours up, over and over, just to hold it in your hands.

Envisioning that will change the way you approach your goal. On a conscious level, you’ll turn the computer on when you don’t feel like it, you’ll eek out one more paragraph before shutting down. But the real magic happens in the subconscious mind.

A vision is nothing more than an image of something that doesn’t yet exist. For reasons that aren’t clear, the subconscious mind continues working on problems even after the conscious mind has given up on them. Mathematicians are well acquainted with the phenomenon: they often wake up in the morning with a solution that eluded them the night before.

Keep a realistic vision before you, one that you consciously know to be attainable, and your behavior will adjust in ways too subtle to notice. Your focus will sharpen automatically. Maybe eventually you’ll climb atop a bestseller list, autograph a thousand copies of your book in one afternoon, and buy Johnny Depp a beer “after work.” Until then, those fantasies aren’t likely to help much; the subconscious mind is hard to fool.

Picture your book in your hands when you sit down to write. Picture it in your hands when you go to bed at night. Picture it in your hands during every idle moment of the day.

If you’re anything like me, your hands will shake as you open the Fedex package from your publisher. The artifact inside will be solid and dense. It will smell that wonderful smell of having just come off the press. You’ll sit quietly for a few minutes, staring at your name on the cover, running your fingers along the edges and surfaces. Holding it.

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