"Citizens of the Dream" contains 41 amazing, intelligent, inspiring answers to questions from writers, painters, musicians, singers, designers, actors and standup artists about how to overcome creative blocks, avoid distraction, find the best medium of expression, make art-related life changes, manage relationships and make a living while staying creative. Written by Salon.com's much-loved advice columnist, Cary Tennis, it seeks to help the creative person persevere and excel by defining him- or herself as not only a unique individual but as a special kind of being within society itself.
In his introduction, Tennis explains the book's intriguing title:
"The idea behind the title 'Citizens of the Dream' is that as creative people we live in our own country with its own physics and history, its own atmospheres and rivers, its own maps. It is a strange country but it is where we belong. It is our country. When we try to live in 'the real world' the way we think we’re supposed to then we become unhappy. We do not know why we are so unhappy living in the real world because we figure we ought to be able to live in it just like other people. But we are different. We are citizens of the dream. And we might as well accept that we’re different and set about establishing a way of living that meets our particular needs.”
If you are a creative person, take heart. This book will heap upon you all the courage and fortitude one fellow creative soul can muster, and it will help you solve many of the strange, tricky problems peculiar to the creative life, such as:
"Should I move to the city for my art?" (Probably not)
"I'm working for a coke head at a free arts magazine," (Get out of there!)
"I'm restless and creative but don't know where to begin" (Spring into action!)
"I need more ideas -- where do they come from?" (It's not about more ideas)
"Should I give up on having a life in the theater?" (No!)
All are actual questions emailed to Cary.
So perhaps you are a creative person who needs a little help. Or perhaps you have a friend who needs a little help but doesn't know it. Either way, this book will delight you and amuse you and enrich your life as well as the lives of your friends and family.
As Tennis says in his introduction, “Sometimes when we are stuck it is because we are not really present with the work. We ask ourselves, Do I feel sleepy? Am I boring myself? How can I be courageous in this moment? How can I wake up? What is true right now? ... This is true in painting and performance and music. Am I playing with feeling? Does this color or this stroke have any meaning for me? Am I likely to cry while playing this song? Am I paying attention? Am I inside the song? Do I care? What is my heart doing?”
Tennis is a thoughtful and practical guide but at the core of his approach is a nearly mystical belief in the primacy of the moment and the power of immediate phenomena to inform our lives and our art. So he is always asking these questions, and he suggests we ask them too:
Am I paying attention? Do I care? What is my heart doing?