Probability In Dreams: Miracles and Random Chances

I’m average. I’m in the heap at the bottom of the bell curve. Yet I still enjoy statistics and probability, and the way they form neat projections about average chances in an average world. I won’t lay claim to viewing these projections in a logical manner. Rather, I tend to look at projections and then override them with my own projections of negativity. But that’s neither here nor there. Some stats would turn anybody into a nihilist, such as the ones involving publication by traditional means. People in the industry bandy about various numbers in connection to how many manuscripts make it to publication. Some site numbers as bad 3 in 10,000 (or .03%), but even 1 in 1000 (or.1%) isn’t exactly heartening. From the agent’s end, the numbers appear even worse because they’re acting as primary gatekeepers.

Now I should pause to remind everybody not to look too closely at the numbers regarding publication. Publishing isn’t the lottery. There are too many other factors involved than an unlikely luck of the draw, including, but not limited to, a well-written story that crosses the desk of the right agent. And then, once published, success isn’t a guarantee. Success may, indeed, be a luck of the draw. There seems to be magic involved–some kind of coalescence of collective thought processes. Perhaps successful authors have an instinct for what will resonate at a given time, but, if so, their ability isn’t found in the average section of the bell curve. These authors are outliers.

I could go on. I could write about self-publishing, which offers some reassuring stats for authors who want to see their words in print. If authors take the time to format and upload their books, it’s a 100% guarantee. On the other hand, the odds of being successful as a self-publisher are even lower than those for traditionally published authors. But, believe it or not, my motivation for writing this was not to be a downer. I understand the odds; I understand what it means to fill another spot in the well of the bell, and how difficult it is to scrabble my way out. I’m not complaining about my own decision to self-publish, either. I could have kept at the traditional publishing game, and I might have made it past the stage of profound silence–you know, merited actual rejections after my work was requested–and then hopped to the stage of representation and even eventual publication. I could have, but I didn’t. And I don’t regret my decision to hop on out.

Something happened this week, though, that wrecked the beauty of average projections for me (oh, come on, they are beautiful). Somebody close to me became an outlier in the worst possible way when she, a young fit, healthy female, with no genetic defects and no genetic determination beyond the averages, suffered a heart attack. At this point, after an emergency bypass, the reason for it is still unexplained. And maybe if she finds the right doctor, the right doctor will come up with reasonable explanations. But she will still be an outlier. My conscious mental state made no connection between being an outlier on the wrong side of the curve and never getting out of the averages in positive ways. My conscious mind didn’t because my conscious mind is far too logical (albeit negative) to find a connection where none exists. It is far more likely for a human possessing life to suffer ill health as a consequence of that life than it is to break out of the averages in the subjective world of the arts.

Nevertheless, my subconscious wanted to correct for the discrepancy or “unfairness” it perceived. Last night, I dreamed a series of numbers that made perfect sense to my dream world. I projected the most likely results, and then the results played out. At a certain point, though, randomness set in when I swapped myself for the person suffering ill health, which allowed me to send this miraculously healthy female on an errand to Boston in search of a nondescript entity. Instead of finding this entity, however, she met a woman who was restoring an old church and recreating it as a theater. The woman’s business partner happened to be a publisher, who also happened to be willing to read my work. You can guess the rest: he loved my writing. Why didn’t she send this to me before giving up? he asked. This should have caused me to despair, but it didn’t. I was now the sick one who had missed my opportunity, and, yet, my world seemed restored through a miracle (probability for taking on somebody else’s illness: um, really?) and a random chance (probability of somebody randomly meeting a publisher who loves my work: I don’t know; how many publishers are there in dream-reality Boston? What’s the sound of…?).

I don’t know what my point is. I suspect a reader might perceive it as don’t worry if you’re not successful; you can still be successful in your dreams! That’s almost as good as Hallmark. I’ll go with that.


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