In my closet, I hang a sweater.
An old, worn and raggedy thing, the sweater bears the words Nintendo across the seam of the zipper in bold neon-orange letters.
It goes without saying, but my wife does not like this sweater.
I don’t wear it often. Usually I wear this particular article of clothing when I’m working on the car or when I’m painting a room, but I keep it anyways.
You see my wife, the wonderful woman that she is, does not understand the significance of the thing. She wasn’t there for its purchase. She did not see her own dream, presented to her like an angel in that dimly lit Hot Topic, calling out in the form of knit wool and a nostalgic word.
Because at 17, before the tours began and the pounding the pavement in a dingy van with three to seven other smelly guys — before the shows with the Quietdrives and the Plain White Tee’s and Ryan Cabrera’s and the other teenage idols — what I had was a sweater and a dream.
It wasn’t much, but it was there. And that made it important.
There’s a certain duplicity that exists in the old worn fabric.
On the one hand, the sweater represents where I came from — what types of things led me to the place I currently stand. It’s an odometer that accounts for the miles and the wonder and the heartache.
But on the other hand, the sweater represents knowing something that others do not know.
Because only that 17 year old kid could truly describe to you the music in his head. Only he could do it justice. And yet he had a long path ahead of him to get there. It wasn’t a path everyone else took. For the rest of the band and the fans and friends and family, their path was inherently shorter. But it was a path he had to take.
Long before anyone would believe in him, he had to believe in himself.
An old ratty sweater doesn’t represent the future. It represents the idea that a writer, or an agent, or an editor, is perpetually dreaming a year or two or more in the future.
A writer has the idea for a book long before the book is finished. An agent reads the book before the general public, sees a vision for it and moves it forward. An editor captures the potential of a book, rips it to shreds and gets the work in order. And after a time, the book is born. Each member of the team plays their part.
But for the author, the book was born a while ago. The book was a living breathing thing, an organism inside his or her brain trying to take life. For the author, they’re forced by the sheer time it takes to write, to be a step ahead of everyone else.
Because before Narnia, there was an idea in C.S. Lewis’ head. He was — in some regard — a time traveler who ventured into the future and saw how much people would enjoy this place with talking animals because he enjoyed it. But his time machine broke, and the only way he could bring himself back into that world again was to write it down.
We are time travelers. We forget it sometimes.
We forget that this idea, even if it puts leagues of other writers to shame, even if it is worthy of a seven figure publishing deal or even a pullitzer, we forget that we are both cursed and blessed to live in that world before anyone else.
The best anyone else can do — the very best — is experience the finished product of what was once an idea two plus years ago, and determine based on that idea the potential trajectory of that Creative.
So can we really hold it against anyone if they don’t see Narnia, or Hogwarts, or Middle Earth or the Seven Kingdoms like we see it? Do we have a right to be angry? Can we shake our heads at them?
I don’t think we can.
I think all we can do is throw everything we have into making that world more real — until people can not only see it, but feel its pulse, hear it breathing.
It’s a dumb sweater.
I admit it openly.
But it’s more than polyester and hot orange letters.
It’s duplicitous. It’s monstrous. It’s a time-travelling blue phone booth.
That, and its warm.