A friend asked me today, what’s it like to be a writer? Then, before I could answer, she proceeded to tell me her vision. She saw me sitting with a cup of steaming tea, a dog in my lap, stocking feet stretched out in front of a crackling fire, typing away on my laptop—stories spilling onto the page.

It could look like that. We do have a wood-burning fireplace, and three dogs to choose from. I have a tea sampler – everything from chamomile mint to Earl Grey. I do work mostly on a laptop, and I did get some cute cabin socks for Christmas.

However, what she didn’t see in her imaginary-writer-world is the blank screen and the blinking cursor. The chewed up pencils and notes to nowhere. The rabbit holes I’ve tunneled into that I can’t seem to find my way out of. And the blurry story that won’t come into focus.

The mood, the ambience—doesn’t she see that’s a dream world? A fantasy. A myth. She doesn’t see the false starts and frayed story threads. The drafts, distractions, rejections. And she certainly doesn’t see what’s buried deepwhat writers don’t even like to see. The doubt. The fear.

Tea and dogs and warm socks. No, my friend’s vision of writing is rose-colored, romantic, starry-eyed. And yet, somehow, beautifully familiar.

Through that conversation I realized I have also had that same dreamy vision. The same starry-eyed notion. There is a picture of me on my actual first day of writing. I had just had a baby, quit my job, and am sitting down at the breakfast table to begin the novel I’d always wanted to write. I’d put on my favorite sweatshirt, picked out the just right pen and just right notebook, and poured my steaming cup of Earl Grey. In the picture, and in my expression, it is clearly all about the mood, the ambiance, the myth. The dream. And it was a most wonderful way to begin.

I’ve been writing now for many years. My favorite sweatshirt has been replaced with a different one. I use a laptop instead of a notebook. And I sometimes drink coffee instead of tea. I know it’s important to not get caught up in the trappings. I don’t need tea, or a dog, or a fireplace. But I do need that dreamy, romantic, starry-eyed vision. The fantasy. The myth. And that’s as it should be. Isn’t that what writers are? Starry-eyed dreamers?

So, today I’ll face the blank page, and the blinking cursor. I’ll continue to chew pencils, and write notes to nowhere. But I’ll do it with a cup of Earl Grey in my hand, and a dog in my lap. I’ll do it with warm socks, and maybe a crackling fire. And I’ll do it with great romantic notions, and starry-eyed dreams. Because that’s what writers do.

We live in a dream world—and let it spill onto the page.