For several decades now I’ve wanted to be a writer. It became one of those dreams you have that you never really expect to achieve, because it seems too great a thing to ask.
Besides, achieving it is not its purpose. Rather it is what drives you to keep going even when you’re emotionally and physically exhausted. Let’s face it, life is mostly full of an endless list of unpleasant tasks. Everyone needs something, some dream to aim for.
I wouldn’t consider myself artistic. I had a short stint drawing portraits in High School. I tried to learn to play the flute. I can dance the macarena. I know, impressive. Add to all of that the fact that every once in a while, I write.
Okay, not ‘every once in a while’; more like anytime I had more than a few minutes, my mind would wander back to Arden. Thoughts of far off places would replay themselves over and over again until I wrote them down. It was like they had a life of their own, so writing was more to save my sanity than anything else.
I wonder if art is supposed to be that way, that an artist doesn’t create so much as gives life to something that is already out there looking for a voice. In that sense I feel like a bit of a fraud. I’m no artist, just someone trying to give a voice to something I don’t really understand, but I digress.
That is why finishing my book, or even dreaming of doing so, was something I decided to just stop talking about. It wasn’t that I had given up, per se, but if I was never going to achieve the dream, then expecting praise from people for not actually having done anything was likely counterproductive.
So, for several years I worked quietly on ‘The Myth of Arden’. I found that as I got further along, I began to get in my own way. Was it any good? What if no one liked it? What in the world was I even bothering for? Overwhelmed with doubt, I began to consider just giving up.
For some reason, just when you decide not to do something is exactly the moment it happens. For me, that pivotal moment occurred over a year ago when I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child. I was scared and elated all at the same time. It was something I had wanted for a very long time, but it was also not meant to be. I lost the child, and it was so painful that I am still unable to really talk about it.
Even though I had never met my fourth child, I still had a relationship with them. I promised them that I would finish the book. This journey had been cut short, but another was beginning. One dream ended, but for another it was not too late. I had to keep going. Every little step felt like my heart was being ripped out, but there was no other choice but to walk through the pain. Letting go is often harder than holding on.
I still remember the moment I finished the first draft of the book, I just sat there surprised. I’d just been plugging along, not expecting there to ever be an end, yet here I was. It was only the beginning though, there was still a lot of work to get the book ready for publication.
Publishing what had, until then, just been in my mind was a humbling experience. It isn’t as glamorous as I expected. Who knows if anyone will read what I have to say or even care, but to me being a writer, even a terrible one, is the fulfillment of a promise. It seems better to have people say, “Gee that is awful” then to say, “Well she only spoke about it and never did it.”
What is your dream? What is that thing that you never expect to achieve because it is just too great a thing to consider? As cliché as it sounds, the first step is to just stop talking about it. Don’t tell anyone. Make a detailed plan, and if that doesn’t work make another one. Research, reevaluate, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Don’t do what I did and wait for something catastrophic to get you going. Even being a failure at your dream is better than successfully avoiding failure.