A couple years ago, I wrote about following your dreams. Lots of us dream about all kinds of things: travel, meeting someone special, meeting a famous writer or… I guess an actor or something. Writers are cooler.
Anyway. I thought I would revisit that post and revise it to include some of what I’ve learned since I first wrote the post.
I do this because, honestly, it’s at times hard to know what to tell my kids about following their dreams. I have spent years off and on following my dreams. I lost all of our money years ago pursuing a dream of being a financially stable business owner. I spent a few years working full time as a freelance writer and trying to make writing be the focus of my work life– and what supports the family. Despite small successes here and there, I failed at the ultimate dream of living off and providing well from my writing. This is an important place to stop and think about this concept!
small success vs ultimate dream
Back then, it was so disheartening to feel like I was on the right path, again, doing what I loved, again, and then ultimately failing. Again.
So after grieving the defeat of another dream, I went back to work. And really put my head down after making a serious plan with Annemarie. We pushed at that plan and it came to fruition ten months later with me landing my first real job with actual benefits that wasn’t teaching in a classroom (which I love, but will never pay me properly). Things got better as we stayed focused and worked with real purpose. Daily effort towards our goal lifted us- and it was awesome.
Then extraordinary and life-changing 2014 happened and we made it through. We were changed. Broken and rebuilt better. And off we went on this Amazon and Washington/Seattle/but really a small town adventure. It’s harder than I thought it would be. It’s so taxing and I feel so exhausted sometimes and my bed is only a few steps away. But not yet. I have writing to do because making a good living as a writer is the only real, important dream that hasn’t come true for me yet and I don’t have any reason to not make it happen. (I only had one other dream by the way: have a family.)
And we got our foster daughter with all of the miracles associated, so it’s interesting to see how new dreams crop up as we say “yes” to unexpected and maybe even unsought for opportunities. I would never change a thing about this Washington adventure.
So as always, I’ve been thinking about dreams and work, probably because I feel like I’m almost always doing it. And for creative folks (which is pretty much everyone), we have very similar dreams. I list some of mine and the comments I have on them now that I know a little better. Yours are probably similar.
- Publishing a book will be the culmination of my writerly hopes and dreams!
It’s not. It’s the beginning. Actually, it’s not even the beginning. The beginning was when I chose the career dream of being a well-paid full-time writer. Publishing my first book was wonderful and a dream come true but it’s a milestone more than anything else. And like all milestones, it’s green and metal and you pass it pretty fast.
The passing it pretty fast thing is high truth. It goes and you realize.. wait, I have more work to do.
So back to work I go.
2. Everybody I know is fully invested in my dreams!
Not true. Many people I know are somewhat invested in my dreams because they’re wonderful people who just never seem to run out of space in their beautiful hearts. And if they can spare a ‘Like’ on Facebook, that’s really actually great of them. If they comment, that’s very sweet. If they buy one of my books- that’s near saintly. And reviewing? That’s worthy of deification.
This isn’t to say you’re on your own. You have love and support and people who won’t give up on you.
But you are on your own. You want this? You want to reach your dream? You’re on your own. (Unless you get ridiculously lucky- and frankly that luck might just ruin you as a person.) Your fingers type those words. Your feet run those miles. Your hands build that business plan. So draw on your support when you can, but remember- you want this thing. It’s entirely up to you.
So it’s back to work.
3. I’ll be satisfied if I can just get a book published!
Nope. Not a chance. You’ll be so giddy you jump out of your skin. It will hit you multiple times and it will feel surreal and it will be immensely gratifying. You should pause and soak in the beautiful validating experience. Own it, recognize it.
Then accept that the feeling passes. You’re not satisfied and you shouldn’t be. You see those bestsellers? Those people who work their butts off to write stuff that is sometimes better than yours and sometimes not as good?
You want to be that. You want to do that.
So it’s back to work.
What I’m saying is that dreams are a spark in life. They’re not something to be ignored or shuffled aside for practicality’s sake. We should follow our dreams. I think we must, that by doing so we stay young and maintain the ability to see and feel wonder and awe and pure excitement. And I will firmly state that Father in Heaven approves of our dreams. He probably doesn’t like my vanity, but He surely wants me to feel fully engaged in my life and to do things that I’m passionate about.
But the saying that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life is popular garbage. Realizing dreams is non-stop work. It’s daily homework. It’s exhausting and it requires regular priority examination and re-adjustment.
It is work, it is work, it is work. It’s delicious exhaustion. It’s a passionate daily grind. It’s a boring daily grind sometimes too.
I will tell you that choosing the work that I do with my life, the place I put my best energy, is the greatest feeling ever. I look forward to the day that it is my only career. But until then, I’m going to keep working daily. I’ll take appropriate breaks and I’ll enjoy the ride, to be sure.
So I tell my kids that dreams can become reality. Those dreams becoming reality looks a lot like work.
Now, what are your thoughts on that vs up there? Small successes vs ultimate dream. Do we too often not see the beautiful trees because we just want a forest, dadgummit?