I used to hold my dream of being a writer close to my chest. That way, if I couldn’t make it come true, no one would know I’d failed.
Lately, I’ve been handling things a little differently. I call my new method of operation the stomp-my-feet-shout-it-to-the-world-dammit-I-wanna-make-my-living-with-words approach.
I dove into that pool slowly, to be sure. First, I took classes that enabled me to connect with other writers. Those beautiful but fragile dreams are easiest to talk about with others who share them. Then I started blogging about it. The last, and sometimes scariest step, has been talking about my writing goals with people in my everyday life. Friends. Family. Co-workers. You know, the people I’ll see every day whether I become the next Stephen King, never publish anything more exciting than a Facebook status update, or fall somewhere in between.
Now that I’ve done so, I honestly wonder what held me back for so long. I have received nothing but encouragement from those in my life.
Take G, for example.
G has been hanging out at my parents’ pub for years, and has become a family friend. I usually end up seeing her about once a week. Over a few beers, we talk about our Italian families, football, our crazy jobs, our crazy men, or any number of other things. Now, we also talk about my writing goal.
I can always count on G saying “Just do it. You’ve got what it takes.” So when I see her, I want to honestly be able to say “I am.” I want to say this knowing I’ve truly spent a good chunk of the week working towards my goals, not just lying around daydreaming about them or making excuses about how my job eats my brain.
Around the holidays, G came into the bar and told me that she’d dreamed I’d published a story about a squirrel. She, my mother and I decided I needed to get on this squirrel thing right away. Dreams are often meaningful to both writers and Italian families, so this could be the ticket.
There’s not a day in my life that goes by without seeing a squirrel. My backyard trees are their playground. They fly out of the trashcans at work when someone walks by and startles them in their foraging. I live in a squirrely world. But when it comes to writing this squirrel story, they’re on the endangered species list. I’m wordless.
I think this is because when we talked about G’s dream, I got the impression of a happy squirrel story – a children’s book kind of thing. While I’m interested in giving that a whirl sometime, I’ve been on this weird horror-lite-with-an-unexpected-twist kick and am running with that mojo while it lasts. I don’t want G’s squirrel to be a harbinger of evil, a rabid mutant attack squirrel from another planet, or some modern-day witch’s familiar, so s/he hasn’t really fit into my writing juju.
Friday night I was at the bar, and G asked how me and the squirrel were doing. I had to admit, as I always do, that there is no squirrel yet. Inspired by a few beers, she, Mom and I decided to take the story off on a tangent. The “squirrel story” became the tale of a woman who was so obsessed with squirrels that she eventually started believing she was one. She did a bunch of “squirrely” things, and was eventually put away after she ran around the bar grabbing nuts.
OK. I will probably never actually write this version of the squirrel story. But we laughed ourselves almost to tears over it.
I share all this only to say I’m glad I stopped squirreling away my dreams. Sharing them has been wonderful on many levels. That fear that telling everyone “I wanna be a writer” will lead to me being a red-faced embarrassed fool who hides under a pile of rejection letters? I won’t let that happen. Knowing others believe in you and want to see you succeed motivates you to keep on trucking. And even if I didn’t make it, I’d have nothing to be red-faced about. Working towards a dream, exploring a passion and honing a skill are much better ways to spend your time than buying lottery tickets or living uninspired.
And without the act of sharing, your friends won’t be able to try to help spark your imagination with story ideas or join you in acting like a nut.