I have been struggling with this post for few weeks now. Part of me knew I needed to sit down and get it out, but a larger part hoped if I never said anything it would go away. Fortunately, as I start to come out the other side, it gets a little easier to talk about it.
Everyone has a dream (if you don’t believe me, watch Tangled a few thousand times with a six year old singing along. You will believe sooner or later). The sad truth of course, is that not everyone gets their dream. Some people give up, some people never even try. In a lot of ways, it isn’t achieving your dream than matters. Having a dream gives you something to hope for, something to try for, something in the world to make things look a little brighter when the dark times come. In my worst moments, it sneaks in to remind me; this isn’t my REAL life. My real life is still coming, just as soon as things are right, it will happen.
This is part of what makes trying for your dreams so terrifying. You might catch your dreams, but then, you might not. When you chase your dreams and they escape you, what is there left to hope for? Once you try, it will either make you or break you; only you can decide which.
When I started out to finish the novel that had been bouncing around, begging to be written, I knew I had a technical deadline. We would be here, at this base for three years. Three years as a stay at home Mom, then it was off to a new base where I would most likely be getting a job again. Three years to finish the novel and make it as a writer.
As anyone trying to sell a book knows, that timeline is extremely optimistic.
Barely entering my second year, I started trying to find an agent and working to build a platform. I still had time, and was working on several other books, including the sequel to the first novel. I have a file filled with notes for future books ideas I don’t want to forget while I wait to have time to write them. Things were looking good. Inspiration was everywhere, I couldn’t seem to stop writing. I knew I was going to make it as a writer. I had so many ideas, in different genres, even if the first didn’t sell, one of these was bound to be my break through novel. After one sells, we can always come back to the other ones and try again. I was certain, I was making it.
Then I crashed.
News came along that changed my deadline. Military cuts will be announced later this year, telling me if we continue on the path we have chosen, or if we are done early. After the years we have devoted, and planned to devote, our life sits at a crossroads, with no idea of the path we will be taking.
Suddenly, I felt a new deadline looming. I needed to know I could do this within six months, or I would run out of time. Six months, when the cuts were announced, I had to have an answer on what I was doing with my future. Could I make it as a writer in that time, or would I be back to a day job, wishing I wasn’t too exhausted to write at night? And in that moment, I knew.
I knew I wasn’t going to make it anymore. I could keep sending out my letters, making a token effort, but it wasn’t going to happen. In six months, we would hear our fate, and at that point I would be back to work in either three months on one year. Either way, my time would be almost over. Two months of feeling I could, only to have the world laugh as it told me I couldn’t.
I tried to keep going. I sat in front of my computer everyday as usual, but the words no longer came. The days of spitting out double digit pages in the morning were gone. Now I was lucky if I could manage double digit words. I still had new ideas coming, some of which had potential, but I no longer knew they would one day be finished books, destined to grace the shelves of a bookstore.
I had tried to make it, and two months later, I broke.
Of course, the story does not end there. I’m still here, still writing. I’d like to say the story has a happy ending. I’d like to say that just as I hit my darkest hour, I was signed with an agent. Sadly that is not true. Yet.
I’m still here, slightly cracked, but not completely broken. I’m still here, because as we writers know, sometimes there needs to be a sequel. The first book broke me down a bit, but that is how you make a hero. You break your hero down, to show them what is important and you give them something to fight for.
I’m no hero, but maybe I can be, at least a little. When life tries to break down around me, I can use those cracks as hand holds to pull me higher.
Maybe following your dream doesn’t make you or break you. Maybe it will do a little of both. Two weeks ago, I was breaking down, ready to give up already. Today, I am writing again, working to make it. Who knows where I will be in another two weeks, let alone six months. I might break again, but that doesn’t mean I have to stay broken.