There's a steep learning curve for some dreams, though. Twenty-five years ago (and probably even longer) I knew I wanted to write novels. For my first I decided to write a thriller! A murder mystery with undercover cops and intrigue and drama and…it was terrible. Couldn't even figure out how to get past thirty pages.
The desire to write was there, but the skill was lacking. I didn't understand story structure, or character development, or any elements of craft beyond creating that initial inciting incident, ending with some sort of climax, and a bunch of dialogue in between. All I knew was I wanted to write stories like the ones I was reading.
Fast forward a few years and I still wanted to write and publish a novel. I had all these things I wanted to say, all this pent up creativity I needed to pour onto the page. I'd taken a creative writing class, but I still didn't know how to shape a story properly. In fact, I didn't even know enough to know I didn't know what I was doing. Made it about fifty pages on a historical fiction book and ran out of gas.
Then, well, Harry Potter came along, and I did what many mothers who write do: I decided to write a children's story. How hard could it be to write a middle grade novel, right? Yeah. Thing is, I actually finished that novel…five years later.
By then I had picked up some books on craft and at least knew enough to structure the thing in three acts. And the internet had arrived! I was online talking to other writers in forums and learning from them how to elevate the writing quality. I also attended several writing conferences and sat in on workshops taught by successful agents and bestselling novelists. I finally understood how much I didn't know.
I gave up querying that first novel, knowing it wasn't the ONE, but the dream wasn't about to die. I began a few other dud novels after that, but set those aside when they proved not good enough. Then I hit on my current project. Decades after my first attempt to write novel-length fiction, I've now got two novels in my trilogy completed, stories I'm very proud of. I'm not finished learning, but I think I'm in a good place right now in relation to my dream.
But that isn't necessarily the point of this post.
I had reason to reflect on my journey recently when I nearly opened my mouth to tell someone that maybe it was time for them to give up on their dream. I've watched this person struggle, losing job after job, always putting their dream of being a musician first when they ought to have been focused more on carving out some security in life. But…who am I to tell anyone to give up?
I will say, however, there is a difference between hoping and wishing a dream will come true and actually working toward a goal. I'll hold the door open on a dream for as long as it takes, if someone is actively working to learn their craft and improve. We've all seen those people who walk around sour on life like they gave up caring about anything a long time ago. I don't ever want to be responsible for putting that look on somebody's face. Even unrealized dreams can keep us going if we continue to nurture them. But, like love, dream is an action verb.
Ever wanted to give up on your dream? Or tempted to tell someone to grow up and face reality already?
For some great advice about motivation and working toward a goal from the ground up, check out this letter Eugene O'Neill wrote to his struggling son. Tough love.