How much are you willing to endure in order to have something you want? I don’t just mean a basic something, like you want steak for dinner or a new pair of shoes. I mean something big – a dream.
The truth is that most of us say we would go through anything to have a dream. How often have you heard someone you know say “I’d do anything to have . . . .” fill in the blank? Here is the truth of it – most of those statements are hyperbole. Most of the time, we are dedicated to something only so long as it doesn’t really inconvenience us or cause us any discomfort.
But sometimes, on some limited, rare occasions, we get tested for our dreams. I know a number of people (writers and otherwise), for whom this concept of “how much do you want it?” is being applied as a real-life exercise in discomfort. I’m going through this myself as I struggle to balance a fragile marriage, a disappointing job, a fading friendship, and my need to write. I’ve asked myself repeatedly if all of what I’m going through is really worth what I want. Am I really willing to stay up until 2:00 in the morning because I need to get another chapter written? Am I willing to be subjected to the inevitable criticism – the slices and dices – of those who will read my work and then make it their business to publicly flog my efforts? Will I hold firm when faced with a choice between meeting a deadline and listening to my family members complain that I never spend time with them and why can’t I go to the movies just this once?
It’s easy to say, “Oh sure, I can do it. My resolve is cast iron.” But the truth is, I find myself asking if it’s truly worthwhile to continue to pursue this dream. On more than one occasion, as I’ve struggled to find a reasonable ending to a novel I’ve worked on for close to a year now, I ask myself why I can’t just be happy with a mediocre job and a mediocre paycheck and call it good. There are times when my spouse and I argue solely over the role that writing has in my life and the impact that this has on him. It is tempting to say, “F*** this dream,” throw my laptop against the wall, and deny I ever wanted to see my name on the cover of another book.
How much is enough? I already have a five books published, with a sixth one coming out in mere weeks, and a seventh within the next year. Isn’t that enough? Haven’t I given it my best shot? Shouldn’t I be happy with the mediocre results I’ve achieved?
I tried giving up writing once. In fact, I practically gave it up completely for almost 5 years. The end result of that endeavor was that I was miserable. I hated not writing, I resented my family (especially my husband) because I felt that I had sacrificed my dream for them and they appreciated it about as much as they appreciated stepping in dog poop.
I felt that I couldn’t even talk about my writing because it would raise too many issues with them and too many emotions with me. But that nagging, gnawing sensation to put words on paper never left me. I suppressed it as best I could, but it never really went away. And then I met someone who wanted my help, who wanted to learn about writing from someone who had done it. Suddenly, I had an excuse to “talk” about writing. I wasn’t actually doing it, but I was helping someone else to learn about it. That dream, that need to capture words and tame them, and to have my name on book covers, came rushing back with a vengeance. I wrote for hours and hours on end. I let loose some of the pent-up stories and poems that I had denied for so long, and it was cathartic. It was as if an ache that had plagued me for years was suddenly and completely healed, and I felt renewed in a way I didn’t know I could experience. I felt like I had purpose, like I had something of value to offer.
I began to flex muscles that had atrophied, and I found that they still worked. The got stronger, and better, and now I am writing more effectively and more powerfully than I ever have before. I dove into stories that had lain unfinished in lost folders on my computer. I began submitting and collecting rejections, and feeling every bit the authentic writer that I dream of being. But dreams come with a price tag, and sometimes that price is high. But I have a stronger resolve today than I have ever felt before. I am more committed to my writing goals and to achieving the success that I believe I can have than I have ever been in the past. It exacts a toll to have this dream, but I am willing to pay no matter the cost. I am possessed by this vision, I am obsessed with achieving what I know is meant to be mine.
How much is enough to sacrifice for this dream? I don’t know. I haven’t found that limit. But I know the other side of it. How much will it cost me to give it up? The answer is: far too much. If I sound like some religious zealot, singing the praises of belief and faith, all I can say is – deal with it. I know that I’ll be challenged – I’ll face it. I know I will have to sacrifice – that’s my choice. I know that I will encounter people and situations that are stumbling blocks – I’ll get over them. Those who want to nay-say and throw road blocks up had best get out of my way. Those who see my passion, who want to share in it – keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times and hang on!