Friday, May 29, 2009

Living the Dream

This post is in reponse to Pensive Tuesday's post from May 11, in which he said:

"Adults often talk about their childhood or adolescent dreams and aspirations, the things they wanted more than anything but were too afraid to go after. They'll talk your ear off about all the regrets in their own lives, all of their past mistakes, and when you're a child they even tell you not to make the same mistakes. They tell you to follow your dreams, or you'll regret it for the rest of your life."

Pensive Tuesday (sorry, P.T., to talk about you in the third person if you're currently reading this) then goes on to talk about how parents talk about college.

Which brings up the ultimate dilemma: realism v. dreams.

Honestly, I don't remember getting talks about how I needed to follow my dreams, lest I awake with regrets later in life. I guess that's because I was such a dreamer when I was a child. What I heard while growing up, as I dreamed about my future career as a prima ballerina in New York City, was "Well, you better go to college and have a back-up plan." Which is sound advice, of course, but did not exactly convey the connotation of confidence in me that I might have wished to receive.

Not surprisingly, I gave up on the dream of being a dancer - when I was 14, in ninth grade of high school. I decided I wasn't good enough, I didn't know how to get good enough, and that since my parents didn't support me, I should just give up on the idea.

And I do regret it, of course. (Especially as I would be in better shape if I was currently a professional dancer.) But that's not really what this blog is about. It's not the regret that I want to focus on - it's that I allowed myself, my aspirations, to be quashed by the unkind words of others. It's that now I don't know what I want.

I've come to realize something recently. Being a dreamer, being ridiculous and having large dreams, is a large part of who I am, as a person. When I let the "realistic" advice of my parents, my teachers, and my peers override my innate feelings, I gave up on myself. A lot.

Dreams are important - as Michael Shurtleff writes in his book Audition, dreams are what people live for. Perhaps we can't all actually achieve the things we want most in life, but it's not healthy to just give up when you're in the middle of the race and nothing's physically wrong with you.

Now, since this is a blog about writing, (see, I was going somewhere with all of this), I'm sure any aspiring writer can see how my topic applies to his or her future. Writing is an arduous journey. Each work is difficult to perfect, and demands a lot of time and effort. Writing is setting dreams down on paper, whether they actually happened or not, whether it's a fairy tale or a nightmare. Writers are, perhaps, the biggest dreamers of anyone.

The key to writing, it seems to me, is persistence and not losing that dream - that this idea is worth putting down on paper, that you will finish the story, that you will publish the story, that you might even get PAID for the story, etc.

You shouldn't do it for fame and money, though every writer, of course, would love to become famous and get paid plenty of money for his or her work.

You need to have a dream. And you need to be strong enough not to lose it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Being Lazy and Insecure

The problem with yearning to be a writer is a love of reading.

All good writers read - this is something which countless authors have said in countless interviews.

Yet I think one of the problems with my own writing is my love of reading.

I have been wanting to be a writer of some sort since I was in elementary school. I remember sitting in my fourth grade classroom, reading an R.L. Stine "Fear Street" book, thinking to myself, I could write something like this. Then, I would write snippets of the story I was creating in my head, and they did sound like imitation-Stine.

When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a short play about some princess who liked to sing or something (I was very into musicals), and showed it to my teacher, who pretended it was good.

When I was in middle school, I wrote the beginnings of countless stories, and began touting the theory that I didn't like poetry. "There is so much bad poetry out there already," I said to myself, smugly (I was a very smug middle school student). "Why would I want to add to it?" I received the "promising young writer award" or something like that, and my response was - "Of course."

In high school, I wrote a 79 page story about a vampire and a witch who are vying for the same boy's attention, filled with my "insights" into high school life. Then, I took a creative writing class, where I was forced to write poetry for ten weeks, then hurried through writing sketches, a one-act play, and a short story. My teacher liked me and my writing. But I was beginning to feel a sense of disappointment with myself.

As I grow older, my writing, past and present, seems worse. I don't think it actually gets worse, but I think that it doesn't get better, fast enough.

And as I read better and better works of literature, I am no longer capable of rolling my eyes and saying, "I could do that." I'm more prone to sighing wistfully, and saying, "I would give anything to one day write something as great as that."

As my reading grows, so does my opinion of a good book. I'm now in my twenties, and I feel like my writing should be coming more easily, now. I should have better first drafts, or be better at revising them. The ideas in my mind should fall more easily on the page. My understanding of human behavior shouldn't be so naive.

Ultimately, I should be able to write something I would want to read.

Nothing I write, unfortunately, is very good. It's okay. It's better than some of the writing out there. I could post it on the internet, and feel safe in the knowledge that it's not the worst thing out there. Yet, I don't. It may be good enough to get a few reads on the internet, but is it good enough to be published? Is it written well enough to deserve readers? I don't know. I doubt it.

It's so hard to write something, and not feel like I'm wasting my time.

It's so much easier to curl up with a book that's well-written. To become lost in a world that someone else created.

And so, you see - it is my avid reading that has inspired a decrease in my writing. There is such better writing out there than anything falling from my pen, or keystrokes. And it's just so much easier to read what others have done than to create something of my own.