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.

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