Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why Dreams Matter (Aspiring II)

It’s a cold, wet morning, the perfect weather to work. For many writers, the ambience of snow and rain is preferable to a sunny day. Why? Perhaps it has to do with the nature of writing, of dealing with the lament of the world. Or perhaps it’s just a good reason to stay inside. Either way, I am inevitably cheered when it rains. (More so when it snows. There’s nothing like the heavy quiet that comes with snow.) That makes this the perfect day to officially re-launch this blog.

As I’ve mentioned in the About Me section, I started this site seven years ago, and stopped last April because I found it difficult to work on my novel and produce the long, heavy pieces typical of this blog. The dream had always been to become a novelist, but I was pouring so much into the posts here I didn’t have anything left for my book. That said, I was reluctant to give it up. It fed something I couldn’t identify. Something I needed. I was frustrated with my novel, and old enough (38) to consider if it was time to just let the dream go. On a whim, I sounded my frustrations out in Aspiring, and asked Chris Jones from Esquire to take a look at it. Not only did he look at it, but he wrote a story about me on his writing blog. Within a few days, I was contacted by a writer in Indiana. His name was Dan. He offered to look over what I had written so far. In the past, I would have turned him down, but I figured I had nothing to lose. I had no idea whether my story was any good, was fairly convinced that I had spent the past two years producing garbage, and wasn’t sure that I wanted anyone to see it.

I sent him what I had anyway.

Well, he read the first portion of the manuscript, enjoyed it, and made some wonderful suggestions to make it even better. With his encouragement, I was able to keep going. I stopped writing blogs and articles and focused on the book. Every day I wrote. Five, six, ten hours a day. Working, ever working. Trying to be a better writer. Trying to create an epic story that people could get lost in, the kind of tale I’ve loved ever since I was a kid. And every time I faced discouragement or loneliness, Dan was there to encourage me and pick me up. None of this would have been possible without my wife, as well, who similarly encouraged me and spent long hours editing my new pages and dealing with my neurotic nature regarding the work. (It’s good, I love it! It’s terrible, I’m a shitty writer.)

Well, it’s finished now. Three years of work. Years of long nights and longer days. This past month, a group of amazing friends agreed to do a read-through, for no reason other than a willingness to help. I eagerly await their critiques. There are no guarantees, of course, and the odds are long that I’ll even find an agent, but I’ve learned too much to ever go back. Learned about dreams and people. Learned how necessary it is to find others willing to walk with you wherever it is you want to go.

This story isn’t about fame or affirmation from strangers or whether my book makes the New York Times Bestseller list. This story is about the road we share and the journey we take together. It’s about new friendships and changed lives. About the power of dreams and what they mean not only to us, but to those around us.

It’s easy to trade in our hopes for the future, so easy to be cynical. Hell, it’s a daily battle for me. When I see the pain and tragedy in this world, it’s hard to see the point of doing anything, let alone pursuing a stupid dream. Some days I have problems getting out of bed because the force of sadness is so heavy I can hardly move. On those days, I just tell Bethany (my wife) it isn’t a good day, and she leaves me alone to work through the weight of sorrows. Inevitably, however, I turn back to the page. Turn back to the writing. Turn back towards trying to make a difference on this planet.

Dreams matter because they are your source for life. Yes, you can cast them aside and bury yourself in the everyday business of life. They are yours to do whatever you wish. Understand, however, that without dreams you set yourself towards a life of emptiness, ripe for the siren call of hawkers and cheap vendors trading on your dreams for an existence of instant gratification.

Life isn’t easy, and I don’t think it was meant to be. There’s a reason we have to deal with so much pain. So whatever you do, don’t trade in the one thing you’ve been given to fight the world’s lament. Hold on tight, and keep pushing. You may never reach your destination, but the journey will be worth it, that much I can promise you.

-Steve