Nan is an adventurous mother of three young sons who is up for just about anything unless it involves ingesting fungus, listening to jazz music or watching Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. When she isn't mothering, writing, reading, working part time, volunteering with the youth at her church, enjoying the outdoors or keeping the dust bunnies at bay, she writes a blog titled Nomad under the name scienceteachermommy. She has a BS in Biology Composite Secondary Education from Utah State University. She wants to be an author when she grows up.
I was married just over a year when we bought our first desktop computer. Within minutes of getting all of the color-coded wires in the correct places, I sat down to write. I was giddy over the speed at which the stories in my head and in my notebooks made it to page. Within a few months I'd written a hundred single-spaced pages of a novel that had been in my head for over a decade.
I'm sure my poor husband thought that I hadn't been exactly truthful during our courtship when I casually mentioned my writing hobby. Years passed and he waited and watched patiently while I created dozens of separate manuscripts ranging from three to three hundred pages.
When one day I announced that I'd finally finished a project, he asked me when I was going to publish it. I laughed, thinking housewives don't get published, but what I said out loud was, “That isn't why I do it.” Had we never really had this conversation before?
“Then why do you do it?”
Long pause. “Some people have music or woodworking or sewing or art…I am filled with stories.” Another long — and awkward pause: ‘being filled with stories' seemed tantamount to hearing voices. “Putting them on paper makes me happy,” I finished quietly.
Then he surprised me, “So what do you have to lose? I mean, you've already gotten the enjoyment out of it that you can. Maybe you could make others happy, too. It isn't like you have to get published to earn a living. It would just be a bonus.”
What did I have to lose? So I sent that first novel off– as imperfect and unmarketable as it was–and got my first rejection letter. But not the last.
Now, a decade later, publishing doesn't feel so much like a cherry on top of the decadently gooey banana split that is my passion. It feels like the thing that is driving me. I am not sure if it is the dreaming, or the realization of a dream that matters most to me anymore. My intense focus on the end is starting to suck the joy out of this thing I love.
Recently I was in a bookstore and picked up a novel similar in style to some of my finished manuscripts. There was an explosion of pink on the cover that nearly caused a gag reflex. I turned the noisy volume over in my hand to read the jacket summary of the witty and plucky heroine's hilarious pratfalls. I opened to the back cover to see the author's picture.
Except for the fact that she is brunette and living in another state, her biography might have been mine: right down to her three boys and love of skiing. Apparently some stay-at-home-moms do publish. While it seems that such a revelation might have added hope to my desire, the effect was quite the opposite.
I left the bookstore feeling ridiculous. Who am I to think I have anything to say? Why did I ever dare to dream that I might be unique? That out of thousands of manuscripts submitted each year, mine would get chosen? My dream suddenly seemed like a cliche, quixotic nightmare. During the long ride home, I was reminded of George Santayana's fanatic who redoubles her efforts only to find she's lost sight of her goal. And for the past several weeks I've found myself asking, “Why do I do this?
Enter my sweet husband again. Thank God for loved ones who believe in us, even when we aren't sure we believe in ourselves. He spent his rare overtime money to buy me a laptop this spring. Just for when the stories speak to me again. Because, he gently reminded me, the stories make me happy.
What do you love doing? Is this your dream?
As I read Nan's post I thought of LaNola Kathleen Stone's Rebirth of the Creative Self. What about you?
How do you remain optimistic and hopeful when the realization of your dreams is not entirely in your hands?
What lessons do you learn as your persevere toward your dreams, even if they are never entirely realized?
Do you have someone who has been there for you, to encourage you until “stories start to speak to you again?”