How to Make Your Dream a Reality

Rule number 1: You have to DO something.

Photo credit: felipedan

It sounds really obvious, but so is most of the advice in any self-help book you can read. I complained for a lot of years that my dream of publishing a book was not coming true, but, um, it was no wonder. For a lot of years, I wasn’t doing anything about it. So then, one day, I sat down and started to write. And promptly ran into a problem.


Rule number 2: Push through roadblocks, however slowly

road sign
Photo credit: Jazza

It could be a lack of time, a mental block, or a naysayer. For me, my roadblock was not the oft-cited “writer’s block”; rather, every time I tried to sit down and write that book I had in my head, I’d be reduced to tears for the memories the work brought. And then there was the naysayer. Someone told me my book idea wasn’t respectful of my family…and I should reconsider what publishing it would do to them.

No matter which roadblocks you’re facing, there is always a way to keep going. For aspiring writers (or aspiring whatevers) with little time, the best advice I know of is to set a realistic goal for yourself, whether a daily or weekly goal, and stick to it. Maybe you’ve only got fifteen minutes a day. Maybe you’ve only got one hour a week. Whatever you have, build that time into your schedule, and then guard it with your dream.

When I started having those toxic emotional reactions to my work, which literally could incapacitate me from living the rest of my life, well, I shut down for awhile. But in hindsight, I realize that I eventually found other ways to keep moving in the direction of my dream. I came at it from another angle. Although I wasn’t yet ready to write that book in my head, I started reading up on the publishing industry, and I started reading about honing my craft. As I did this, I put the naysayer out of mind, and hoped for a better day to write and publish my book. And this leads to rule number 3.


Rule number 3: Learn from the masters

Photo credit: krayker

So, how did you first develop that precious little dream of yours? I’d just bet it was from watching someone else who was doing that very thing, and saying to yourself, “I want to do that someday, too!”

So here’s the deal: the same place you go for inspiration—be it a bookshelf, a rodeo, or a runway—is the same place you should go to apprentice for your craft. Once I identified memoir as my medium, I became a student of the genre. Not only did I read books about how to write memoir, but I read memoirs. These days I have become a sponge for these things, keeping them by my nightstand, on the coffee table, and in my CD player in the car (audio books). Where I once read only for entertainment, now I read for craft and technique, story development and organization. I read with a critical eye, judging a book’s execution and effectiveness, asking myself, is this a technique I could use? Is it one I’d want to use? Whether a memoir is well done or not, I learn from it.


Rule number 4: Work through personal problems to clear room for your dreams

Photo credit: brainloc

Okay, this is probably the hardest rule to follow, and I can’t tell you how to do it; I can only point you to a blog post describing what worked for me. But if you do have some kind of mental or emotional block impeding your work, there must be something you’ll eventually have to deal with before getting on with your dream. If you have to “take time off” from your project to get your life or emotions in order, by all means, do it! This is not wasted time, because when you come back to your project free from the impediment, you will find that you have a vigor for your dream that you never had before.


Rule number 5: Set a deadline with measurable goals

Photo credit: mimwickett

This rule will vary from person to person, and obviously your timelines and deadlines can change. But the thing here is to write down steps, measurable goals, that will move you closer to your dream, bit by bit. If you can give yourself a deadline and stick to it, you will be much helped, as most people operate best with a deadline.

For myself, after I started doing something and I learned how to keep plugging away at it in some form, even when it was hard; after I had started bathing my mind in masterful examples, and after I had worked through my poisonous personal problems…I came up with a schedule for completing my dream that I’m hoping will carry me through to completion. For now, I am trying every day to “move in the direction of my dreams,” even if it means only fifteen minutes of work. I hope you will do the same, and good luck!


Chasing and Embracing Dreams

Dear Readers:

What gets in the way of you chasing your dreams? Crummy life circumstances? Fear of failure, perhaps? Or maybe failed past attempts? (Feel free to let me know in a comment!)

For me, it used to be all of the above, plus one:

I worried that following my dream was a sin.

You know how I wrote about treating tough subjects (both topics and people) appropriately in writing? Well, that’s because I used to not. See, I have this passive aggressive bone that metastasizes sometimes (see my previous post), and for a lot of years that’s mostly what happened in my writing.

Long story short, a few years ago, I was convicted that my motives for writing were all wrong. And I was confused. I didn’t know what to do. So I just quit.

But the writing dream wouldn’t go away.

My “writer’s bug,” as I called it in my MFA application essay, followed me everywhere—from college to career and back to college again, where I finally threw up my hands last spring and cried, “Lord, what am I supposed to do?” This was the same question I put to a campus counselor whom I sought out of sheer career desperation.

Then, after all my agonizing over the possible sinfulness of my writing, would you believe that counselor looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Why do you think you keep having this desire to write? Who do you think put it there?”

Whoa. Bull’s eye. Since that session in April, I’ve had to ask the same question about that providential counselor whose name I can’t even remember.

So God wanted me to write. But how? I still felt I needed permission somehow. For that matter, I needed some new material! If I was a “new creature,” a born-again Christian, but my writing record was stained with blood, ink, and tears (with a passive aggression that not a few times became active) what was I supposed to write about?

In my next post, using part of my MFA application essay, I’ll tell you about the answer/affirmation I got from God last summer.

Although the writing project He dropped in my lap is not the same one I am documenting on this blog, it is what has led me back to my writing roots—definitively, decisively, and defiantly.

It is also the same project I am struggling to finish up this week and, by extension, is keeping this blog painfully short and colloquial. And so, with that cliff-hanger (or choppy ending?), come back on Thursday for the rest of the story—or to read why I’m finally embracing my dreams.



A Book, a Blog, and a Dream: My ‘Before Thirty’ Project

Have you ever felt like there’s something you’re supposed to do, had a nagging feeling that’s followed you, kind of like your shadow, for most of your life—and yet, you’ve never done it? Have you found yourself wondering why you just can’t make yourself do that one thing you seem meant to do? Have you felt disgusted, even, because you’ve let other stuff get in the way? Or, another possibility, have you been so beaten down by circumstances that you’ve lost sight of your true purpose, and with that, your true identity?

Well, for me, that something is writing a book. And this blog is proof that I’m finally doing it. This blog started as a graduate class project for which I was researching and writing how to get published. But when my professor pushed us to write our last essay for a real-world audience, I felt it was time to take action.

I’d been waiting over ten years to publish a book; I was at the end of my master’s degree; and I was at a crossroads. As I wrote in my MFA application essay, I can’t fight this feeling anymore (some eighties band might have said that, too). Anyway, for months now, ideas have been spewing out of my pen, and although I don’t know what next year holds—I have applied for both PhD and MFA programs, and talks of kids are underway—for now I have a semester “off”; and I have decided to write.

But what am I writing about? Friends and family have asked. It’s not enough just to want to write—you also have to have an idea.

Look again at my first paragraph. That, in a nutshell, is what my book, and this blog, is about. It’s not just about my journey to publishing a book (although that’s part of it). It’s about pursuing dreams that were interrupted by depression and other disasters. In the words I have chosen to describe my project, it’s about writing to my roots: the roots of what I was meant to have, be, and do—and the roots of what kept me from having, being, and doing all of the above for most of my adult life.

Thank God, after praying through a lot of the bad roots in myself, I am ready to write to the good ones (though there’s always more healing to do). That said, in order to document the tangible feat of publishing a book by the time I’m thirty, I’ll also want to tell you about the many intangible feats it took for me to get here. I’ll tell you about how I’ve survived a broken family; how I’ve overcome a debilitating mental illness; and how I’m finally learning to redefine myself after, at age twenty, leaving everything I had and everything I knew—family, job, school, and friends—to move one-thousand miles and marry a man I’d known only four months. Spoiler alert: my story has a happy ending.Image