When we are children we dream about what life will bring when we are older, constantly impatient for adulthood to come so that we can be all that we can be. Years later, we find ourselves in much different scenarios than we had pondered with said dreams packed away in the cobwebs of our mind, said hopes now only mere fantasies of what could have been.
If you are like me, then you had numerous mentors throughout life telling you that if you “work hard” you can achieve whatever you want. And if you are like me, you also had as many mentors give you a harsh reality check and tell you to get your head out of the clouds. Someone told me that writing is something you can do after you’ve worked your whole life and can afford to do so in retirement – it’s a “hobby” not a profession.
I chose to join the Army in my twenties, knowing a profession as a writer was impossible and hoping my alternate career choice would fulfill the adventure I wanted and the sense of obligation I felt towards my country. Low and behold, as soon as I announced this decision, handfuls of people told me I shouldn’t do it as well as wouldn’t be able to. This was the turning-point, as I decided if I had to give up my dream of writing, I was going to at least try a dream that would accept me…in the form of military recruitment!
It is now 2015 and here is how that story panned out. I traveled the country and the globe in the military, learned foreign languages, and met fascinating, kind-hearted, and rotten people in the process. All the while, I jotted down the stories that continued to come to my mind, whenever I had some free time.
After leaving my military and civilian intelligence career, I came back home realizing I now had PTSD, herniated discs, and arthritis from dislocated knees, a femur, and a fractured pelvis – oh my! And…I was still flooded with stories in this every-churning mind of mine. I’d beat the hell out of my body, but it was worth the ride (hopefully!). I may not have been the best at what I did, but I’d done what I set out to do and accomplished it. And anytime someone else told me their life goals or dreams, I always supported them with enthusiastic advice, happy to hope for their future success. Could I do the same as a writer? Could I test my mind as much as I had my body? What would it hurt to try?
I sat down and wrote The Weeping Books Of Blinney Lane, a story I had concocted in 2011 from an idea I came up with back when I was a child. It took me two weeks to type it out and another few months to work with the editor. I submitted it to a publisher and a design company and now it will be published in July of this year. Wait, the dream continues…
I have longed loved audio books. That ingrained sense of duty and hard work from my parents makes me feel guilty if I sit down and read a book, so I listen to audio as I work around the house. I fell in love with the narration of Laural Merlington and thought, I’ll contact her to see if she’ll do an audio book version. What’s the worst that can happen – she’ll say no and I’ll be right back where I am now, nothing lost. She replied within a few hours and accepted to my amazement.
I’m not a fame-seeker, but I have always had the pipe-dream of being a guest at a big convention. I’d love to talk to fans about a story I wrote. So I signed up for the Wizard World Chicago convention this year and that in-itself feels like another dream come true. I AM an author now and I DO have a book being published. How did all this happen when we go through life accepting that dreams only come true in fairy tales?
1. I quit telling family and friends what I was doing until I had done it. Why get your hand slapped and dreams shot down before you even try. Now I just put it out there as information, once I had done something for whomever to see if they are interested.
2. Quit thinking your dreams were meant for someone else. They were my dreams damn it. And believe me, I’ve failed at many and had the door slammed on them many times, but I kept trying. The only regret I will have is if I quit trying.
3. Stick your neck out & ask questions. Shy by nature, it was difficult for me to reach-out and ask questions of strangers. Social media helped for one, but perhaps the military gave me the leadership experience I needed because now I don’t give a damn. If I have a question, even for a total stranger, I ask. Maybe they’ll answer, maybe they won’t. Maybe it will be helpful, maybe it won’t. I’ve met some very helpful people and made some wonderful friends in the writing world – you know who you are and I’m forever grateful.
4. Give back. Don’t trample everyone on your path to glory. I’ve given writing and publishing advice to so many even before I saw my own work published, just so they wouldn’t have to go through the same pains that I would. There is much to learn on your own and do the leg-work, but I’m just saying stop and help someone out. Encourage those you see who have potential and take the time to listen to other people’s dreams. See if you can help. I have a degree in Forensics and work in law enforcement, I wrote a three page letter to an online classmate just to give him advice about his daughter wanting to go into the same profession. Take the time for people, because often so many do not. Wouldn’t you have liked it if someone paused during the rat-race to give you some helpful advice?
5. Be grateful & fierce. While some people still laugh at what I’m trying to do, I don’t let it bother me anymore. I’m doing what I feel I have to do – I can’t stop telling stories and hoping they will have a positive impact on people one day. That’s my version of ferocity in my broken “salad years”. Gratitude – well, I constantly make notes about who have done me “a solid”, even if I think there’s no way I’ll forget it. I don’t ever want to risk becoming so busy that I forgot about someone and what they did for me, whether it was a simple “way to go!” or if they reviewed my book. If you have fans – thank them.
I’ll keep clicking my heels and encourage you to do the same, whether you want to become a glass-eye painter, a gymnast, or discover the cure for cancer. Life is short. Keep at it and always, always remember, it IS possible.