When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to be an author.
It was Grade 3, and I’d written a short story for class; the incredibly original The Adventure, a fantasy adventure about two siblings: shy narrator Daniel and his confident, leaderly sister Jezebel. The Adventure detailed their adventure (geddit) to the snow, where they saved a fairy from evil, children-eating dragons. Throughout the rest of primary (elementary for you North Americans) school, I kept writing, both for class and for fun. I wrote about crazy clowns and mad scientesses. I wrote about Barbie and her friends going on wacky adventures. I wrote about the preteen Jake and his Golden Retriever Ralph. I typed stories up on our Windows 98 computer (no internet) and printed out my words with our ancient, screeching printer. I drew pictures to go with the stories. I stapled them together. Some of them I sent to my encouraging penpals. I wanted others to enjoy my stories.
Not long after, I proudly declared to my parents that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
I was quickly shut down and told that writing would never amount to a career. To my father, it was just a hobby. Just for fun. You can’t make a living out of that. Why don’t you think realistically? You should think about a real job.
It was a Wednesday night when the miracle happened. Papa was coming home from Pizza Haven. But he did not notice there was a little puppy on the top of his cap (the cap had a sign on it saying Pizza Haven. Ring 0022 3454 for the yummiest Pizzas, Pastas and Jelly.)
—The Adventures of Toby The Dog (2002)
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a creative with a dream. Whether young, old or somewhere in between, you’ve realised your passion in life. It’s more than a hobby. As Marie Kondo would say, it sparks joy. Even though it drives you up the wall, and many a time you wish you were born without a creative bone in your body…it still lingers.
Maybe it’s hidden. Maybe—just like my father—someone in your life told you that you should give up on your dream. Your parents. A schoolteacher. A mentor. A friend. They uttered those words:
Why are you doing that?
You should be more realistic. That won’t get you anywhere.
You have a higher chance of winning the lottery.
There are millions of other [writers/artists/game designers/musicians]? What makes you think you’ll stand out?
Just give up already.
It doesn’t even need to be obvious. As the pessimistic political pundits tend to say, sometimes it’s more insidious:
The frown of disapproval.
The obviously feigned interest.
Eventually, if you place enough wisdom in the words of the soothsayer, the self-fulfilling prophecy charts its course, and before long, your creative dream is in the bin with all your other failed dreams and aspirations. Amidst the garbage of your previous failures—from the MLM scam to your brief foray into scrapbooking—also lies the tarnished remnants of a dream that could have been reality.
Or at least that’s what will happen if you just give up.
And why should you give up just because someone whose own dreams are in the bin wants you to be as unhappy as them?
Don’t let them win. Don’t let them destroy your vision.
Why are you not doing what you love?
It’s not unrealistic to be happy doing what I love.
Then continue taking out your lottery ticket. I’ll take my chances with this.
Whatever happens, happens. I’m willing to take my chances.
I won’t give up.
I can do this.
Lucy Mitchell of BlondeWriteMore sums it up perfectly in her blog post ‘Why You Should Protect Your Writing Dream‘:
…[W]rap up your writing dream in bubble wrap paper, place it in a sturdy box, write FRAGILE all over it and store in a safe place.
Mitchell suggests keeping your writing dream to yourself—not like a dirty little secret—but more in a protective way. There are so many ways our creative endeavours can be crushed, and not always by others.
Negative thoughts and overthinking. Comparisons to more successful people in your field, and even the not-so-successful who you perceive as doing more. Feedback and reviews. Lack of feedback and reviews. Something as small as a rejection from a journal, agent or publisher can set your writing dream back so far that it’s tilting on the edge of the bin lid. They can’t even be bothered sending a default reply. Am I really that unworthy?
You are worthy. Even if you never see a day of success in your life, don’t let that stop you. Franz Kafka went to the grave never knowing how much of an influence he would have on future generations. George R.R. Martin and Janet Evanovich didn’t see success until much later in life.
Protect your dream. Listen to the constructive criticism, of course, but don’t just let the downfalls and dejection get to you.
You can do this.
If Daniel and Jezebel can defeat evil dragons against all odds, you can slay the demons that plague you.
You can do this.