Home > Writing > A dream once lost …

A dream once lost …

Some twenty-odd years ago, for reasons I’m still not sure I understand, I set out to become, of all things, a writer. I think what I really set out to do at the time was simply try and write a book. Good, bad, or indifferent, it didn’t really matter to me at the beginning. All I wanted was to create something from nothing, all on my own. Something I could point to and say, “Hey, look at what I did.” Did I accomplish my goal? Well, yes and no.

Over the course of about one and a half years, I managed to complete one novel and about three-fourths of another. Along the way, I also wrote six short stories, most of which were pretty darn good. I submitted my novel to several publishers and tried to get my short stories published in a number of genre magazines, all with resounding failure. While there are more details than this, the gist of it all is that, at least in my mind, I was unable to “succeed”, where success, to me, was becoming a published author. So while I had written quite a bit, the eventual payoff that I was hoping for never materialized. I didn’t feel like I had become a “writer”, whatever that meant.

So part way through my second novel, presumably because I felt like I’d failed to achieve my goal, one day I simply packed it all in and quit. I made copies of my books and stories (more on that subject later), packed them away, and stopped writing. Period. To this day, I don’t really remember the exact reasons for quitting so abruptly, though in retrospect I believe it was a combination of burnout and a misunderstanding of what it meant to be a writer. Afterward, life returned to a normal: I worked as a software engineer for a number of great companies, raised two amazing boys and four great step children, grew older and presumably wiser, and ended up where I’m at today.

Twenty-some years later, am I where I thought I’d be twenty years ago? No way. Not by a long shot. In most ways, life is much, much better than I could have hoped, though there were a few stretches along the way where things got exceedingly tough. But through it all, year after year, back in the recesses of my mind, were thoughts that just wouldn’t go away. Fascinating ideas and stories and what-ifs always came and went, but they never traveled too far away. After poking their way into my consciousness, they’d submerge into that area of my subconscious where such things dwell, eventually emerging once again as something completely different. Over time, I had so many ideas bouncing around in my head that occasionally I’d have to write them down in an old writing journal I’d packed away so many years ago.

Well, after a couple of decades of this repeated pattern (and yes, I realize I’m slow to take a hint) I came to the conclusion that perhaps it was time to return to writing, to resurrect my lost dream. Surely the maturity granted by the passing of years would guide me better than had my youthful impatience (on that count, only time will tell). So, after numerous promptings by the (in)famous NaNoWriMo (which I heard about only through happenstance during my normal traipsing around on the internet), and the support and wonderful encouragement of my beautiful wife, I set out to write once again. I did so by diving headlong into NaNoWriMo this past November, managing to “win” by writing 50K plus words based on the germ of an idea that had been circling around in my mind for about five years (also the subject of yet another post).

Today, I’m still adding to that novel while trying to adapt to the pursuit of the writing life in a more balanced and realistic fashion. Even still, ever since November I’ve been through it all: I’ve had fun, been miserable, gone through ecstasy, dived into depression, thought I’m the world’s next best novelist, and been convinced that I truly and utterly suck at the written word. The challenges have been immense, but the personal rewards have far outweighed them. This time around, given the perspective of time and the way it has of mellowing one’s soul, I’ve made the pursuit of the dream the whole point of what I’m doing. Because being a writer isn’t an end goal, it’s a journey. It’s not a destination, but instead, a mindset. You are a writer because, quite simply, you want to write. And just as importantly, you do.

Though it seems a strange source, a quote from an old Whoopi Goldberg movie, Sister Act 2, seems apropos. In the movie, Sister Mary Clarence is speaking to a young woman about how, when she was a child, she wanted to be a singer more than anything else in the world.

“I went to my mother who gave me this book called Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. Heโ€™s a fabulous writer. A fellow used to write to him and say: I want to be a writer, please read my stuff. And Rilke says to this guy, donโ€™t ask me about being a writer. If when you wake up in the morning you can think of nothing but writing, then youโ€™re a writer.”

Sister Mary Clarence then goes on to give the same advice to the young lady, with the exception that she’s referring to singing.

I think this guy Rilke, and Sister Mary Clarence, both make a lot of sense. And so far, each day, when I think of what I’d like to do if I didn’t have to work for a living, it’s always the same thing: write. I guess as long as this holds true, though I’m not yet published, I can still consider myself a writer.

–dp

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Categories: Writing
  1. January 10, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Bravo! Glad you came back into the game.

    (Can’t believe no one commented on this when you first posted it!)

    • January 11, 2014 at 10:57 am

      Thanks, Kevin! Believe me … I’m happy to be back! A great part of the journey this time is the chance to meet other writers, like you, who share the same love for writing. Makes it that much more fun.

  2. January 10, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Your story sounds a lot like mine. I threw in the towel for a while and went on living the rest of my life. But that itch doesn’t die, does it? Not if we really desire it. Glad you came back to it!

    • January 11, 2014 at 11:01 am

      Yeah, if you’re meant to do something, whether you do it perfectly or badly, you won’t be able to escape it forever. Maybe quite a while, but eventually it will draw you back.

      Funny, you’re a doctor with a passion for writing and now you’re doing it. My son, the resident, has always had a passion for film and writing screenplays. I hope once his life gets to be a bit more normal, he’s able to pursue that creative part of himself.

      • January 11, 2014 at 12:16 pm

        Good luck to him. Maybe we’ll see a medical drama penned by him some day…

  3. January 10, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    You are a writer, Dave! Nice post. Thanks for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • January 11, 2014 at 11:06 am

      Thanks!. Took me a long time to figure that out, that’s for sure ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. January 11, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I’m so happy you got back into the saddle, Dave. I don’t know what it is about NaNoWriMo, I know some people hate it, but for me, it always gets me back on track, it’s the jumpstart that I need. By the way, when is the bloggers gathering at your place? I need to clear my calendar. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy New Year, Dave!

    • March 24, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      Ooops. Your comment slipped through the cracks back in January. Anyway, thank you, Jill. I’m very happy to be back at writing, and having a wonderful community of blog friends with similar interested, like you, has made it much easier and a lot of fun.

      BTW – I’m thinking that the pool should be nice and warm by June, so you’re all welcome to come on out. We’ll make a writer’s retreat out of it ๐Ÿ™‚

      • March 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm

        No worries, Dave. I’m afraid I’ve had some comments slip through the cracks since WP stopped sending new posts and comments to my email account. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
        It is pretty amazing, isn’t it? I can’t believe the kindness and the willingness to help that I’ve experienced from the blogging community.
        Well, I don’t know how to do Twitter, so you might have to tweet, #POOLPARTYINJUNE! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. March 15, 2014 at 9:52 am

    I know this one’s old, but I found it through your last Thursday Throwback post. The ups and downs are pretty common, I think. I myself tend to oscillate very quickly between extreme pride and extreme shame. Over the past year or so, I think I’ve managed to damp that swing a little, but it’s still there, and I think it’ll always be there. I think the trick is to just learn to work through it one way or the other; to unfurl the sails and let the winds of pride and ecstasy propel us when they happen to blow, and to pull out the oars and start rowing when the weather is less favorable.

    Have you gotten anything published since you wrote this?

    • March 17, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      Very well put, Jeff, and right on the money. You’ve got to push through no matter what. These days, the up and down swings aren’t as often and aren’t as sever. Also, I think having a blog community of other writers is very helpful. Way back when, I had no one … I was alone in my attempt at writing, and eventually, it overwhelmed me.

      To answer your question, that would no. But then I haven’t really been submitting much. Mostly I’d like to work on submitting more short stories and seeing how that goes. Still working on the novels at the same time, but they’re bigger commitments and take more time. Haven’t gotten put together well enough to actually submit, though I’d like to get to the point of getting some beta readers this year.

      Thanks for stopping by and for the great comments.

      • March 17, 2014 at 11:38 pm

        Yeah, community is extremely helpful. When I was younger, I was typically very ashamed of my work and didn’t want anyone to see it. But I realized as I got older that I would never be successful unless I shared my writing with others and risked rejection (which is actually a good thing, since it serves as a guide, however imperfect, of whether or not your work will ever sell.)

        Short stories are a good way to start with submissions, I think. I’ve heard that the market for shorts has dried up a bit, but I’m seeing magazines, even if they aren’t as common anymore, and there are still tons of online publications that pay.

        What kinds of stories do you write? Depending on time constraints and work, I might be able to volunteer as a beta reader when you have something ready (that is, of course, if you don’t mind sharing your work with a complete stranger you only met through comments on your blog :-P)

  6. March 20, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I had read this post some time ago and I’m surprised I didn’t leave a comment (usually I can’t keep my mouth shut). When I read this post again, tonight, these lines struck me as much as they did the first time: “Because being a writer isnโ€™t an end goal, itโ€™s a journey. Itโ€™s not a destination, but instead, a mindset. You are a writer because, quite simply, you want to write. And just as importantly, you do.” Those lines sum it all up for me. What’s strange is that I don’t often have time to actually sit and write. I write in my head a lot, especially when I’m walking or doing something particularly tedious at work or knitting. It’s like things have to churn around in my head for awhile before I feel I need to write them down. And so. I’m a very slow writer ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. March 24, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Those words you mention above were and are important to me, because they sum up many years of growing up as a person and as a writer. It makes a lot of difference in how you see the world, your life, and the goals you set out for yourself. It’s all about the journey.

    Hope you get more time to actually write, Marie. You’re a gifted writer and I hope to read more of your work in the future, whether posted on your blog or in your own book. Thanks for being a great blog friend … always enjoy it when you stop by.

  1. August 30, 2011 at 2:41 am
  2. January 9, 2014 at 8:20 pm

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