Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is it ever ok to give up on a dream?

Yesterday I looked at my work goals for this month and I finally had to face up to something hard.

I'm not going to write a book this year. It's possible I may never write one.

It's the one enduring dream I've had since I was a child and I've always assumed that I would do it. It's all I remember really wanting. To write a book that people would read, that would maybe contribute something good to the world, or at least a corner of it.

Now, the thinking everywhere seems to be that we should strive for our goals and never give up on our dreams, right? 

As a mother with young children I have felt especially obliged to keep my dreams alive, to keep nurturing my own personal fulfilment so as to not lose sight of myself as a person distinct from my family.

But what I'm asking myself now is: Is it sometimes ok, even necessary, to give up on a lifelong dream? Is it even possible to grow out of a cherished dream? Can it be a good thing?

It hit me yesterday that maybe I've outgrown this particular dream - to have my name on the cover of a book. To see it in the bookshops. To do the publicity round and sign copies for readers (not hordes necessarily, any number of fans would do!).

Maybe this dream is actually misguided, based on some faulty assumptions, or is at the very least an unrealistic possibility for the time being.

At the end of last year I began telling people close to me that I intended to make a start on 'my book', thinking that would spur me to action. Then, emboldened, I put it out there on this blog.  I broke the task down into doable chunks - market research, write a business plan, start canvassing for contributors, draft a proposal - and included these in my monthly goals.

But it's five months already and I haven't got very far. One problem is that I still have fuzzy ideas of the book I want to write and the audience I want to write it for. And they keep changing. When Zoey at Good Goog asked me about it, I intended to tell her, but then realised I wasn't too sure myself.

So I'm not exactly burning with passion over a story I have to tell. And I don't want to write on a topic I'm not passionate about. I think that would make for a pretty crap book. So why do I still want to do this?

If I'm honest, deep down my belief is that if I write a book then I would have 'arrived'. But this is a ridiculous belief when I examine it.

Does it mean that my life's work of raising a family will amount to nothing if I get to my death having never written a book? What a stupid way to measure my worth. But deep down, I know it's how I see myself. Not really amounting to much yet because I've seen myself as a 'writer' ever since I was six years old and I don't have much to show for it. Even though I now have all this wonderful life's experience I could write about!

Also, I'm aware that people simply do not buy books, or read them, these days as much as they used to 30 years ago when I first wanted to be an author.

Social media is where people are now, so maybe I should put the effort I would have put into a book, into a blog (this or another one) instead?

Compounding the issue, my baby's due date is fast approaching. I need to consider how much time, realistically, am I going to be able to put into writing, publishing and marketing a book with four children under seven and a small business to run? A small business which is actually bringing in much-needed income (while the book may not).

So what I'm interested in hearing from my lovely and loyal band of readers, is this:

Have you ever reconciled yourself that a long-held dream may never come to fruition?

Have you ever realised that you were measuring your self-worth with wild inaccuracy?

How do I know if I'm making the right decision in cutting my losses and moving on from this book thing?

Is this a goal which is actually holding me back from seeing other opportunites before me?

Any ideas or advice would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Firstly, don't be too hard on yourself. Like you said, you're about to have another baby - and that in itself can conjure up a sense of urgency for everything. I wouldn't give up on your dream. Perhaps it's just not a priority at the moment. Who knows, in years to come, you will be inspired to write that book - whatever the subject may be. This may not be the 'season' for it (sorry for sounding so cliche, but 'baby season' and the 'early years season' make it really hard to achieve major goals). I've put many goals on hold for now, but know that one day I will get to them. Don't give up - just delay it until it feels right. (Ramble over!)

  2. Aspiring Mum, thank you. I've been feeling sad about crossing this off my 'to-do' list, and I guess the impending birth is giving me a sense of (maybe unnecessary) urgency.

    I think you're right, I have to just be open to seeing whatever feels right, when it feels right.

    Lately, this book thing's made me feel like I'm banging my head against a wall, and that can't be right!

  3. I agree with Aspiring mum- you definitely are been to hard on yourself. You have a family to care for, you work and you have another baby on the way.

    One day you might have an idea that you KNOW you have to write- you know who it will be for and where you want to take it. That is when you will sit down and write it.

    Just because it is not happening right now doesn`t mean it won`t happen eventually.
    Don`t be too hard on yourself!

  4. Thank you Lulu, I'm sure you're right.

  5. It's a long time ago now, but back when I had first started uni and I was into my third year of law (part-time) I had to realise that I didn't want to study law and I didn't want to be a lawyer. If I was honest with myself I had picked it because I believed it would be a good way to make money and to be sure that I would never have to scrape together pennies to pay the phone bill. It was a back up plan. It was hard to give up anyway. Mostly because my mother (a single parent) had slogged her guts out to give me the opportunity to go to university in the first place. But I did it. And I've never regretted it.

    I'm a big believer that books write you, not the other way around. It's not that they aren't hard work but it's work you want to do.

    Anyway, don't be too hard on yourself. It's ok to put something aside and go back to it later on to see if it's something you still want.

    I have always wanted to write a book (and not just have one in the draft form from 10 years ago) but now, I kind of like the blog. And not just as a vehicle to other writing gigs, but on its own. It suits me. Maybe it suits you too.


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