When I was a little girl, I had a plethora of very specific dreams. First, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but only if I could play with animals all day and didn’t have to perform actual surgery. Fail. Then, I decided I could become a musician and go on tour with Aerosmith, ignoring the fact that I have stage fright and would rather sing in the shower. Alone. Semi-fail because while I didn’t completely let got of that one, the dream I’d always had, no matter what distracted me along the way, was to be an author. I’m talking NYT bestselling, critically-acclaimed, buzz-worthy kind of author. The kind of writer whose words stick with you long after you’ve finished the last page. I longed to walk into a book store and see my living, breathing creation on the young adult shelf, in between Neil Gaiman and John Green. I wanted my work to be a part of someone’s formative years, just as so many of those amazing authors had been in mine. It was more than a dream. It was my lifeline.
Through the years, the dream semi-shifted, mostly because honestly, I needed the money. I started out writing songs but when the singing and guitar-playing thing fizzled, I was hired to do different variations of the author-thing. I’ll admit, taking some of those jobs left me feeling so far away from achieving my actual dream that some days, I just wanted to give up. One job snowballed into another and another, and so on. I wrote everything from toy descriptions for companies to a monologue for a pilot. Greeting card phrases for a card company. Books in three different reading levels for young readers. Blurbs for romance authors’ jacket covers. I mean, you name it, I wrote it or contributed to it. No joke. Pieces of me are sprinkled around the globe. Places you might never think to look. Cereal boxes? Well, no. But you catch my drift.
Even with all of this, one thing still lacking is the initial dream: seeing my book baby out in the world. In fact, with all the time spent on trying to get a foot in the door with these other jobs, I barely had time to write my own stuff at all. After finishing a book that I was *sure* would be “the one,” I decided it was time to find an agent. After a lot of research, I queried. The wait was excruciating and the rejections poured in. I never heard NO so much in my life and it started to take its toll on my self-worth. Was I good enough? I had doubts. A lot of them. Then, one day, an agent took a special interest in me. She made me feel like it was happening – things were in motion. Clouded by my oblivious determination, I ignored a nagging feeling in my gut I should’ve listened to sooner. This is where my life would take such a drastic turn, I’d never be the same.
Something felt off for months but I couldn’t put my finger on it. After a lengthy time and no response, I discovered the agent disappeared without so much as an email of explanation. I was beyond devastated. It had to be a sign, right? I failed and from that moment on, I would never write again. For days. Weeks. Months. I was sure it was my final chapter and I’d have to settle for something less than “the big dream.” THE END. So, I had a baby, did the mom thing, cried a lot, and tried to figure out my true path in life because it obviously wasn’t writing. Failing was hard but letting go of the big dream was even harder. It took awhile, but eventually, I realized quitting isn’t part of my DNA. As Norman Vaughan suggests, “Dream big and dare to fail.” That’s what separates those who make it from those who don’t. So I picked myself back up, and I wrote. A grocery list. A short story. Anything to get my groove back. And one day, when the tears dried up and the devastation all faded, I got it.
That was four years ago. I wrote more than ever before, took on more specific jobs (i.e. ghostwriting books) that might help me further my expertise, spent time developing contacts and friendships, and overall, focused on being a better me. Looking back, I see that failure as my proverbial fork-in-the-road. Maybe it was inevitable that I take a big fall back then so now, I can truly appreciate what pursuing “the big dream” means.
As I sit here on the couch cushion, the place I do all my writing, I notice where the seams have molded to the shape of me. And I sit back and think about the fact that even after all of that pain, here I am. I now have the dream agent. A book on sub. Another with the dream agent for her editorial eye. This is exactly where I wanted to be, exactly where I worked so hard to be. Maybe I wouldn’t be here now if all of that hadn’t happened. Failing is absolutely crucial to succeeding. Without it, you can never fully appreciate how completely amazing “the big dream” really is when you get there. Or, in my case, almost there.
But thanks to failing, I’m close. And that’s good enough for me.
(Image via iStock)