Since high school, I’ve dreamed of becoming a published author. The way has been filled with successes and disappointments. Over fifteen years after I started writing my first novel, I’ve now signed with Pelican Book Group to publish my debut novel.
Fifteen years is a long time to keep a dream alive, yet it’s certainly not the longest wait out there. And really, I’m still waiting in other areas because I have more dreams I’d like to see come true. (Dreamers never quit, do they?) Whatever the wait, these tips help see my dreams through, and I trust they’ll do the same for you!
1. Join a group. No, like, really join. It’s one thing to pay membership dues or browse through a group’s Facebook posts, but it’s another thing, a more rewarding thing, to start building relationships with the other members. Post questions in the online forums, comment on industry blogs, find out if anyone lives near you to start meeting up in person.
2. Don’t pretend everything is okay when it isn’t. When you’re facing discouragement, your support system needs to know because they’re the ones who’ll speak truth into your heart, who will remind you of the value of your dream and the strength of your God. And let me tell you: they will preach. But if you try to battle it alone, you’re likely to only get more discouraged. A godly group of friends who have been inspired by your dreams and touched by your talent, however, will preach truth. In the most loving way. And if you don’t respond to that, they’ll take a sterner approach (at least, that’s what has happened to me a couple of times when I insisted on wallowing a bit…)
3. Find a small step forward. Back in high school art class, we only had something like half an hour, maybe forty-five minutes, to work on our paintings each day, yet I never remember seeing that as a disadvantage. In fact, piecing up the work helped me focus and take my time to do my best work. I sometimes have to remind myself of that when I paint now because I have this one-sitting-and-done mentality that makes me rush sloppily. You might not have half an hour or forty-five minutes, but the same idea applies. There is something you can do today to make progress on your dream. The big picture doesn’t develop overnight. Instead, it’s created one small brushstroke at a time.
4. Rearrange your schedule or your work space. I’ve found that when I work on my writing in a new place or at a different time, my creativity surges. When I was drafting my latest manuscript, I started writing into the night. After ten, my dogs slept so they weren’t disturbing me every few minutes (I have a rascal of a hound), the world was dark and less distracting, fewer emails and Facebook notifications came in (though Twitter was another beast…). I finished drafting the 350ish pages in 8 weeks. But whether your dream is a creative endeavor or not, switching up the time or place where you work might result in you finding sharper focus and new perspectives.
5. Enlist a pro. I have a dream of having two well-behaved dogs. When I’ve tried all the tricks I know to coax loyal, mannered dogs out of my two rascals, I have two choices: I can give up, or I can get help. (Oh, there is a third option, isn’t there? Keep trying the same failed tactics and getting the same results.) It doesn’t necessarily take hours and boatloads of money to get the help I need. One in-home session with a trainer worked wonders. I’ve done the same with my writing. About six years ago, after polishing my novel the best I could with the help of critique partners, I hired a freelance editor to review my first three chapters and synopsis. She provided suggestions which I was able to apply to the entire manuscript, and the next agent after I did the rewrite offered me representation.
6. Take the pressure off. A key moment in my writing life came when I accepted that God can use my writing whether or not I reach my goal of publication. Whatever your dream is, trust the God who gave it to you. The pressure to make something succeed is not on you. It is all completely and entirely on God. Do what you can in faith that it doesn’t depend on you and that God has a better plan than you do.
What are your tips for keeping a dream alive during a long wait?