Following Your Dreams: A Manual for Rank Beginners
I have a crunchy-technical writing post for you guys on Wednesday, don’t worry. It’s filled with witty and incisive commentary on the five act structure…as well as the word fuck, which is probably more what you’ve come to expect from this blog than witty commentary.
It also has charts in it. Woo, charts!
But in my interwebberly wanderings today, I came across this post on Salon. While I don’t precisely agree with the sentiment espoused in the title–after all, who doesn’t dream of giving the day job a certain protuberant finger and setting sail for the Great Bohemian Unknown?–the reality is a lot more complicated than the daily ‘have faith in yourself’ and ‘follow your dreams’ style platitudes I see plastered pretty much everywhere two aspiring writers string words together.
You should follow your dreams. Absolutely, you should. If you don’t do this, you will be a sad unhappy little person, and a small part of you will die slowly inside.
But you should follow your dreams like you’d follow anything–with full knowledge of what the fuck is about to happen to you.
My first step, in following your dreamsitude:
1) WORK HARD.
If you want to follow your dreams–change careers, explore your abilities in the arts, etc.–there is going to be some point in your life where you are working like a sonofabitch. That’s just how it is. You can’t quit your day job and trust happiness and sunshine to sustain you. Unless you have somebody willing to support you–and that’s nothing to be ashamed of–you’re going to find a time in your life where you are A) working 40+ hours a week and B) writing a novel, painting your pictures, inventing robotic can-openers, whatever you feel your untapped potential may be. You do one to pay the bills and one out of love. There are times when you’ll have to do more of one and less of the other because you DO need to sleep at some point, or your family members have forgotten what your face looks like, and that’s okay. Because you do what you can. And it’s hard. But you’re working, dammit, EITHER way. Your day job isn’t an excuse to NOT follow your dreams–at least, not most of the time–but you’ve got to pay bills. So make time.
2) BE PRACTICAL.
Sunshine and love aren’t enough. Ever read Hunger, by Knut Hamsun? You should. If you just up and quit without proper planning, this might be you. And it’s very difficult to create a masterwork when your pencil disappears and you can’t afford a second one, or when you run out of Pthalo Blue and you only have thirty-seven cents in your bank account. You might enjoy the martyrdom of starving for the sake of art, but art won’t appreciate it, and art certainly won’t get done while you’re busy lying in the T Building stairwell hallucinating about your Aunt Tillie’s homemade Moravian sugar cookies. If you want to follow your dreams, for God’s sake, PLAN. Don’t quit your day job until you’re fairly certain you can support yourself some other way.
3) BE WILLING TO SUFFER.
Can you change careers and expect to continue paying the mortgage on your $750,000 house? Probably not. I mean, you were making beaucoup money doing what you did before because, I’m assuming, you trained long and hard for it and worked your way up the ladder. What makes you think you won’t have to do the same thing in the arts? You don’t publish your first book and become a bestseller overnight–at least, most folks don’t. So be ready to sell your Porsche. Be ready to decide between your smartphone and your cable bill. Because, remember how it was when you first started working? It’s about to be that way again, or worse. But, if you’ve listened to me through steps 1 and 2, you should be able to afford food and shelter, transportation and a little fun now and again. Because you’ve planned for this. You were willing to kiss that Porsche goodbye, and accept the loss of your champagne filled hot tub. For art, dammit. FOR ART.
A note: if you can’t part with the champagne filled hot tub, you might want to reconsider following your dreams. Your dreams may be a champagne filled hot tub, and you might be living them already.
And a bonus number 4:
4) ARE MY DREAMS REALLY MY DREAMS?
This is a question you should ask yourself constantly, at all points during this process. Do I want to write for a living, or do I want to BE a writer? Do I love acting, or do I just love the idea of my name up in lights?
Separate yourself from your ego. Everybody wants to be famous, yet almost nobody is. If you’re dream-following for fame or money, you’re not going to be happy in that studio apartment, living on V8 and canned beans. And, if you keep asking yourself these questions, you’ll hopefully realize it before you’ve done your life too much permanent damage. Nobody close to you cares if you’re a poet or an accountant. They just want you to smile every once in a while.
I had some more bonus points, such as:
5) DON’T SLAM YOUR WORK-DOORS. CLOSE THEM GENTLY.
6) BE WILLING TO PROMOTE YOURSELF.
7) HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.
8) KNOW SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE, WHO CAN HELP BAIL YOUR ASS OUT.
9) BEFORE YOU QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, MAKE SURE YOU’RE GOOD ENOUGH.
Or, my personal favorite:
10) SELL OUT SLIGHTLY. IT’S HOW YOU MAKE MONEY.
But they all seem pretty straightforward, so, you know.
Anyway, harder write-fi for you Wednesday. Just some thoughts.