When Your Goals Seem So Big
This is how you take it one day at a time.
Everybody has a dream. We all envision a certain kind of life where we ultimately get to do what we want — and actually get paid for doing it. I have a dream to make full-time writing work for me and to never look back. To just keep writing and building a new life for me and my daughter.
These days, I feel very lucky to be in the middle of making that dream a reality, but I’d be lying to pretend that I also don’t get overwhelmed by all the work I still have to do.
Some dreams we never even try to live out because they feel too big in a daunting, insurmountable way. But those goals we do choose actively pursue? They can still get pretty damn big pretty damn fast, until they feel completely out of hand.
What was I thinking? This shit is too tough.
The inconvenient reality is that so few dreams come true by themselves. Most dreams take real work and effort to come alive.
And not just the fun montage kind of work you do while humming along to upbeat 80s music. Work work. Boring work. Long hours, late nights, grunt work.
It’s not until you start putting in all of the work that you can begin to understand what it takes to actually get it done. I’ve leaned so much since I started going for my dream.
Your dream job is still a job.
Whatever you do for a living, there will always be some sort of monotony. My biggest hangup seems to revolve around the fact that there’s always more work to be done. It never ends.
When I first began writing last spring, I wrote more than 60 posts a month. It was crazy. It was unsustainable. But I always told myself it was temporary. I kept believing it wouldn’t be forever, and that helped me trudge past the overwhelm I felt that I had to keep waking up to write more stories again and again and again.
I also get bogged down by worries. Like what if I run out of ideas to write about? What if my ability to write anything at all just fizzles out? People could get sick of me regardless.
So many little worries can all add up to make even your dream job seem too big, too boring, or too impossible. There’s no way around it — even your dream job must repeat.
I want to write full-time for a living. Actually, that’s what I’m doing right now. But in the beginning, I didn’t know if it was even possible. And even now, I don’t know the full extent of what might still be yet to come.
I’ve got to keep writing to find out. At least, if I want to be a writer, and not simply be able to say that I was one.
You’ve got to keep going through the crummy parts to get to the good stuff.
Nobody talks enough about this stage (that’s impossible), but it’s something we’ve all got to get through to enjoy the other side. When you’re trying to be a writer, there are going to be a lot of down days. Writing for peanuts. Feeling rejected. Wondering when your big break will come.
Of course, not everybody catches a big break, and none of us can know what’s around the corner. This is the toughest stage, because there’s just no way to know what’s ahead. I think the best thing you can do is stay positive, and open yourself up to more possibilities as they unfold.
My initial dream was to just get by as a writer. To write whatever I want and pay the bills doing it. I say knock on wood because it’s happening, but I don’t know exactly where it will go. Back in December, I was contacted by a literary agent about a book, and I was open to exploring that road.
However, things didn’t work out with that agent. So that new journey was placed on a pause.
More evidence that success is no straight line.
But I suspect a lot of people believe that writing success is linear. One direction. Up and up and up. Though that’s not actually how it works. One good month doesn’t guarantee another. Writing one book doesn’t mean it will be a bestseller.
That’s why you have to keep at it. If this is what you love to do, the idea is that you’ll keep on doing it.
Any amount of success can come with mixed feelings.
I quit my job in early December because the hours weren’t worth the pay. It was probably the scariest decision I’ve ever made — even more frightening than keeping my daughter and becoming a single mom.
Quitting my job means I’m committed to forging my own path and taking the good with the bad. But I never realized before how much of a mixed bag my feelings would be with even a little success.
Sometimes, I feel guilty. Guilty writing about money when I’ve never really had any until now. Guilty believing I’m worth my pay. I worry about other writers who might think my dream means I believe myself to be better than them. I don’t.
If it seems I’m writing as if my life depends upon it, I am. It does. But growing up in poverty does strange things to your growth mindset. It makes you think you don’t deserve it. It makes you scared to try.
So I’m really proud of myself for following this dream to write, but I’m not actually used to feeling that kind of pride. With my background, that kind of pride feels immature and self-indulgent. Despite it being perfectly natural and even healthy.
Everybody has a dream, but not everybody will do the work.
Making a dream come true isn’t like winning the lottery. You have to do more than buy a ticket to play. Following our dreams takes real effort, and to a great extent, nobody else will ever really know how hard you’ve worked to get to wherever you happen to be.
Of course, you will know. And that’s what you’ve got to hang onto.
Some dreams seem much too big to pursue. And many dreams seem so damn big once you’re in the thick of it… that you feel too gobsmacked to even keep going.
But the only way to get anywhere really good is to accept everything that comes along with it. Just take it one more day at a time.
One more page.
One more story.
Hit publish again.
You've got this.