Kill your dreams? Wait, what?
I thought I needed to pursue my dreams! Isn't seeking to make my dreams come true what it's all about?
When you were young, what were your dreams, your visions for your life? One of mine was to have the romantic life of a famous novelist. I was ten when this vision came to me. I had NO idea what it really meant to be a novelist. I simply had a romantic notion that I could spend my days in a quiet, simple room, where I would write every day for hours, creating amazing stories out of my pure imagination. Of course, the books I wrote would be instant successes and I'd never have to do anything else with my life but be a writer.
And while that dream still holds some elements that I would love to incorporate into my life today, I no longer seek to solely be a novelist. Write, yes. Novelist, maybe. Just be a writer and nothing else? Not going to happen.
I know that it's not practical to pursue the life of a writer without a sideline of income (or without an unexpected inheritance that would keep me independently wealthy). One MUST be practical. After all, I live in a world of facts, not dreams.
The point is, you can't blindly follow your dreams without making some adjustments here or there. This can be both a good thing and a source of grief.
Take my experience this week. My husband and I are looking to buy a home in the next year or two. We're only looking, because we wouldn't be able to buy anything until 2019, after our lease on our rental has run out. We have more than a year until then.
We both are keeping our eyes open and on my own I found several homes online that I loved. The thing is, the homes I found were based on an old dream I had. A dream filled with longings and desires from years ago. It's that dream I held onto when I thought to buy a home.
When my husband considered my selections, he appreciated my enthusiasm and desire for a beautiful home for us, but his response was not as enthusiastic as I'd hoped. He's looking for small. The houses I liked were large. He's looking for cheap. The houses I liked were on the high end of our budget. He's looking for "move in ready." The houses I liked need work.
I felt hurt at first. I wanted us to have the same dream. But maybe my long-time dream has no place in our lives at this point in time.
As the opportunity for buying my dream home faded along with my hopes, a moment of grief took their place.
I said to him: "It's just that I've had this long-time dream, one that goes way back, about the kind of home I want to live in." He nodded. "I know. I have a dream like that, too. I want a beautiful old large house we can make our own."
But when it comes down to it, he said, what are we doing this for? Are we looking to settle down and put all our time and money into a home? Or are we doing this for freedom?
He was right. Freedom was what we agreed on. We'd buy a small home with a very small mortgage because we want to put funds aside for traveling and spend more time living and less time working.
Both of our old, long-time dreams couldn't be our current ones. We were seeking a new life together that required a different set of criteria.
I moved past my grief and felt grateful. It was not time for my dream... yet. But that didn't mean I had to give up on it entirely. I just needed to rewrite it.
There's a well-known piece of advice for writers: "Kill your darlings." It might seem harsh, and killing your dreams may sound terrible. But there's a reason for doing it.
What it means is that as a writer, you need to get rid of your most precious and self-indulgent passages for the greater good of your literary work.
What this does is:
- Strengthen your characters and plot.
- Improve the overall quality of your writing.
- Refine your self-discipline.
We need to be careful to not be a slave to our self-indulgent dreams.
If I had my way and we bought one of the homes I found, we'd be deep in debt and sinking all our time and funds into it. Yes, it would be "my perfect home," but what would be the cost? We wouldn't be free to just go away, live somewhere else for a while. We wouldn't have the luxury to take time off work without being concerned that we can't pay our bills.
By killing off the old dream, we:
- Strengthen our success by keeping our eye on the goal of freedom.
- We work as a team, pulling together to improve the quality of the outcome.
- We re-dedicate ourselves to the original goal and don't get side-tracked into what we'd love to have rather than what's practical and reasonable.
In this world of reality, you can't always have what you want. But that's because sometimes you need to pick what you want more. Maybe those dreams from your past don't serve you anymore. Maybe it's time to make new dreams and replace the old ones with something that offers something else, something you didn't consider when you were younger, less experienced.
I'm lucky to have a husband who has two feet on the ground and helps me to keep my eye on the prize. Together, we can make anything we want happen.