Friday, April 18, 2014

Chasing A Dream

Two years ago, I met a boy at a dance. We small-talked. "What's your name? So, where do you go to school? Got any hobbies? How many brothers and sisters do you have?" Eventually he asked me, "What do you want to do after school?"
With most people, I shrug. My dream job isn't safe, normal, or easily attainable. I'll tell them I want to go to college and see what's our there before making any decisions. But for some reason, I told him the truth. "I want to be a writer."
"Oh, so you want to write a book when you grow up?"
I didn't. I still don't. What I wanted to do was write a book that night. The dance was set to go late and I needed to be up early in the morning. But there should be enough time to squeeze in a half page or so. A few months after this I finished my first book.
At age six, being an author was a wish, right up there with paleontologists and ballerinas. At nine, I began scribbling down stories in a little red notebook. The wish was now a dream. At twelve, it was a goal. While my friends played ridiculously unbeatable games on our class laptops, I sat there googling 'writing advice for kids'.
By fifteen, how old I was when I went to that dance, it was a goal. I'm now seventeen. I plan to finish six books before I graduate high school. I'm on my fourth right now. If everything goes well (yeah right) I'll complete this before the calendar year ends. If it doesn't, I'll keep working.
A few weeks ago, I asked another boy what he wanted to do after high school. He shrugged and said, "Maybe an actor." I stared at him. Actor isn't a shrugging job. I have a few friends who seriously intend to act for a living. They're heavily involved in both school and community theater. This boy didn't take a single theater class. If he'd ever been in a community play, he didn't mention it in front of me. Whenever I turned the conversation to movies and TV, he'd say "That's a good show" or "I didn't like it much" and leave it at that. He'd never rattled off a list of his favorite actors and what he admired about them.
If you want to be an accountant or marketing director or human resource manager, you can simply go to college and then fill out some job applications. But anything creative takes years of dreaming and work. Writers. Actors. Singers. Dancers. Painters.
There are exceptions. I have a neighbor who took up sculpting in her sixties. Now she travels around the country with her art. Things that don't required physical talent, like writing and drawing, can be developed later in life. But I truly believe that the best start early.
I may not get published until I'm thirty. Or later. But a thirty year old with fifteen years of experience is better than a thirty year old who began writing after graduating college. Even if I spend those first fifteen years learning how not to write a novel, that time won't be wasted.
My first novel taught me how to come up with a story idea and stick with it. The second one taught me how to sit down and pound out words. The third taught me how to work through writer's block. I'm not sure what the fourth one will teach me, but I suspect it's "Spend more time working on the story than wondering what people will think."
If I don't hold a copy of my book in my hands until I'm sixty six, it will still be worth it. It's never to late to start but you do need to get started. I truly believe that the best get going young.

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