What are your dreams? How strongly do you go after them? How much do other things get in the way?
I wanted to write the Great American Novel when I was younger. It is a dream many people have. I spent quite a bit of time on it. I went on writing vacations. I took part-time jobs, leaving full-time work so that I could write more.
The best piece of advice I ever got on writing was to just sit down and do it.
It can get boring sitting down and doing it. I rarely got to the point of writing consistently. Other things got in the way. I wanted time to pursue different activities and relationships, too. Writing the Great American Novel takes time – a lot of time.
A third of my novel is complete. There are two pretty good chapters, a number of chapters that need complete rewrites and a few chapters were never started. I have not worked on it in 15 years. The dream fell by the wayside.
There is a saying that to become expert at something, it takes 10,000 hours of practice. That is a lot of time. For this dream, I did not have the single-mindedness needed to get it done. Life got in the way. Many times there were silly distractions that kept me from writing. Other times it was different interests getting in the way. These other interests rarely seemed as exciting as the idea of writing the Great American Novel. Yet, they were an important aspect of what I wanted out of life.
It takes work for our dreams to become reality. Working for larger goals often leads us to neglect other areas of our lives. How we look at this question depends on the interest level in the dream we are pursuing. What makes us happy? If working toward our dreams makes us happy, we will be focused. We will end up neglecting other areas of our lives. Yet, if the dream interests us enough, we are likely to accept that we are missing or neglecting other parts of life.
There were many times when I questioned my interest in writing. The sitting down and doing it was not happening. It was easier to spend time on other aspirations. Yet, writing the Great American Novel had become such a “Holy Grail” for me, such an icon in my life, that it was difficult to comprehend the value of other interests.
As the lack of focused writing continued, however, the realization gradually took hold. I recognized my other desires were important, and they were something I was more willing to work toward. These non-writing activities and relationships were helping me enjoy life more.
It is nice to look back at old dreams and even revise them at times. Today, writing these blogs is a revision of the earlier dream. It is more practical, and definitely does not take the time that a novel would. I get enjoyment seeing my writing in print.
It is important to go after our dreams. Yet, if you are not working on them, you may want to sit back a moment, take stock, and ask, “Are there other dreams, unstated, unrecognized, that I may be more interested in pursuing?”
Reggie E., MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.