#OwnYourOwn a hashtag to encourage and inspire marginalized voices was started by the ever-amazing @gildedspine who hosted a Twitter dialogue on June 20th. Look for other blog entries this week; here’s my contribution.
Writers are a dreamy.
We talk a lot about dreams. Dreams of a creative life. A writing life. Dreams of seeing our books published book in our favorite bookstores. Dreams of cover reveals and book birthdays. Dreams of Hollywood deals and of telling our stories and of changing the world with our words. Even a small corner of it. Even our community.
Dreams are Good. Capital Good.
They spark revolutions.
They light fires.
They burn down demagogues.
Dreams allow us to reach beyond ourselves, break the bonds of gravity. Stretch our minds and spirits to the stars.
But here’s the trouble with dreams, especially for marginalized voices. Sometimes those dreams crash head-on into reality.
Bang, face-first into the real world where the characters in the books on those shelves at your beloved bookstore, more often than not, don’t look like you. Where the face of the princess isn’t your face. Where, of course, the superhero can’t be you—doesn’t have your name, your hair, your orientation, your religion, your disability, your “otherness.” And the love interest? Keep looking.
And this is when you’re faced with a choice. This is where the road splits and you decide if you’re going to walk down a different path, find a surer thing. Or if you’re going to wield your ambition like a machete and strike down the twisted, thorny branches that tangle your path. You may get cut; you may bleed. And the end of the path might not be what you expect or what you want. Time to screw your courage to the sticking place and take the first step.
But here’s the other thing people don’t always tell you: dreams don’t have an expiration date.
Maybe the road less traveled isn’t the one you can take today. Maybe you’re not ready. Maybe you need to do more homework. Maybe you need to take a step back and breathe and listen to the voices all around that are there to lift you up if you turn your ear to them. Maybe you need to take a step back and listen to the voice inside yourself. All of that is okay. Be deliberate. That’s part of your journey.
Perhaps you will write the Great American Novel when you’re 20 and find the dream agent and find the publishing house and be the “overnight “success. Maybe it happens when you’re 30. Maybe when you’re, ahem, older. Your path might be long and winding and other ambitions might prolong the fruition of your Dream. And that is all okay, too.
Sometimes the book of your heart rests on the tip of your tongue and the pads of your fingertips. Sometimes, it lies deeper.
And either way, that dream requires work. And more work. Sometimes it’s work just to keep the dream alive in your imagination when you’re slogging through what life throws at you. And sometimes it’s facing the reality that the writing isn’t good enough, not yet. But you can get it there. That might require blood and sweat and tears. And years. And sometimes the dream seems so close, yet elusive, just beyond your grasp.
Exhaust the possibilities so that you can face the future with no regrets.
In other words, do the work.
Rilke called love the work for which all other work is but preparation.
Writing is Love. Writing may well be one of the great loves of your life. Honor that love. Hold fast to your ambitions. Stare down the odds. Be brave.