Learning to Wait for Impossible Dreams
This post was originally published in the March 2019 installment of my WITCHES & WONDERMENTS newsletter. To sign up for future newsletters, go here.
When I was in middle and high school, bad things would always happen at school dances. I don't know why but like clockwork one of my crushes would tell me they liked someone else, or I'd get into a fight with a friend and end up crying in the bathroom or something, something would always happen! It wasn't until I was much older that I realized me expecting something bad to happen would open the doors for something bad to happen. I would wait for school dances to roll around an anxious mess, I would be tense, cranky and more prone to snap at people and cry because I was expecting a mess. So I created a mess. It was subconscious of course, and sometimes things really did just happen because that's how life is, but sometimes it was me picking a fight, me creating drama so that the thing I was dreading would go ahead and happen already. I wanted to get ahead of the pain I was SO SURE was on it's way anyway, that I hurried it along with my own actions.
In college, I was able to put a name to that invisible something bad I knew was coming: anxiety. I tried to take control of those situations, subconsciously, so that I could avoid being hurt by someone or something else. If anyone's gonna hurt me, it's gonna be me! LOL which, you know, isn't healthy or helpful. Slowly, I began to learn to steer my thoughts in another direction, to realize why I was self-sabotaging and letting my fears get the best of me. Little did I know that I would have to deal with these feelings all over again when I became an author. Thankfully I had some practice, but I still have a lot to learn.
Sometimes, getting anything related to your dream feels impossible. I remember about a year before I signed with my agent, seeing her clients together in a picture and thinking I would never be cool enough or good enough to be one of them. I told myself it was impossible. So much so, that even though I clearly wanted to be at this agency, I never even queried anyone there. I was too scared of what would happen. "They'd never like my writing," I told myself and since I never sent it to them, I was ultimately right. How could they like something they never even got the chance to read? Fear of rejection, of something going wrong, and the desire to control a situation that would be out of my hands if I DID send them my book, kept me from pursuing something I really wanted. I was standing in my own way.
Eventually I did sign with that very same agent (because she requested my work during a contest, imagine my shock) and it was my first lesson in impossible dreams: you have to attempt to reach them, to reach them. And now, as I wait for another impossible dream to come true, I'm learning the lessons all over again. While I wait for news on a book that means a lot to me, I've been tempted to self-defeat. To become that middle schooler again and tell myself "something will go wrong," or that querying writer who thought, "I want this too badly, so there's no way I can get it." But then I remind myself: it already did happen once. So it can happen again.
So many times we forget that the things we dreamed of doing: being brave enough to admit we want to be authors, or getting that one chapter right, or finishing a book, or getting an agent, or a book deal felt impossible once and many of us have done at least one of these things. We forget the thing we wished so badly for once, happened for us, and we move on to a newer, bigger, shinier dream. A dream that feels impossible now. And we forget about our past selves, and the things we got a hold of that we never thought we would. It's funny too because when something really bad happens, it leaves us open and raw to the possibility of ANYTHING bad happening now, so why can't the same be true for something great? I want you to really believe in your impossible dream, to let yourself believe you're worthy and that it can happen for you. Don't tell yourself "nobody wants this book" or "this book won't sell" or "no agent is going to sign me ever." These are all lies we tell ourselves to fill in the blanks while we wait, so change your language of waiting.
Instead say, "this book hasn't found the right home, yet", or "It hasn't sold yet, but there's still a strong possibility it will, " or "I just haven't connected with the right agent/editor with the right story. But it's going to happen." Be mindful of your internal language, of what you tell yourself and why. Do you really believe this book isn't good? Or is that what you're telling yourself because it's better to hurt yourself than to let someone else hurt you? Are you trying to take back control in a situation that is no longer in your hands? Don't lie to yourself. Wanting something badly is okay, it's okay to hope, it's okay to feel disappointed when things don't work out. It's not okay to admit defeat when you've only just stepped in the ring.
Part of being a writer means being vulnerable. You leave yourself open for rejection constantly. Once you're done writing and revising, there's nothing you can do about that rejection. What you can do, is control how you wait. Control the words you tell yourself about your book and your worth and your chances. You can control how you define your impossible dream and eventually, with enough practice, you'll realize it was never impossible at all.
Need some more inspiration? Listen to the latest episode of my podcast WRITE OR DIE!