We begin with a dream. It might be a pipe dream to some, a lofty one to others, but to us it is a vision and we create it from desire.
That desire is often seated in purpose. Our vision might be to entertain, to enlighten, to aid or to release. It might be to shed light on a social issue or challenge. It might be to work through an issue or challenge. Whatever fuels our dream is unique to us, and typically is very personal and private, meaning that our specific dream wouldn’t fuel the passion and discipline necessary to make that dream a reality in others. But it does inspire those things in us. The desire to see that dream fulfilled makes us determined. It takes us to places we didn’t even realize we would go. We forfeit other things, make sacrifices and dare to dream when those without that purpose fueling their actions would have given up and moved on.
So what happens to us when our dreams die? We who are dedicated and devoted and have made those sacrifices and forfeited for them?
Some of us get stuck right there. We get frustrated and angry. We give up and stew in the fact that we gave all and still our dreams were denied. We bitch about the unfairness of it all, and sometimes we despair. Our total focus has been on making the dream a reality, and when we accept that it isn’t going to happen, then despair sets in. And again, some slide into that pit of despair and move no further. They elect to replay the events leading up to the death of the dream over and over and over. And that becomes their new reality. They progress no further and blame all that can be blamed for their loss. But not once do they move ahead, and it doesn’t occur to them to continue to dream, to find a new vision. To invest elsewhere.
So some of us get stuck on this hamster wheel and some of us despair, and both of those reactions, while human for a time, become our undoing. Both cause us to still in the water and prevent us from reaching our potential and fulfilling our purpose.
The death of a dream is never easy. It’s hellish and can be a horrendous obstacle to overcome. And yet we know the alternative to doing the work to overcome it: the hamster wheel–spinning and getting nowhere–or despair, which no one else need bother describe. We’ve all endured it.
Spinning and despair–who of sound mind could desire more of this? Comparatively speaking, the work looks like a picnic. It isn’t, of course. It makes demands on us–some welcome, some not–but we play the cards we’re dealt. And so we accept that this dream is dead and we decide spinning and despair isn’t for us. We opt to mourn and move on. But move on to what?
And here is where many of us endure the second place of getting stuck. We flounder and seek and get mired in the muck.
Often, the process in the death of a dream thus far is a variation of:
Confusion → Denial → Disappointment → Frustration → Anger → Grief → Acceptance
And all that leads us right back to . . .
Only this is a different confusion. It isn’t about where you’ve been. It’s about where to go next. What to do next. What is our new dream? Typically, we’ve been so invested in the old one that we resist letting go and that makes moving on impossible. We’re so busy looking back that any forward movement we make has us stumbling into potholes, tromping through mud puddles, veering into ditches and bouncing off brick walls.
We’re running into more obstacles because we’re so busy looking back that we’re not looking ahead.
And once we grasp that, we have the first major opportunity for growth and new dreams.
So when a dream dies, we work through it until we reach a point where we accept that what we dreamed is in the past and now we must look ahead, create new dreams.
This requires faith. In our judgment, our abilities and our purpose. And faith can be scarce because we believed we were doing what we were meant to do last time, and that didn’t work out. And this is where character comes in. Character and an unshakable faith that our perspective and view is limited and if we were able to back off and get a broader view we would see that a greater purpose lies ahead. Maybe our dream was too limited. Maybe our growth expanded our opportunities and our abilities exceeded our original dream. Maybe the original dream was preparation for more. We had to gain experience and insights that now can aid us in achieving our true purpose. Which means that the purpose in our first dream was fulfilled; different perhaps from our vision of it, but fulfilled in the broader sense of life’s purpose.
The problem with us is that we don’t have perfect perception or understanding–not even of ourselves. So faith that we’re taking steps toward our destiny and doing our part to envision dreams and manifest them in reality has to be factored into the process. We dream what we believe are huge dreams. Perhaps little things but ones that make huge differences, if not to the masses, then to specific individuals. And the importance of those dreams should never be underestimated.
Yet too often we are mired and stay mired in confusion about what to do next. We flutter and fret and we don’t do the one thing we should do:
We don’t stop and look at what’s left.
The key to the next step is in knowing what’s left after the death of the dream and in being grateful for the good in those things. Being mired in mourning a loss doesn’t make way for gratitude of what is still there. Gratitude and appreciation are essential to balance and harmony; we all know of this direct connection, this immutable link, and yet we still wallow in the mire.
When we look at what’s left, we see that which has endured. And when we’re grateful for the good that has endured, when we acknowledge its value to us and others, then that is our new direction. To create more that will endure and be good–blessings to us and others–and that is the foundation upon which you create your new dreams. It’s solid and firm. It’s endured. It’s good and worthy of your investment. Worthy of that next leap of faith.
With all of the industry changes, I’ve been receiving a lot of questions that ask what lines or imprints or publishers or specific editors offer the safest harbors right now. These are natural questions. Human questions. But ones that separate you from the reason that you are a writer. The truth is there are safe harbors. But that shouldn’t bring distress. There never have been any.
Writers are writers for a purpose: to share insights on the human condition. Some are tasked to experience and write stories of their trials and challenges and how they overcame them constructively. Some are tasked to shine light on our collective monsters in the closet so that we better understand and overcome challenges associated therewith. Some are tasked to write to entertain, offering a reprieve and respite. Some to comfort, inform, enlighten; to prove there’s light at the end of specific tunnels, to open minds that were closed.
The reasons and purposes are as unique as the writers, defined more specifically by them.
So does the death of a dream mean the writer stops writing?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Did the desire and purpose for writing endure? Is it good?
If so, then perhaps the death of this dream is merely the completion of it. Perhaps death is actually redefining. Making way for the new dream that will expand upon the existing one.
The answer to whether or not you continue to write, or what you write–your original dream or your next dream–lies in what is left that you consider enduring and good and worthy of your purpose–your time and life.
The seeds for what’s next spring from there and with focus and attention–you looking ahead with an open mind and a dedicated heart–they will sprout and you will get a more clear view of the path
ahead. You’ll dare to again dream and embrace this new direction, walk down this new road with a spring in your step, believing on faith that what is ahead on it is better for all that you’ve learned on the journey through the first dream. You’re wiser, more adept, looking at the bigger picture and broader view. Your abilities are expanded, you have experience and expertise now you lacked then. All these things and more are the natural outgrowths–your rewards, if you will, for pulling yourself out of the mired muck and daring to take that leap of faith and invest again.
For daring to observe the view and seek your next dream.*❧