Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dismaying Story #9: Can't Dream Without Him

Dear Andrew,

I have always wanted to be a novelist. I've taken evening writing courses, written short stories (a couple of which have even been published), completed one novel and started another. This has taken me several years, sandwiched between a full-time job and all the regular stuff that comes with a husband, a house and two very busy children. I still try to squeeze in a little writing each day. My query letters bring only rejections, though, and it's getting harder and harder to stay motivated, especially since my husband thinks it's all a waste of time. His attitude really upsets me. How can I convince him this is important to me?

Signed, My Dream Is Slipping

Dear Dreamer,

What you need is a big roll of duct tape. You know, the silvery gray stuff that is the handyman's (whoops, handyperson's) best friend. Grab a roll and hang onto it for a moment -- we'll get back to it.

I'm a huge believer in having big, bold, beautiful life dreams. They add spice to our lives, give us yet another great reason to get up in the morning and give us a balance that helps us deal with all the other more mundane stuff we have to slog through each day. Special events like Christmas and vacations can serve a similar function. It's all about anticipation, the time we spend being excited about something great that maybe, hopefully will happen some day, but only if we make it so. This can be a never-ending source of pleasure and energy, part of the fuel that makes it possible to work and struggle and accomplish. Having something to look forward to can make the difference between greeting each day with enthusiasm versus feeling like a mouse on a treadmill -- you're working hard but you're not trying to get anywhere special.

The problem is that dreams often take time to materialize or in some cases can even be a lifelong quest without ever reaching the end of the rainbow. If you become a published novelist, it will be because of the years of effort you have invested. I doubt that will be the end of the road, though. You will undoubtedly then be motivated to promote the book to success, publish a second book and so on. Even with success, your dream will remain an ongoing process.

What if you never publish a novel? Does that mean your husband was right and all that time and energy you invested was a waste? Should you regret not taking that time to do something else, like spending it with your family? Each of us must make the judgment calls in balancing our own life, but I suggest you take all that regret and toss it out the window. The time you spend working on your passion is usually well spent, even if the goal remains unfulfilled.

I say 'usually' because there must be a balance. Even the most pie-in-the-sky goal can be worth chasing, but not at the expense of sacrificing other important things in life. For example, quitting your day job to chase your dream of becoming the President of the United States might not be the best tradeoff, unless you happen to be independently wealthy and incredibly connected in the circles of political power. Based on your question, balance doesn't seem to be an issue for you. It sounds like you're not neglecting your children or your husband; you take care of regular life just fine and still manage to eke out some time for you. That's a healthy strategy.

I suspect you gain tremendous pleasure from seeing your stories take shape as written works. You are also undoubtedly energized when you play 'what if' and look forward to future possibilities. These factors will continue to enrich your life as long as your passion remains alive, regardless of whether publishers take any interest in your work.

This is where your husband comes in. All of us have a tendency to doubt ourselves when life's little knocks come along. Your query letters bring rejections, so naturally your self-esteem takes repeated hits. You must constantly tell the doubt salesmen living in the dark recesses of your mind to take a hike and leave you alone. In this vulnerable state, your significant other can make all the difference. His lack of faith can deflate your enthusiasm like a week-old party balloon, whereas expressions of belief and support can keep you flying high. This is true whether your passion is becoming a fashion designer, training for a marathon or hunting down rare coins.

In his memoir entitled On Writing, Stephen King talks about the early years before he published his first novel. He was working as a teacher, writing in the evenings and struggling to make ends meet. If his wife Tabby had expressed doubt, says King, "...I think a lot of the heart would have gone out of me." But her support was a constant and the rest, as they say, is publishing history. Knowing that your husband believes in you obviously won't guarantee the kind of success Stephen King enjoyed, but it will help you to keep climbing that hill, enjoying every step along the way. Shouldn't any supportive husband be happy to give a gift like that to his wife?

So here's what you do. Sit your husband in a chair, use that roll of duct tape to wrap him up so he stays in the chair, show him this article and unwrap him only after he reads the whole thing.

And remember -- a professional writer is an amateur who didn't give up. Write on, Dreamer!


Do you need help reaching your relationship goal? Send in your question by email or enter a comment using the link below. Both dreamers and support crew members are welcome, 24 hours a day.


  1. And you know, she could also join several writing communities to keep her spirits up! If she's interested there are several websites she could visit, among them: fictionpress.net and spoiledink.com. I'm a writer myself and if she's interested in ongoing critiques of her work and advice and even other things I wouldn't mind helping her out. We could be writing buddies!

    It's all about finding the right support for your dream and the right friends to go after it with!

  2. Hi alethegoodsoul,

    I couldn't agree more. Friends and support can make all the difference. Thanks for your generous input.

  3. My husband thinks my dreams of becoming a web millionaire are a little bit silly. So, I just don't involve him. I have a close friend who also has a website and we share information quite a bit. This is much more satisfying than trying to convince my husband that my website is a worthwhile endeavor.

    Love the Blog!

  4. Hi Sara,

    Don't you have any duct tape? :o)

    I know what you mean. Even if your husband is happy for you to chase the "silliness" (which is anything but silly, by the way) he will probably never be as keen about it as someone else with similar interests. I, too, have a friend who shares my daily dream-chasing. His link is on my sidebar: Matthews Communication Coaching. Keep dreaming!