What amuses me most about dreams is that most of the time we tend to attach a sort of vague hope to them. It’s like we spend an awful lot of time contemplating a distant future when all our dreams will come true instead of actually trying to make them come true.
But it doesn’t work like that.
I try not to regret (the things I did or didn’t do) but I can’t help but feel sorry that half my “career” as a writer was spent like this. I wasn’t writing that much, mostly because writing is kind of hard – especially when you’re just starting out and you’re worried about technical stuff, about the mechanics of writing. I suppose all aspiring writers spend more time wishing for stories to magically get written.
They don’t want their hands to get dirty.
If there’s one thing I’d want to help all aspiring artists in the world with is this. I’d want them all to understand that becoming an artist is not about wild dreams and crazy expectations. That the world owes them nothing. Climbing up to the top of the world takes a million little steps.
It might sound as nonsense, but it’s actually something we often forget. And we have to remind ourselves, over and over again, that it’s more important to write five hundred words each day, or spend one hour writing, than it is to spend hours on end dreaming about some publisher offering you one million bucks for your yet-unfinished novel.
Set yourself realistic goals. Set yourself some deadlines. Do more, try harder. Slow progress is still progress.
My point is, you have to know your limits and you have to constantly try to push them. Try harder, fail, and do it over and over again. Painful, yes, but it’s the only sensible way to get better at this.
I’m a prolific writer. My current record stands at 5,000 words in a single day. It didn’t use to be like that. As a matter of fact, in December 2011 I spent 9 hours working on just one line. It’s the opening line for chapter one of The Writer: “The only thing that is worth remembering, and worth remembering over and over again, is that in this world, under all and any circumstance, nothing ever happens.”
Yup, took me nine hours to write that down.
About a month later, I was writing Mr. Nobody in less than 20 minutes. I wrote One in half that time.
Perseverance does go a long way.
So, my advice is this: spend less time dreaming and more time actually writing. Or painting. Or singing. Or doing whatever it is that you like doing.
And if you’re a writer, or want to become one, just write. About anything you want. Experiment. Blog. Try out all kinds of stuff.
One thing I learned about writing, and the same principle applies to all other art forms: stories don’t write themselves. No one’s going to write your stuff for you.
Get stuff done. Don’t worry, don’t dream about fame or fortune or whatever. Just get the job done, then ask yourself what’s next.