When your dreams need to age.

My very first 100+ page manuscript, a screenplay for my college Creative Writing class. I'm pretty sure it's terrible, but I can't bring myself to read it.
My very first 100+ page manuscript, a screenplay for my college Creative Writing class. I’m pretty sure it’s terrible, but I can’t bring myself to read it.

I’ve heard the story before, as have you: authors that talk about writing being their lifelong goal. They start as voracious readers, always getting the highest marks on creative writing assignments, and then becoming consumed with the dream. The lure of the printed word and the idea of “getting published” (however that happens) sucks us in.

I was one of those people. Writing professionally has always been my dream, but until I was in my thirties it was just one of those stick-it-in-your-hat-and-think-about-it-when-life-gets-annoying kind of dreams. I didn’t really think I would (or could) ever do it.

When I graduated from high school and was looking at my options, I found a good compromise between the dream and the need for secure employment (or so I thought). I wanted to be creative but still gainfully employed so I could afford to, you know, feed myself and all that junk. There was (and still is) a program at my local community college called “Creative Communications” and I went for it. It included journalism, public relations and advertising (plus a bunch of other instruction in things like creative writing, radio, television and layout & design), and seemed like just what I needed. I would be one of those people who really lived the dream. I could be creative and use my mind and still get paid, and it would all be perfect.

Except that it wasn’t.

Turns out I didn’t like being a journalist, or an advertiser, or a public relations person (which is what I ultimately majored in). I graduated and didn’t even look for a job in any of those fields. There are times when I look back and think that time in school was kind of a waste, except that I use many of the skills I learned there on a regular basis (just not the whole diploma part). After graduating I worked, got married, had children and generally moved on with my life. Every so often I would think about those writing dreams as if they were a lovely (and slightly deluded) part of my past.

Then, I found a story.

I blame the midnight feedings and sitting on a rocking chair in the dark, wishing I was in bed. I dreamed while awake (or kind of awake) and night after night the story fell into place. It stirred something inside me that I hadn’t ever thought I would feel again. I wanted to, I NEEDED to write.

So I did. In short bursts, scattered among laundry and cooking and child-raising, I wrote.

I wonder about that sometimes. What would have happened if I had been diligent and chased my dream back then? Would I have succeeded, or just grown frustrated because I wasn’t really ready? I feel like I needed to put my dreams in a big oak barrel and let it age for a while, and maybe that’s okay. It’s better now than it would have been then. I am a different person than my college days, and have seen and experienced so much that now litters my writing.

I wasn’t ready then.

I’m ready now, so watch out. I’m coming.