Do you ever get caught up in the drama of your own life narrative?
It’s that voice inside your head that tells you that you’re destined to be a writer or a doctor or a singer — a rock star, even! — no matter what happens. It’s the movie playing in your head — the one where you’re being interviewed or walking the red carpet or being adored at a huge book signing event. It’s the door that leads you into your daydreams.
The problem, however, is that this narrative is about a million miles removed from your reality. Despite your dreams or the narrative playing in your head, you aren’t anywhere close to seeing those dreams fulfilled.
I see this scenario play out with my kids, especially. My middle son, Caleb, says he wants to be a scientist. He’s definitely curious, which is a good prerequisite. When we visit a park or a playground or just go for a walk, he’s always searching for something, hoping to find interesting leaves or insects or trinkets or feathers — anything he can touch and inspect. I would love for him to pursue that dream.
His problem, however, is that he couldn’t care less about school. We’re having to do everything in our power to motivate him to learn. He rushes through worksheets and homework, with no care for its content. It doesn’t matter whether it’s science, social studies, math or English, he just wants to be done with it and onto the next thing, preferably video games. His grades are bottoming out, but he wants to be a scientist.
His problem is that he isn’t special. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. I’m not, either. Neither are you.
I want to write a novel. I have two of them buzzing around in my head, with notes galore. This year, I set out to write 750 words per day in order to realize that goal. I even bought one of those “At A Glance” calendars that shows the whole year on one 3’x4’ sheet, so I could mark an “X” on each day I hit my goal. “Don’t break the chain” and all that.
There are a woeful number of blank spaces where X’s should be.
I’ve joined writer’s groups, watched webinars, read books and articles on writing. And in those online groups, I’ve listened to people talk about their memoirs and self-help books and ideas and often counted myself better than them, as if my desire and my life narrative — as if my destiny! — is going to get me to a published novel.
But the thing is, I’m not special. I’m not going to realize this dream in a daydream. I’m not going to realize it by waiting on inspiration or timing. I’m not special, and the rules positively, absolutely apply to me and to everyone else.
You want to be a writer? Write. Write more. Write even more than that. You want to be a singer? A rock star? Write, sing and create songs. Everyday. Twice a day. All day, if necessary. Are there songwriting workshops? Attend them! Are there online courses? Watch them!
I’ve never done anything in my life because I’m special. I didn’t lose 140lbs because I’m special. I lost it because I ate right, every single meal. It took me a year of doing that every single day. And on the days I didn’t do it completely right, I had to do it completely right the next meal. And the next. And the next.
Realizing that I’m not special is the most liberating thing in the world. It means I can’t bypass the path to success in anything, which is pure, unadulterated, persistent work. Hustle. Perseverance. Nose to the grind.
I think this realization can be the most liberating thing for you, too. It means you aren’t waiting for a sign. You aren’t looking for a shortcut, and you won’t find one.
It means you can just pick a time and a place and do the work, every day, until the door to your daydreams is your own front door.
What daydreams are occupying your mind? And what are you doing about making them a reality?