On writing and dreams


About a year ago in the middle of an emotional crisis, I bought a journal. I’ve never been particularly good at keeping journals – even though I actually keep them (I have a box full going back to like age 7). My last journal still rests peacefully in my bedside table (no snooping) from my college years. The posts are so sporadic it’s hard to tell which boyfriend I’m talking about. This more modern journal, though, was more about therapy. I needed an outlet. I was sick of complaining to friends and family about my sucky situation. I felt whiny. I was talking in circles. So I wrote. I filled about 10 pages with my rants and raves, completely not caring that it would even be something I’d want to read again. I imagine it would be difficult to read again with all the angst. (Maybe I should burn it.)

When life started to get better and things picked up, I stopped writing. To be honest, I stopped writing a long time ago even though I do it every day at work.

When I was a child, I filled journal after journal with my hopeless writings about one day being a novelist. I wanted to be Jo from Little Women (except I fully expected to end up with Laurie because he was way cuter). I held on to these dreams through high school, writing essay after essay about my love of the written word. Language was my passion.

Then I suppose I grew up. Or maybe I just became jaded. Or maybe I just met too many people who said the same things I did. I always thought I was different. Original. Turns out I’m just like every other small-town girl who dreams of the big city, writing novels and falling hopelessly in love. I’d cooked up some kind of modern day fairy tale for my own future. I can’t blame myself. I’d been fed Disney princesses, Sweet Valley High and endless numbers of happy endings my whole life. I was taken hostage by literature, reciting Shakespeare in my head as if it were air in my lungs. I devoured books and dreamed in poems.

But that was all in my head. My hopelessly romantic, teenage head. In college I met dozens of kids like me. But they were more organized. I wanted to be a reporter because I could make a living writing. But these kids, they went out looking for stories for fun. They spent weekends working (to be fair, I was working at a movie theater at the time so I didn’t have time for, like, career stuff). They’d traveled to Europe already. One chick even spoke Portuguese. And of course, they all talked about how Bob Dylan changed their lives. (Come on, Bob is, like, my thing.)

I was some kind of carbon copy of myself, and yet I wasn’t even very good at it. I wasn’t writing anymore. I got caught up in college and making friends, finding boys to chase and then giving up on them. I still wrote but not like before. I felt like a poser (hate that word). Mostly because I felt like they were all posers. If everything you said about being so original was exactly how I felt, then how can it be original? Get over yourself already. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to be the cool chick. The down-to-earth chick. I’m not a literature snob. I know nonfiction from fiction. I gave up on that Disney ending and settled for something more attainable – lists and goals, checklists and to-dos.

I still wrote from time to time – sporadically in a journal or here and there on a blog. I surrounded myself with people like me who spoke about reading, literature and writing but were realistic in the way they spoke about reading, literature and writing. It is my passion after all. One close friend is probably the most realistic person I know about writing. She struggles to put her words on a page, crafting each sentence and clause as if it has to be perfect. When I write, it feels like throwing up, words flinging across paper in a stream of consciousness. She’s studying the ins and outs of publishing and writing. I believe in her because it’s not some high-minded dream. She’s working hard to make it a reality. She even inspired me to pick back up my “novel,” but let’s face it, that’s just a nice idea. I’m no “writer” and if it means being like the posers (I really hate that word) then I’m OK with that. I do get to write every day at work after all. I read as much as I can these days because language is my sustenance and good writing is my feast. I think I’m content to let other people do the writing – although, I could seriously do better than some of these wahoos.

Recently my brother gave me a book – 642 Things to Write About. It’s chock full of writing prompts. Everything from “write about a song” to “rewrite the plot to the worst movie you’ve ever seen.” It may have sparked something in me. I’m going to pretend like this long piece is in response to a prompt I’ll call “write something about writing. How meta of you.” I have all these goals in my life – lose weight, save money, have kids. I’m 27 and I lost sight of my lifelong dream. Something I’d held on to since I first learned to write my name. My mom still tells me I was making up stories before I even knew how to read and write. I’d always thought of myself as a dreamer, but I gave up at go. Looking back on all of this, it hurts. As we grow up, we try to promise ourselves “I’ll never be like that.” Yet, here we sit, following the same brutal path to jaded adulthood. I gave up on Capitol Hill because I couldn’t stand seeing how the sausage was made. I don’t want to give up on my imagination. I want to believe that the world can be a more beautiful place if I just write about it in vivid colors. I don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t believe that dreams come true.

No, I’m realistic. It’s just my nature. I know I’ll never be Jo (although my husband does kind of look like Laurie). I’ll never have a book with my name on it. And that’s OK. But I don’t think that means I have to stop writing. I can be realistic and be a dreamer, too.

One Response to “On writing and dreams”
  1. juliasellers says:

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one. 🙂

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