How do you separate a dream from a whim? For me, the answer is found in longevity.
When I was a little girl, I dreamed about being all sorts of things. A veterinarian, a rancher, a teacher, a librarian. I’d think about it all the time, at least for the period of time I was interested in each vocation. I’d read books about the topic, talk to people about it, think about.
But eventually the desire to learn more would fade; I would end up, instead, thinking of story ideas that included veterinarians, ranchers, teachers or librarians. I found myself living out interesting vocations in a vicarious sense, through the “lives” of my characters.
I was quite young when I noticed the trend, but like many sensible people I reined in my loftiest visions of literary success. I wrote my stories, shared them with close friends, but never really thought I would depend on such a dream for a living. It was something I sensed I’d always be interested in, but I’d done enough investigating to have learned most writers didn’t earn enough solely from writing to support themselves.
But even if I didn’t dream of making millions from writing, I did still dream about sharing my stories with the widest possible audience—which meant seriously pursuing publication, no matter what kind of money it earned (or didn’t!).
So I nurtured my dream of publication by action, because clearly this dream was not going away. I just learned to keep my expectations reasonable. I joined a critique group, entered national contests for feedback, received encouragement from a network around me and continued learning by reading. But while I did all that I went about my life the way most of the other girls in my neighborhood did. I got married right out of high school, which was common back then. I would’ve loved going to college, but that wasn’t the path either my family or my environment encouraged. I was too much a pleaser to forge my own pathway separate from what was expected.
When I was in my early twenties I received a contract in the mail—a New York publisher wanted to publish one of my historical romances. That was my first taste of having my dream come true.
But could it still be called a whim, after all that? When my personal life went through some challenges, a divorce, single-parenthood, returning to the business world, I was forced to give up writing. As I’d suspected, despite three books published in the secular romance genre, writing didn’t pay enough to live on. And between working, being with my daughter and starting a new personal life, I just didn’t have the energy to write any more.
I didn’t write for fifteen years. My dreams of a steady career in the publishing world withered for lack of nourishment and attention.
However, deep inside, at the core, the dream never really died, even though from the look of things it certainly seemed that way. But I still read, I still had story ideas pop up every now and then. And eventually when my life settled down again, my writing dreams perked up as alive as ever.
I wrote whenever I could, as if a dam had burst and all those pent up words and images and characters had to flow. I’d remarried and had the security of being home, and from that place of safety found the time to pick up my dream again. It took about three years, but with persistence coupled with the re-entry into critique groups, networking at conferences, and stubborn refusal to let rejection get the best of me, I went on to my first contract in the Inspirational market.
My lesson? God hard-wired me to write, it’s been proven time and again by the simple fact that I’ve always returned to writing. As many writers say, I can’t not write. Being able to write for others is a dream come true, not a whim that passed away unnoticed from my life. I can safely say I’d be writing whether I keep publishing or not. My writing dream is too much a part of my real life to let that happen now!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maureen Lang is the author of several novels, including Christy finalist Pieces of Silver and the popular novel, The Oak Leaves. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two sons. Learn more about Maureen at her website, http://www.maureenlang.com/.
ABOUT THE BOOK - Look to the East (Tyndale House Publishers)
At the dawn of the First World War, the small French village of Briecourt is isolated from all the battles but their own—among families that have been feuding for centuries. But when the German army sweeps in to occupy the town, families on both sides must work together to hide stragglers caught behind enemy lines. Even as Julitte Toussaint falls in love with one of the men in hiding, she knows if he’s found it could bring danger to her entire village.
WIN THE BOOK
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Look to the East, just leave a reply to this blog. I’ll pick a winner at random on September 3rd. Please leave an email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. (To prevent spammers from trolling for your email, please use this format with the brackets--you [at] yourmail [dot] com--or something similar.) Good luck!