When I was eight, I took a series of tests in school that included a self-esteem test. The test administrator asked many of the questions orally, and some of them, he asked three times in order to prompt a variety of answers.
"What would you like to be when you grow up?" he asked.
When he asked twice more, I did not change my answer, but reiterated my desire to be a writer.
For most of the rest of my life, my dream of being a writer has drifted at the edges of my vision, never disappearing even when other priorities took precedence for a while.
A few years after I finished undergrad study, I took a stab at playwriting. I never completed any of my projects. In retrospect, I understand that my life was chaotic and unfocused. I couldn't see myself clearly, so I had no chance of being able to write with insight. I still had the ability to write nice prose, but I didn't have the life experience to create a coherent larger vision.
Sure, I might have been capable of writing chick lit about twenty year olds in New York, but that wasn't the type of material that called to me. I wanted to write about dramatic, life-changing events, but I wasn't equipped with the spiritual tools to do that. In fact, I was agnostic at the time, which had a great deal to do with my confusion.
The kind of writing that called to me was spiritual writing, but an empty spirit has nothing to offer to readers. Beautiful language alone is not enough.
So instead of pursuing my dream, I entered graduate study, as I described in my previous post.
In spring 2006, I walked across the stage in what my daughter called "my bat costume" and received my doctoral diploma.
During those seven years in graduate school, I found my faith again, discarded many attitudes that hindered me in my twenties, married, had a child, and, in short, grew up.
I was finally ready, artistically AND spiritually, to pursue my writing dream.
At the time, we lived in Ohio. I began to visit historic sites to help me envision the setting for the nineteenth-century novel I planned to write. I sorted through plot ideas in my head. I would use my knowledge of nineteenth-century America to create a historical novel with inspirational themes--or so I hoped!
In May of 2006, I walked into a historic home and found my story.
I won't go into detail about it in this post, but I consider this story a gift from above: a piece of hope from the past for our sorrowful world...a story to "bind up the brokenhearted."
I outlined the story according to my dramatic training and parts of Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method.
I began to write.
I had made it through a first draft of two chapters when I found out we were going to relocate to the Southwest, fifteen hundred miles away.
My husband left immediately for his new job: I stayed behind to sell the house.
With all the work and upheaval, I didn't write again for about a year.
But in June 2007, six months after our relocation, I encountered two women who would become my critique partners. With their support, I began to make substantial progress on the story that had dropped into my lap a year before.
I asked in the title of this post "What Happens to a Dream Deferred?"
My dream of writing has been a deferred dream for most of my life.
Sometimes, that delay has been frustrating. I've chafed against the wait.
But my writing journey has now given me a different perspective on deferred dreams. Sometimes dreams lurk in hidden places, like seeds underground. If you dig them up prematurely, nothing will ever come of them. But if you patiently and faithfully wait, and continue to water and fertilize the soil, a deferred dream may shoot up and burst into flower long past the time you thought it should happen.
Next: My Publishing Journey #3--Stumbling Towards Success