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A Structure for Dreams, Part One

March 13, 2012

As mentioned in the last post, I’m writing again.  However, that small phrase just doesn’t capture the scope.  It’s more than just a story here or a story here.  It’s with focus.  It’s with intent and it’s taking up a large chunk of my waking time during the day.

I’ve had an interesting start to the year  and learned a few things about myself.  One of those things was admitting, straight up, that I was scared to succeed at my dream of being a writer.  I think it happens to a lot of us creative types.  Hell, I think it happens to just about everyone.  It comes in all sorts of different flavors.  You get scared of criticism.  You get scared of not being able to finish.  You get scared of “revealing too much about yourself.”

What was it for me?  Honestly?  I’m scared to succeed.  If you only knew how much it took for me to not only see this fear but then admit it!   I’ve still not been able to find the root of it’s origin but I know it goes back decades.  It caused an entire chain-effect of blockages to my writing.  Blocks such as — If I succeed then a part of me is concerned it will bring all sorts of changes, all sorts of transitions and transformations.  It means that somehow, someway, I’m good at what I do and, more importantly, the responsibility and duty that comes with it.  I’d insert some pithy Spider-Man quote here but I think most of you  already have what I’m saying.  It also means that I have to take something that I love and do it every day, every month and every year for the rest of my life.

It helped for me to acknowledge the fear.  It’s a very important step (or so I’m told.)  However, I was left with an odd sense of confusion.  Ok, I admitted my fear.  Now what?  I needed some structure to put the next steps into.  Oh, sure, “Just write,” you say.  To that I respond, “that’s what got me in trouble in the first place.”   Just writing and writing with no sense of what I’m going to do with it.  As I would like to say to my kids, “Well, that’s just poking it with a stick.”

Yhup.  I was back to goals.

However, I needed a structure, a format that worked for me to hang those goals upon.  Just having goals on a piece of paper has rarely if ever worked for me.  I needed some form of reporting out, some form of deadline and pressure.   That’s when it hit me, the one shiny brass cog which would fit very nicely among all the other gears and levels.  I found my structure.

What was it?  Where did it come from?  Well, it came as complete surprise to me but it came from another dream.  As mentioned in the last post, I just completed my college degree after being gone for twenty years.  It was a dream I NEVER thought I would complete.  For most of those two decades I had crumbled it up and tossed it aside and, as I mentioned before about my writing, somewhere in the back corners I was too scared to pursue it.  However, opportunity occurred, I was given a chance to go back for one more semester and I told myself I would finish with a high semester GPA which was something I had never done before.  It was a bit daunting.  I’d been out of school for a long time, was out of practice and, more importantly, I had a family.  I finished with a 3.9.

My realization was this.  I had completed a dream.  All I had to do for those classes in that last semester was not get an F.  Instead I chose to knock it out of the park and had accomplished what I had set out to do and damn the fear.  It was a powerful accomplishment for me that led to new levels of self-confidence.  So, what was different?  What was it that worked for me?  Could I take something from it all and apply it to what I was doing now?

The answer came to me while waking up from a dream.  Yes, a dream about a dream.  How poetic!

I won’t go into the dream.  The theme of it’s message went like this – I’d completed things with an academic structure  set up in periods of 8 and 16 weeks with a solid class schedule running throughout.   Why couldn’t I do something similar where I set up my own “writing curriculum” with an academic structure?

With the end result in mind, I could create a daily/weekly schedule of classes along with a syllabus of dates and stepping stones which would mark passage through the course?  The final grade would be directly related to the goal of that particular craft whether it be finishing a story and making it ready for submission, outlining a novel or crafting a Literature course for me to study other works I appreciated.  More importantly, “classes” would be assigned credit hours which would, quite literally, be transferred into how many hours a week I would need to put towards the “class.”  Not only did this add important daily structure it also added a far more important element.  It kept me from overbooking myself and doing too much.

Speaking with my wife the day after the dream, she immediately grabbed a notepad and a pen and we set out  making a “writing semester.”  She may be a ceramicist at heart but she is also an amazing graduate services advisor for the local University.  It only took us about an hour or so to craft out a very nice and very doable schedule for my first “writing semester.”  When we were done I was looking at three full credit classes and one or two smaller 1 credit hour projects, this blog being one of those.  Final dates were written down and a weekly schedule crafted up.  We worked around the family schedule and made sure I was mostly done with things by the time the children came home from school.  Two nights a week, I had an evening “class” conveniently scheduled after dinner and family.

I had my structure.  The rest, however, was up to me.

After an initial shaky start a month ago and more hours at a desk then I would have ever accomplished at a full time job, I would have to say I’m doing quite well.  The score so far?  One short story rough drafted and out for fellow writers to review?  Check.  One novel being replotted and rewritten?  Check.  Another novel being built from the ground up?  Check.  List of books created to review and study as to composition, voice, etc?  Check.  One writing blog getting fired back up in order to record thoughts and make contact with other writers?  Check!

However, even after these past few weeks, I’ve found that the battle with my fear has only just begun.

— to be continued —

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chair Spinner permalink
    March 13, 2012 4:05 pm


    **Shakes pom poms**

    • Bryan permalink
      April 4, 2012 2:35 pm

      Thanks, Chair Spinner. Not sure what I would do without you… ;P

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