Gerry says he’s retiring soon and he’s going to write a book. It’s going to be a bestseller and maybe I’ll read it and give him some notes when it’s finished? I tell Gerry yeah, no problem, send it on to me. And when are you retiring?
‘About three years from now.’ He says. ‘But I have all the ideas in my head, and the story plotted out, and the characters are already developed in my mind. I just need to sit down and write it. When I retire. In three years.’
Thing being, a lot can happen in three years. There’s health, the economy, financial circumstances. Maybe your hand gets stuck in a blender on your last day of work and now you can’t write anything. I don’t tell this to Gerry because he’s happy in the dream that he’s going to write a bestseller someday and sometimes that’s all people want. A place to go when life is hard. A secret dream that can turn it all around. The lottery, a publishing deal, a new house, it’s all aspiration that makes reality easier every day. But when it comes to art, and writing, the actual act of writing, aspiration is not enough. It doesn’t feature at all. But there’s a perception out there that it’s all you need. E.g. :…Never give up on your dreams.”
But if we actually analyse that sentence for what it is we see a sting in the tail. A scorpion of a phrase. Never is a long time. Give up inhabits a sense of failure, vulnerability and character weakness. Your dreams are exactly that. Your dreams. This sentence is telling you to chase an unrealistic ideal that exists in your imagination and if you don’t succeed it’s your fault for being a failure. And ultimately, the road to breaking through is to persevere along this unrealistic route until….something happens. But that something is never defined. It’s the stuff of dreams. A random call from an agent. A chance meeting with a film actress that suggests you’re great for a role. A stranger finds your work in a rubbish bin and decides it’s a work of genius.
The problem is that it may happen. You may get a call from an agent, or meet a publisher in a lift, stumble into a theatre some day who just so happen to be looking for the type of writer you are. But they are all going to ask the same question. What can you show me? Where’s the script? Can I see the novel? If it’s a bestseller, by all means let’s take a read. And what are you going to say?
“Can I get back to you in three years? Would that be ok?”
So maybe it’s time for Gerry to give up on his dreams for three years from now and start writing today.