Elvis Presley and a host of life coaches, motivational speakers, analysts, and maybe even mom and dad have all told us to “follow that dream.” For the fiction writer, especially for the writer of literary fiction (a species nearly on the verge of extinction), following that dream, holding onto to it, is a challenge: the publishing opportunities are few, the recognition slight, the pay scant. Because you gotta eat, you take a job that eats you eight hours a day, minimum. That leaves few precious hours in the day to follow that dream, to working on your “something amazing.”
As I note in my “About” page, I have a second avocation as a golfer. I have talent for the game, and aim to develop that talent as much as I can. One day, I hope to play competitively on one of the regional “mini-tours” found in the sunny states–a loftier goal than it might seem to the non-golfer. Golf is a difficult, unforgiving game that will beat you up mentally. It’s played at a very high level by thousands, so the competition is fierce. The margin separating the very best from the good is but a stroke or two, and shaving those strokes is a tall order. But I love the challenge of getting better, of steeling my mind to the task, a process requiring time in the gym during the winter and as much time as possible on the practice range or the course during the golf season.
As if holding on to your dream wasn’t tough enough, the dreamer also must confront the hard choice between following his dreams and leading what might be considered a normal social life. The hard fact is you pay for your dream by surrendering a social life. I was reminded of this again when my wife asked about a night out with another couple we know. Most people might react to this suggestion with happy anticipation–I winced. Part of me thought it would indeed be nice to get out–lord knows I have few enough friends and the prospect of a little socializing appealed to me. But the dreamer in me, which had been happy to finally be getting back into a nice, regular, “boring” flow after a long vacation and some social commitments, the dreamer was not pleased by the prospect. The dreamer could only see another disruption to an essential routine, a distraction that would knock him off kilter and require yet another effort to return to a functional routine geared to the essential and necessary “dream-work.”
For some, the conflict between dream-work and social life leads to misery: when engaged in what should be a happy social event all they can think of is the dream-work they should be doing. Conversely, their dream-work suffers because, when attempting it, all they can think of is how isolated they’ve become. This is the sad fate of the person unable to commit to either dream or fraternity. Though I wonder, once infected by a dream, can the dreamer ever can totally forget it and commit to the fraternal life? Something tells me those who try are the people we see who’ve fallen victim the maudlin impassivity of the functional alcoholic. Perhaps the answer is to find a new dream that somehow can accommodate the fraternal life; something like rock’n’roller, or rapper! Writers and serious golfers, however, are stuck to go it alone or live with consequences of a dream abandoned or, perhaps worse, compromised.
I still believe such an abandonment or compromise is, for me, impossible. So I’ll heed Elvis and the others. But I’ll do so fully recognizing the price I’m paying. The way I see it, my drive to follow my dream and achieve something amazing will either produce an amazing result or hone me into an amazing person. I can live with either prospect.