Tip # 21: We All Need Dream Support March 9, 2008Posted by beholdthestars in Life & Living, Motivation, Tips.
Tags: dreams, moral support, National Book Foundation, Stephen King
Perfect as the wing of a bird may be, it will never able the bird to fly if unsupported by air.
Our dreams are fragile things. We carry them hidden in our secret places and share them reluctantly with a world that often doesn’t respect them. We scare people with our dreams. Our asking for more challenges the choices others have made, and the resulting conflict often strengthens our insecurity and self-doubt.
But a dream acknowledged! Ah, that’s magic. We are now part of a team with a shared vision, and that gives us strength to push aside our doubts and to overcome the obstacles to accomplishment. The writer Stephen King describes just this phenomenon in his acceptance speech for the 2003 National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. This excerpt is long, but worth it:
This is a very atypical audience, one passionately dedicated to books and to the word. Most of the world, however, sees writing as a fairly useless occupation. I’ve even heard it called mental masturbation, once or twice by people in my family. I never heard that from my wife. She’d read my stuff and felt certain I’d some day support us by writing full time, instead of standing in front of a blackboard and spouting on about Jack London and Ogden Nash. She never made a big deal of this. It was just a fact of our lives. We lived in a trailer and she made a writing space for me in the tiny laundry room with a desk and her Olivetti portable between the washer and dryer. She still tells people I married her for that typewriter but that’s only partly true. I married her because I loved her and because we got on as well out of bed as in it. The typewriter was a factor, though.
When I gave up on Carrie, it was Tabby who rescued the first few pages of single spaced manuscript from the wastebasket, told me it was good, said I ought to go on. When I told her I didn’t know how to go on, she helped me out with the girls’ locker room stuff. There were no inspiring speeches. Tabby does sarcasm, Tabby doesn’t do inspiration, never has. It was just “this is pretty good, you ought to keep it going.” That was all I needed and she knew it.
There were some hard, dark years before Carrie. We had two kids and no money. We rotated the bills, paying on different ones each month. I kept our car, an old Buick, going with duct tape and bailing wire. It was a time when my wife might have been expected to say, “Why don’t you quit spending three hours a night in the laundry room, Steve, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer we can’t afford? Why don’t you get an actual job?”
Okay, this is the real stuff. If she’d asked, I almost certainly would have done it. And then am I standing up here tonight, making a speech, accepting the award, wearing a radar dish around my neck? Maybe. More likely not. In fact, the subject of moonlighting did come up once. The head of the English department where I taught told me that the debate club was going to need a new faculty advisor and he put me up for the job if I wanted. It would pay $300 per school year which doesn’t sound like much but my yearly take in 1973 was only $6,600 and $300 equaled ten weeks worth of groceries.
The English department head told me he’d need my decision by the end of the week. When I told Tabby about the opening, she asked if I’d still have time to write. I told her not as much. Her response to that was unequivocal, “Well then, you can’t take it.”
My point is that Tabby always knew what I was supposed to be doing and she believed that I would succeed at it. There is a time in the lives of most writers when they are vulnerable, when the vivid dreams and ambitions of childhood seem to pale in the harsh sunlight of what we call the real world. In short, there’s a time when things can go either way.
That vulnerable time for me came during 1971 to 1973. If my wife had suggested to me even with love and kindness and gentleness rather than her more common wit and good natured sarcasm that the time had come to put my dreams away and support my family, I would have done that with no complaint. I believe that on some level of thought I was expecting to have that conversation. If she had suggested that you can’t buy a loaf of bread or a tube of toothpaste with rejection slips, I would have gone out and found a part time job.
Tabby has told me since that it never crossed her mind to have such a conversation. You had a second job, she said, in the laundry room with my typewriter. I hope you know, Tabby, that they are clapping for you and not for me. Stand up so they can see you, please. Thank you. Thank you. I did not let her see this speech, and I will hear about this later.
Having another’s moral support is the secret wish of every artist, writer, entrepreneur, and dreamer. You know what? It applies to all of us, whether your dream is to write the Great American Novel or to sew a beautiful quilt for your grandchildren. We want our dreams, the most timid and frightened part of us, to be loved.
With this in mind, we now have two goals:
- Find someone who respects and supports your goal. If you can’t find it in your immediate world, go find someone who will. There are plenty of art societies, writers’ groups, and conversation groups out there (both live and on the Internet), all filled with folks who’ll think your dream is the coolest thing they’ve ever heard. Find the one that best supports your dream.
- Be that someone for someone else. Start with your family, and ask yourself, “Am I truly supportive of this person’s dreams, or am I setting expectations for them based on my dreams and world view?” It’s a tough question, and one to which you probably won’t like the answer. Ask it anyway. If your answer is negative, ask yourself how you can change.
It’s simple: Get support for your dreams, and give support to somebody else’s.
Make a great day.
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