I remember the day I thought my 13-year-old dream was dying. I’d sent my beautiful baby manuscript to an agent months before. Though many periods of waiting may feel excruciating and endless, I was hopeful. I was sure my wait to find an agent was nearly over. I’d worked hard to hone my craft. My platform was decent. Critique partners were complimentary. So when I received a kind but very clear rejection from the agent I’d queried, my robust, healthy dream suddenly went into cardiac arrest. I had no idea how to save it, so I decided to let it die.
I was tired of trying. Tired of putting my life so fully into something going nowhere. Tired of failing.
I stopped writing entirely. I told people I was no longer passionate about writing, trying to save face. I searched and searched for a new dream to replace my desire to be an author. Surely I anything else would be easier than the whole writing gig.
It turned out, though, my dying dream still had some fight in it. Novel ideas continued to bubble forth. I was miserable trying to stuff them down. Many months later, I realized I couldn’t. And at that point, I had to resuscitate the dream I’d actually tried to smother.
We’ve all encountered sputtering dreams before. But they’re dreams for a reason, and they can be saved especially if we’re willing to be intentional in our resuscitation efforts.
First, when we have a dying dream we have to identify the motivation behind our dreams so we can either move forward or move on. Are we motivated by a heart of helping other people? Maybe God brought us to this particular dream. There are lots of great reasons to continue working toward our dreams even when they’re agonizing and difficult. But our hearts seem to know it when those reasons aren’t so great. If we’re following a dream because someone else wants us to, because we feel like we’ll never be special without it, or out of some other less-than-wonderful motive…maybe it’s time to move on.
Sometimes we don’t need to move on completely. We simply need a “vacation” from our dreams. Passion requires so much from us all the time. When we’re exhausted, we start to feel like it’s an obligation. But burnout doesn’t mean a dream is dying. Dreams, like many other aspects of creativity, really seem to benefit when we take a few days away to let our minds and hearts recharge.
Once we’ve rested, we’re ready to take on our excuses. I find that the more important something is to me, the more I sabotage it with silly things because then at least the failure would make sense. It’s a stupid way to act toward something so dear to me! Are you frustrated because you’ve booked your writing time with coffee dates? Maybe you’re procrastinating with your daily word count. We’ve each got our vices and excuses, but that’s all they are: excuses. We can take control of our excuses. Figure out how you’re sabotaging your dream, and commit to leaving those things behind.
Finally, we’ve got to examine if we’re smothering our dreams by giving ourselves a self-imposed deadline for success. For me, especially as an author, it’s easy to imagine what success looks like and what I should be striving for. A bigger platform. A more engaged audience. Contracts!
I wanted all those things to happen before my 25th birthday because it seemed like I’d be more successful that way. When 25 came and went, I felt like a failure. But God’s timeline for my dreams mattered so much more than my immediate and overwhelming idea of success. Sometimes we feel like a failure because we’re pushing our successes, or lack thereof, into the wrong timeline. When we let go of our self-imposed deadlines for success, it gives our dreams room to breathe and bloom.
Is your dream dying? Take heart. All is not lost. God is in the business of redeeming and reviving dying dreams. In the right time and in the right way, He’s positioned to do more through your barely breathing dream than you could ever ask or imagine. And isn’t God’s track record with resurrection pretty excellent?
Though they may be sputtering right now, it looks like our dreams may make it after all.
This post first appeared on The Writers Alley blog.