As bored summer kids in Sterling, Ohio, my brother and I used set pennies on the railroad tracks. The train would flatten them out and stretch them commensurate with the number of cars that ran over them. The grownups who learned of our adventure discouraged us because of the possibility that anything on a track—even something as small as a penny—could potentially derail an entire train.
Whether that was actually true we couldn’t be sure (and we didn’t want to press our luck or be responsible for a disaster). What is true is that it’s the little things that threaten to derail us. Little things can cause us to lose sight of our destiny. It could be as blatant as outright discouragement and invalidation, or as subtle as doing a good thing, but not the best thing. Such tiny changes have big implications. During formative years, they can even change our perspective.
Little changes can derail us.
My father was a fantastic artist, but never encouraged in his work. My grandfather raised my dad and aunt through the depression. A serious and necessary job is required to raise a family, and grandfather did not consider art a serious job. My grandfather sold fishing equipment at Sears and Roebuck, grew a garden and trapped small game to keep his family clothed and fed. They walked the tracks picking up chunks of coal to heat their teeny home. As a young adult, dad joined the navy and became a photographer, then a civilian typesetter.
Alternately, little positive changes can also redirect our lives. A verbal encouragement, affirmation or gesture can fuel dreams. My dad was a great encourager. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was in art for decades. He bought every kind of artistic and crafty thing for me and my sister which allowed us many expressions of creativity while we were growing up. He gave all of his kids free rein in his wood shop (as long as we put everything back the way we found it). Because he wasn’t able to follow the dreams of his youth, he wanted his six kids to live theirs. Over the years, I had heard very little encouragement about my writing. No surprise, really since I was mostly a closet writer of narrative therapy. Although I keenly felt criticism about my writing from teachers and professors, no one could convince me of my gifting in that area—until I met my first mentor who had no real stake in my life. She was a woman of faith and told me that some of my writing made her cry and I needed to pursue it. Her words stuck. By then, I was a single parent. My only real question was, how do you make a living at writing? Eventually, I began investing tiny amounts of money and dedicated time to learning the craft. I credit Long Ridge Writer’s Group for helping me understand the writing world and meeting me right where I was. And I graduated from two of their programs.
The classes gave a green light to the long-invalidated writer inside. Interestingly, that small shift brought opportunities, which became stepping-stones of discovery. Some of my essays were published. Some brought checks. And awards. One mentor led to another. Then I stepped up to paid mentors. These helped advance my writing, saving me years of trial and error. Mentor programs are like taking apprenticeship college courses without the extraneous “filler” classes. They each taught me about the business of writing, helped me hone my craft, and helped me recognize the type of writing that most resonated with my temperament. Fifteen years ago, I was a disillusioned artist wondering why I wasn’t making a living in art. Today, I’m in a thrilling new career that regularly introduces me to fascinating people.
What does this mean for you?
It doesn’t matter what your goal is, there is a mentor out there for you. If you have a desire, a new career path, a new interest or a burning desire, someone is passionately willing to share their information and help you along your path. By investing money you’re showing the degree to which you believe in your dream.
I can’t help but wonder what the planet would look like if everyone plugged into their true passion to earn a living. What dream spark are you harboring? What little idea have you been saying, someday, when I retire, when the kids are grown, when some major future event passes? Stop waiting! Make a forward motion today and see what opens up before you.
Sometimes knowing the end result allows us to work backwards. My goal was to earn a living at writing. I looked at anything free or at cost that would help me reach that goal. I didn’t act on all of them, but I was being informed so as to make a better decision in the near future. I read reviews (negative reviews are equally informative!) and asked for references.
I took advantage of free programs offered at libraries, churches and meetup boards. I didn’t want to go into debt at all, so cost was a big factor and payments had to be manageable. It was important for me to recoup what I paid out before moving on with another paid mentorship. That helped me grow my business over time while implementing what I had learned.
What step can you take today, to green light your dreamer that you want to move forward? The idea to take classes at Long Ridge had been on my mind for some time before I fully investigated my options and cost. Enquiry is a forward motion. How can you start investigating your next move?
Have questions about how to start? Please write them in the comment box below.