Dream House

I share a lot about having a dream. They’re mighty powerful motivators. They can help you get through a tough job that pays the bills. Having a dream about how you would use your degree helps you get through 4 years of college.

My dad was a dreamer. He wanted to build a house, he wanted to live in the country, he wanted to pay cash for a car once in his life. He always had a dream. My dad arrived at a decision, (build a house) and then, he started looking for ways to make it a reality.

When I was a kid, my dad brought in the only paycheck. My mother took care of six children. I imagine when dad mentioned he wanted to build a house, some people laughed.

When my parents bought a bit of property, his dream became serious. He and my mom did a lot of the work, they scrimped and saved and we all sacrificed (no allowances). Not every bank was willing to work with him, but he only needed one that would. And found it. By the fall, we had moved in just as the school year began.

Then my dad had a vision for a full kitchen with solid oak cabinets. He built all of it himself. We kids helped in every possible way. We sanded wood many nights after homework and dinner. My dad cut wood, stained and varnished and glued and assembled and clamped cabinets together while working a full-time job. It took four years. By then he could stand in his dream house in the country. Recently, the house sold for over $250,000.

If you want something bad enough, you can find a way. You can do the work. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. You’re worth it. You’re building values. Your dream is worth it. Someone recently told me that the reason people don’t achieve their dreams is because they don’t have another one. That’s never been true for me. When I finally finished writing my first book, I already had another book in mind.

You’re loaded with dreams! Think of the goals that you’ve had throughout your life. At one time you wanted to graduate, or learn to drive a car, or buy a home. When you accomplished that dream, you had another dream. Write them down, no matter how farfetched it may seem today. You can’t foresee how doors will open for you as you progress step by step toward realizing your dreams. Look at your goals or your bucket list. Those are all dreams.

What seems the most impossible dream right now? What would be one step you could take toward it? If you feel inclined to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Reaching Your Goals

mer hand in shellSome people in my circle of influence think I’m a prolific writer. If 2000 words a day is the mark, I reach it most days. But, that wasn’t always the case. I’ve written for years, with no consistency. I wanted to be more disciplined. That required setting measurable goals. When I set up my first blog eight years ago, I forgot about it for nearly a year.  What would I talk about? Who would read it What was my platform?

Eventually, I set a goal of writing 300 words a day which is approximately half a page. When that became consistently attainable,  I stretched it to 500. At the end of six months, I had a pile of writings. Now what?

Some of it turned out to be good writing. With a little attention, some tweaking and polish, it became a decent essay. At the end of that year, I had a stack of essays. What could I do with them?

I set a new goal. I wanted to send my pieces out to various literary magazines, contests and anthologies. I researched and studied, (Long Ridge Writers Group article writing class proved invaluable!) learned how to format work so that it would be acceptable and my new goal was sending out 5 pieces a week.  I didn’t achieve that goal, but at least two went out per week with some regular consistency.  My secondary goal was to get 100 rejection slips.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I wanted 100 rejections? Getting any kind of feedback reminded me that I was working toward my goal. Every writer who became noteworthy said they had enough rejection slips to paper their walls. It goes with the territory. I expected to get 100 before I finally got published. After my fourth submission, an anthology accepted my writing. I was published! I kept sending out work and fun things happened. More people accepted my work.

This is where I am right now. Remember those photos from last week? I wrote a story (6300 words!!) and found a place to send it to. You can do it too! Just begin with a few goals and never give up until you reach them. Did you write anything this week? I’d love to hear from you.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, below you will find an excerpt from the story I sent out:

     Then, something tapped my bare foot. In the sand by my toes lay a shell. Wait, a shiny, pink and white Queen Conch shell washed up on the shore of Lake Michigan? It seemed highly unlikely. Had the dolphins somehow delivered it? I bent to my haunches and picked it up. The shell over filled my two hands and felt heavy as a brick. It looked like something from the tropics, sold from souvenir shops.

As I held it, I noticed something protruding from the opening and I quickly set it down. It looked almost like a snail head. It touched the sand, slowly lengthening, as if pulling itself from its shell. Then there were two. As I watched, mystified, then saw that it was really two fingers. I pulled out my cell phone. In my rush to leave, I’d forgotten to charge the battery. The icon on the screen was blinking, as if it was gasping for breath. I snapped two pictures before the phone’s battery officially died. The being continued to emerge until a whole hand had formed, then an arm. I backed away.

This was the strangest occurrence I had ever witnessed on the Chicago shore. I stood up and turned away to see if there were other onlookers, to call attention to this weird event unfolding, right here, just off 78th on Rainbow Beach. A mother and her child were a ways up, and I waved frantically, shouting to get their attention. The child saw me and pointed. The mother looked in my direction, clutched her kid tighter and hurried back to her car, looking over her shoulder to make sure I wasn’t following them. I felt like a nut.

There was no one left. Not even a dog. When I returned my gaze to the shell, I noticed the decidedly female form had become a head, two arms and a torso. Her head faced the water, with me behind, and I backed farther away.

I gazed in complete wonder at the woman lying on her back, wriggling herself free of that shell…

Setting Obtainable Goals

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

Last week, there were days that I just sat in front of my computer willing the words (any words) to appear on the screen. I tried squeezing coherence from my brain, pressing letterized thought through my fingertips and… I was choking on mid-story sag.

During those times, I felt like the kid who can’t leave the table until they eat their peas. Go sit at your desk and when you get 1,666 words, you can come out and socialize. Some days the whole experience took hours. Mind you, I have a day job, I have responsibilities. Some people in my house wanted to eat. (Not now! I’m NaNo-ing!)

Writing can be hard. Your little editor might be screaming about how worthless the story is, or you don’t feel anything in the direction you’ve chosen to go. In those moments, I usually back up to where I felt passionate and look for other possible directions.
I wanted to crank out two thousand words a day for several personal reasons, to be finished early (someone has to cook Thanksgiving dinner!) and because giving myself an insane cushion of time (working 4 days ahead of schedule) I start to believe I can actually finish this thing. Not just finish, I can WIN.

In my NaNoWriMo project, I’m pulling from a lifetime of experiences, what I’ve heard and read and been told from many other individuals. It gets a little dicey.
But, the NaNoWriMo first draft doesn’t have to be perfect—it’s a first draft. I could excise huge sections of this after I hit my 50k. So why do I balk? Even though running days ahead of schedule –and it’s a comfy little cushion– I can almost hear the barking dogs of failure coming for my heels. I must press on!

Maybe you need to crank out 1900 more words today. Where will they come from? Maybe you’ll grab some mood music. Something a little dreamy, a little tech-y and a little cutting edge. (Maybe a prompt book…)
My character grapples with standing on her own, walking away from a toxic relationship and a destructive past and still looks uncertainly over her shoulder—would the relationship ever recover?
Finally, after consistently showing up to the page, the muse relents.
I finally have a first draft.
I have the voice of the story.
The bones reveal themselves! It’s not pretty, but it’s done.

I’ve reached just over 50 thousand words, which means I get to have Thanksgiving with my family. I get a few days to breathe before the next challenge. I have another book in my folder.
I love NaNoWriMo.