It's Day Four of my freedom. Last Friday was my last day at work. I was surprised at how emotional I was saying goodbye to everyone. Well, everyone who was left after retrenchment had decimated the ranks. It’s like a morgue there now. And in the next month or so half of those who remain will be leaving as well.
Retrenchment has a good side and a diabolical. The dark side involves having to join the unemployment benefit queue at 7.30 in the morning to register. One full day and 2 very early mornings later and I am finally registered. To give the Department its due, the two extra mornings were the Bank’s fault! But it’s done and I don’t need to enter its unhallowed doors again until 1 August.
The good side of retrenchment is that it comes chock-a-block with advantages. Distinct advantages. Like only getting up at 10, going for walks whenever you feel like it, meeting friends for coffee or lunch without having to watch the time, going to late night movies in the middle of the week, curling up on the couch with a good book—it’s like being on holiday, without the dread of going back to work lingering in the back of your mind. The issue of paying the rent in the next few months hasn’t quite sunk in yet, as you may have guessed.
But the best advantage is having more time to write! In fact, while some were dreading the retrenchment I couldn’t wait! The sunny side of the street, the silver lining, the Pollyanna syndrome, whatever you want to call it, all I know is it’s better than stress, worry and ulcers. Writing ensures my life makes sense; everything works, as I’ve said before. Following your passion makes dreams come true. In the immortal words from South Pacific, “If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?” But you can’t just have the dream, you have to own it and work it as well.
And I now have all this free, unfettered time to WRITE! Oh, glorious day.
As I may have mentioned before, The Device Hunter only lets me plot a few chapters ahead at a time rather than the whole book. Yet, in the one full day I’ve had to sit down and tackle the beast, I’ve covered a lot of ground. I'm now on Chapter 22 and I am finally getting to grips with the intricacies and nuances of the plot so far and have the next set of broad outlines eager to come out and play. So that's good. I asked a friend (and yes, I know writers should never ask friends or family to read their unpublished stuff, but my friend and I have worked together on TV projects and are used to telling each other the hard truth about a project), anyway, I asked this friend to read the first, very rough, draft of the initial twenty chapters and his comment was—it was badass! Which is excellent news.
Harcourt's Mountain is going well, the cover's done, the editor has sent the text to the publisher and I am counting down the days to the 15th of August when it gets launched. I stilll can't believe I've got this far. I can’t wait to hear what the reviewers say about the book! Waiting with baited breath and some trepidation, to be honest.
So, TA-DA! Trumpets, confetti and champagne for everyone, because...here's the cover of my book! It's amazing to have gotten this far. To see my name on the cover of a book that I wrote! It almost feels like I've been given permission to live my life with passion, with purpose and with joy. Following your dream should be all of that.
The difference between having a dream and living your dream can be summed up, I think, in two words: hard work. It's what you do about your dream that makes it a reality. Some people are more than happy just to have the dream. They settle for that because...well, they'll have more than one excuse. And these excuses may even sound plausible; not enough time, not enough money, no idea how to start, it'll never happen even if I do start, there are others who do it better, etc.
And then there are those who pursue their dreams no matter what. If your dream doesn't compel you to act, it's not a dream. It's a daydream. A pleasant meandering of thought without substance. If you want to be a writer, you'll write. You fill every available moment with plotting, character development, story line. You'll read every book you can get your hands on about the craft of writing and you'll do the exercises they suggest. You'll go on any and every course you can and you do the homework. You'll join writing groups. You'll put in the long hours it takes to get your story on paper - by hand if you have no computer. You'll ignore those who say you can't, that have no belief in you, or are jealous of your dream and determination. You'll get up at the crack of dawn or stay up late at night - and you'll write. Once the story is down on paper, you'll beggar yourself if necessary to find an editor to refine it with you. After that you'll chase down agent after agent, publisher after publisher until something happens. You won't stop. And then, one day it'll pay off and, with baited breath, you'll watch as your creation steps out in front of the world. And in that moment your dream becomes reality.
What is your dream, your passion? Find out, because life is too short not to be living to the utmost. I encourage you, no, I urge you to chase your dreams. Don't live a life of despair, shrouded in tattered fragments and figments of your imagination. Push through the stuff that feels like a grind, it will all pay off in the end. Push, until you're standing on top of the mountain. Nelson Mandela once said that there is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. And I agree.
Whatever your dream is, it will take work. Often damn hard work, but you'll do it because it's more than a hobby - it's your passion. It's what makes you feel alive. And believe me, it's worth it. It still feels very unreal that I'll be a published author in just over a month and a half. Even having the book's cover finalized and "out there" is amazing. The hard work has paid off. The passion has been translated into a living, breathing reality.
If you have a dream, don't just dream, DO IT!
Stand back! I have an imagination and I'm not afraid to use it!