The Dream

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore– And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over– like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

-Langston Hughes

For some reason this poem has stuck with me from the first time I read it back in high school English. A Dream Deferred.  At the time, I didn’t think that would ever be me. My high school self was not going to put off my dreams. I was going to be a creative writer and photographer. Those have always been my two passions and creative outlets. As a small child I was constantly writing stories and poems or taking pictures. I wasn’t shy or afraid about my creativity back then. I was all about reading my work to others or giving it to them to read. I had confidence in my art. The idea that someone might criticize my work  did not cross my mind. The fear that someone might not like what I wrote or the picture I took, did not stop my from doing what I loved to do. I had confidence. I felt I was good at what I did, and I felt others would naturally see that I was good too.
However, somewhere along the lines between college, marriage, making the mortgage payment and two ki my confidence waned, the fear that I might actually not be as good of a writer or photographer than I thought I was took root and grew. I wrote creatively less and less. My photos focused on my family. My dreams were back burnered, put on hold, side-tracked and stagnated – they however, did not “dry up.”
And so now at 41 years old – I am middle-aged. I never imagined being that old back in high school. I look back on my life and ahead to what’s to come. I ask myself to I want to continue to let fear hold me back from my passions in life? The answer was a resounding No! And so I took it as a sign from God that I should pursue my dream to be a published author when I saw a contest offered by one of my favorite authors. The contest was for a 20,000 to 25,000 word novella in the romance genre! Perfect, I thought. I have always been a romance novel junkie and knew the genre well. I had toyed with writing a romance novel off and on for years, but never got around to it – this was just a “short story,” according to the contest rules.
I was proud of myself, I pushed through and wrote the story in a little over a week. I stayed up late and got up early and pushed through the burn. 20,000 words is more than you might think. However, the words seemed to flow, the characters played in my mind even when I wasn’t writing and the story came together.Writing was exhilarating and even better than reading a romance. With the help of my mom, my sister and my best friend, the story was proofed and submitted to the contest with a few hours to spare. It felt really good. I really liked the story and secretly hoped I might win -even though it was a long shot. My editors and the handful of others I let read the story all liked it and told me they thought my chances were good.
Which brings me to today. Alas, I did not win the contest. I didn’t really expect to win and yet I found myself disappointed. Now what? Do I give up? Do I persevere? Does it even matter if I am a published author, if I like my stories? These questions and more haunt me. I finally let my husband read it. He is not a fan of romance novels and in fact has often scorned me for reading them. I was not eager for him to read it or offer his criticism and deflate my ego. However, he was upset at not being given the opportunity to give his feedback to me. He felt he could be professional enough to put his disdain for the romance genre aside and give me some honest feedback (whether I wanted it or not). He told me at dinner he finally made it through the story. He was most concerned that I had modeled one of the negative characters after him. I assured him it was purely fictional. He proceeded to tell me I needed to be more descriptive and make some of the side characters less negative.  I agree with the description part, but given my word limitations I was not able to. Now that I am free to have as many words as needed I can fill in the lacking description.
The question is though, is it worth it? Is there even a point to it? Self-doubt has started to creep back in. Maybe I am kidding myself and fooling myself into thinking I could be a published author and yet does it even matter if I am or not, Can I be content writing for myself?
Will my dream be deferred again? I don’t know. It’s getting late. I will think about it some more tomorrow…