There have been times when other writers would get ticked at me when I’d say that I’d take a stab at writing for a living only after I’d retired from another profession. They’d say my attitude is indicative of a lack of faith in my skills as a writer and ultimately God. Perhaps they’re right. Or maybe there is another reason why my intuition tells me it’s okay to defer your dreams—as long as you carefully manage the postponement.
Writing is my golden ambition, yet it’s a dream I’ve continuously put off pursuing full throttle until a later date. When I graduated from college I knew I wanted to write, however I was also aware of another vague longing. I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant but I knew that I wanted more. Not more as in better, but as “in addition to” writing. And so began the search for the perfect 9 to 5 job, something I could hold down, master and even enjoy while I wrote “in the shadows” as bell hooks would say.
I’ve been a full-time executive assistant for a community based organization, pre-employment instructor for a job center, editorial assistant for a trade/academic publisher, claims adjuster for an insurance company, assistant director for a day care center, etc. Plus I’ve had a few part-time positions in addition to caring for my children. I’ve been active as a volunteer in numerous social service, historical and academic organizations. And through all of this I’ve been a writer producing hundreds of articles, dozens of short stories and even one self-published novel.
In terms of separating paycheck and passion, through the years I’ve met dozens of role models who worked “ordinary” jobs by day while attending community lectures at night and on weekends gaining knowledge that over a life time would probably be the equivalent of at least one undergraduate degree. And they do this without the idea of making a living at it, but rather because they love it. This is what writing is to me. Never have I given myself over fully and completely to writing 8 hours a day for weeks or months at a time. But somehow, someway, even under the most adverse of conditions, I’ve produced.
One of the keys to success is to be grateful for what you have right now. I’ve come to realize that ill-fitting jobs and other distractions do have their good points. There’s nothing like doing something that you don’t want to do, to put you in touch with your true desires. Michael J. Losier, author of Law of Attraction: The Science of Attracting More of What You Want and Less of what You Don’t calls this “contrasting.”
I think it’s important to keep all of this in mind because sometimes we may find ourselves in situations where we have no choice but to put off our dreams because it is the right thing to do.
“Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with,” wrote M. Scott Peck, M.D. in his prominent self help book, the Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth.
The good news is that you never have to put your dreams away completely. You can list your dreams, reflect on them, and take small actions every day to bring you closer to your ambitions. Or in the words of poet Alisa Lazora Smith:
you was born to rise
it is no surprise
let your dream be what it is