Living the Dream

A few weeks back, my therapist pointed out that I was basically living my dream. Eight books in print, with a ninth on the way. A Hugo award sitting on my shelves. Guest of Honor gigs lined up for the coming year.

Forget Klondike Bars, do you know what 25-year-old me would have done to be where I am today? There’s always more to accomplish, and there are certainly things I’d change if I could (::cough:: day job ::cough::), but it’s easy to get caught up in where you’re going, to the point that you forget to appreciate where you’re at. I love being a writer, and I love that I’ve been able to do it pretty successfully, at least so far.

There’s an inspirational quote that gets passed around, usually misattributed to Confucius:

“Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”

I’ve got a job I love, and I’m gonna come out and say this quote isn’t just wrong, it’s so fundamentally opposed to the state of “rightness” that if you put it together with a true quote, you’d create an explosion powerful enough to rip open spacetime and devour Kalamazoo.

I love being a writer, but if you try to tell me it’s not work, I’ll send goblins to eat your feet. It’s work I usually (but not always) love, sure. But we’ve got to move beyond the myth that dreams just happen. When I look around at my role models, the people who are living the kind of “dream life” I’d love to have someday, pretty much every one of them is working his or her ass off.

I don’t want to suggest that hard work will automatically make your dreams come true. That’s a different myth, and unfortunately, the universe doesn’t always play fair. There are no guarantees, and some of us have far more hurdles put in our way than others. In many ways, my dreams are a luxury, one I can afford because I don’t have to worry much about more basic needs.

None of which changes the fact that dreams, as a rule, are hard. And God forbid you ever complain about the work, because there are a hundred people just waiting to tell you how they’d happily trade places with you. Heck, if J. K. Rowling was venting about the stress and pressure of writing books after Harry Potter, I’d be tempted to say the same thing. “Just sign your career over to me, and I’ll take it from there, Jo! Happy to help!”

That “never work a day in your life” quote is nice and fluffy and feel-good, but I suspect the truth might be closer to this:

“Choose a job you love, and you’ll choose to work even harder every day of your life.”

I’m not complaining today. I reserve the right to vent some other day, but even if I do, that doesn’t mean I’d trade my life as a writer for anything else in the world. But I think the way we look at dreams is unhelpful and unhealthy. If we imagine our dreams to be this idyllic state in which everything goes perfectly and we never have to “work,” it’s gonna get pretty darn frustrating, since we’re never going to get there.

I’ve got a ridiculous (for me) number of projects lined up right now. I’ve managed to knock two of them off the list so far, but I still cry a little inside when I look at everything I want to write over the next 12 months. But you know what? This is what I’ve worked almost half of my life to achieve, and I love it.

Now if y’all will excuse me, I’ve got writing to do.