If Not Now…Then When Are You Going to Dream? was the very first article I published on Medium. So much has changed since then. I’ve learned what works on that platform and what doesn’t. I’ve also found my poet’s voice. With a little luck and a lot of persistence, I’ve managed to remain true to my dream. I also realized while revisiting this article that the basic message has not changed, nor has my commitment to living the life I was always meant to live. I hope by sharing this, I can give other writers the confidence and encouragement we all need in order to keep writing, to keep trying, to keep carrying on no matter the obstacles.
(Jun 24, 2019 · 4 min read)
If not now…then when are you going to Dream?
A deep and growing fear has taken root in me. A lot like kudzu, it’s persuasive, persistent and unbelievably hard to entirely eradicate. You see I’m an author who recently took a leap of faith in myself. I quit my job in January to pursue writing full-time.
I was inspired to drastically alter my life for two reasons. One, I was turning fifty-two and the old cliché of I’m running out of time kept buzzing in my head. I could be dead soon. A morbid thought, I know, but there’s nothing like facing your own mortality to blast you out of a comfortable life. My second reason came in the form of Crystal Jackson. We met through my local writer’s group and have become friends. She’s younger than me by nearly twenty years. She’s single-ish and has two small children to support, and yet she’d managed to make my dream of being a full-time author happen for her. Suddenly, I had no more excuses. So, after careful planning and a year’s worth of putting every extra bit of money I could in savings, I quit my stable job with the hope that I might reestablish my online presence and begin to publish my stockpile of books.
This morning I checked on my savings balance, subtracted the likely cost of professionally editing my next two books then divided that number by six. The number staring back was sobering. Of course, the very next thing I did was log onto my Amazon sales page only to discover that all the money I’d allocated for promotion was not creating the impact I’d hoped.
I’m now scrutinizing my possessions. Could I sell something to buy myself more time — a few more months of precious freedom to live the life I’d always wanted? Or should I accept defeat and get my job back? Or look for a part-time job somewhere else?
Can you write books and keep a job? Most definitely yes! And most writers do. I’ve lived that paradigm for as long as I can remember. Go to work and write whenever you can — in the morning, on a day off, or over a weekend. By the time I had turned fifty years old, I had managed to self-publish four books and a handful of short stories which had done moderately well in an ever-changing publishing world. I had gone through the heartbreaking ordeal of querying agents and publishers with those first four books. The rejections had been professional, polite, and encouraging. They often reminded me that this business is very subjective. The longer I work to get my books noticed the truer this sentiment seems to be.
But let’s get back to my morning panic attack.
So there I stood, my laptop open to my sales page, and my calculator on my cell phone showing an absurdly low figure. I could feel the vines of desperation wrapping themselves around my heart, my neck, my dream.
Once I got past the basic questions of what now, I realized that I’m hardly alone in this struggle. Writers are like any other artist. We struggle to be seen, to be heard, to be understood. We write because we have to. It’s a compulsion. I understand the world and myself through the medium of storytelling. Even if I reenter the workforce, I’d still write. I’d still live part-time in the worlds I create. Those worlds and the characters that populate them are part of who I’ve become.
I’m not sharing this with you because I think I’m special. I’m not. My fears and dicey finances are far less dire than some. I’m not likely to become homeless. I’m not starving. And my personal insecurities aren’t going to keep me from writing the next book, or the next chapter, or even the next sentence. I’m sharing my morning moment of terror because I’m not special. I could be just like you. I’m going after a dream with no net because if not now — then when. When are you going to gamble on yourself?
I’m here to tell you to go for it. No matter your age or circumstance. Even if living your dream turns out to be the length of a single summer, give it everything you’ve got. Live your authentic self and embrace your voice — the uniqueness of your soul. Someone who needs to see or hear your message will find it.
Hi, my name is Tarrant Smith and I’m a full-time author. I carry a wicked-looking machete to keep my vines of doubt and insecurities under control. If you’ve misplaced yours, don’t worry I’ll lend you mine.