Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
October 5, 2011

Do You Fear Your Dreams?

by Jenny Hansen

The future belongs to those who believe
in the beauty and the power of their dreams.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Dreams are a funny thing. Nightly dreams usually fade in the morning rush, except for the periodic nightmares that scorch our consciousness. Then there’s the waking dreams. Those elusive wishes we keep tucked deep inside our hearts as we go about our daily journey.

We writers chase our dreams every day we put our fingers to the keyboard. Waking dreams are a constant in our creative psyches -- so real we can see them, so fragile we worry they’ll break.

I watched Tangled the other day with my toddler. She loves the music and the movement and will sit with me, almost through the whole film, completely mesmerized by each character. This particular Disney movie rivets me too, and do you know why?

Tangled is about dreams.

Chasing them, achieving them. . .and the wistfulness of letting old dreams die. If you read my post about focusing on your story’s DNA, you’d know “dreams” are the theme that weaves through Tangled. From the beginning of the movie, when the dreaming baby is stolen, through songs like "When Will My Life Begin" and "I Have A Dream,” Disney is punching this dream theme home.

There’s a scene just before the end of Act 2 that perfectly describes the funny, capricious nature of dreams:

[In the boat, Rapunzel sighs, suddenly feeling afraid]
Flynn Rider: [noticing the look on Rapunzel's face] You OK?
Rapunzel: [whispers] I'm terrified.
Flynn Rider: [softly] Why?
Rapunzel: I've been looking out a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what it might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it's not everything that I dreamed it would be?
Flynn Rider: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn Rider: Well that's the good part, I guess. You get to go find a new dream.

This scene sums up why so many writers trip over their dreams: Reaching for your dreams is scary.

It takes some serious nerve to lay your heart open and shout to the world, “THIS is what I want more than anything.” To throw your “all” into the fray and reach for a dream takes guts and, something I struggle with, patience. Because dreams don't happen all at once. They take baby steps forward and twists and turns to achieve.

Dreams take time.

We’ve been talking about fear for the last week or so, here at Writers In The Storm. There was Laura Drake’s post – Fear of NOT Succeeding – that started the Fear Throwdown last week. Laura worries constantly about running out of time.

Fae Rowen answered the challenge with a beautiful post called, “Fear of Success” where she shared that she fears not meeting expectations and submitting work that is less than perfect.

D.A. Watt balanced both sides this last Monday with “Are You A Head Case? Fear No More!” Deb worries about dropping the ball in her personal list of responsibilities and spreading herself too thin trying to be "Super Me."

As I read these lovely posts from my fellow bloggers, I thought about the source of all this fear (remember, I’m the ultimate Big Picture girl here at WITS). It’s all stems from our waking dreams.

Dreams are important and scary and real – for a writer, chasing them is the hardest game in town.

Why is it scary? How does our traitorous psyche manage to kick our butts so soundly? Because we worry. We creative types worry about the darndest things! And we often allow that worry to defeat us. Chuck Wendig wrote a post over on TerribleMinds last week where he discussed how “Writers Must Kill Self-Doubt Before Self-Doubt Kills Them.” (It's wonderful!)

So what do writers worry about the most? I've narrowed it down to some version of the following five items:

  1. What if I write the book andnobody buys it?
  2. What if I write the book and everybody buys it…can I be that brilliant again?
  3. What if I can’t meet the deadlines of a publishing contract?
  4. Who would want to read what I have to say?
  5. When I say what I have to say, they’ll know who I am.

Every time an artist creates, they’re shouting to the world: “this is who I am.” What a heady, frightening, mind-blowing thing! For most artists, if our work is found wanting, it feels like WE are being rejected too.

How is the worried artist supposed to cope?

Laura and I are HUGE fans of titanium panties. We just strap on the Big Girl Titanium Underpants and do the next thing. For myself, if I stop and think about the fear, I’ll hyperventilate. I have to keep going, even if I work on something different then the thing that’s scaring the crap out of me.

What have I observed other writers doing when things are in the crapper? When rejections roll in and plots stall, when blog posts bomb and the WIP rises up like a scary beast?

  • Friends and family are great when the going is rough.
  • Some days wine is a requirement.
  • A supportive critique group is amazing.
  • A writing network is priceless. This could be your local writing chapter, or online groups like www.SheWrites.com or Twitter communities like #myWANA,  #ROW80,  #writecampaign or The #LifeListClub.

How do you deal with the fearful part of dreams? What do you do when it’s time to make a new dream? We’d love to hear about it!


About Jenny:
Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing. In addition to being a founding member here at Writers In The Storm, Jenny also hangs out on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her other blog, More Cowbell.

0 comments on “Do You Fear Your Dreams?”

  1. Jenny - I love this post. My life has been too hectic the past week or so to read much, I'm going to go back and take a look at those other posts you mentioned as part of your fear throwdown. Love the throwdowns, BTW! Ya'll have moved to the top of my list of favorite blogs. I know I can stop by here everyday and be encouraged. Thank you.

    As for fear, I agree. Fear is a powerful, powerful master, unless we take the reigns and master it. I'm not much of a wrangler, but I'm working on it. I'm not sure yet if my nemesis is fear of success or fear of failure - but #5 on your list - When I say what I have to say they will know WHO I AM - definitely resonates with me. Kinda like those shy, introverted people who go on to become actors....do they find freedom in "pretending" to be other people, yet who they really are manages to shine through? I tend to think so.

    1. Thanks so much, Darcy! We're so glad you enjoy reading the posts because we love writing them. The throwdowns have been enormously creative endeavors because we must each explore how we feel about different topics (and we all have approached every one of them differently).

      Did you go read Chuck Wendig's post? It was truly awesome. And the exposure thing? I think that is much more common than most people admit. 🙂

  2. FYI - I'm really diggin' these fear posts.

    "Expectations." That's how I'm dealing with my fear right now.

    I read Deb's post yesterday and commented all about my fears there, and for the rest of the day it was all I could think about - how am I going to push through it?

    Then, last night as I was submitting my intro and first mini-assignment in Tiffany Lawson's Triple Threat class, I realized my angle - other people's expectations for me. That's my IN!

    My husband always tells me never to quit. When I cry and feel like I'm never going to have time to write, when I feel like I have the weight of the world on me, he always tells me never give up. He's my rock. My eldest daughter loves to sit and watch me write. She just sits there quietly, never asking questions about it until I'm done...just watching me. Last night she even helped hold a page back for me so I could continue reading and typing my assignment - without me ever asking for help. My writing a book has some how created this boost in her, I can't quite describe it, but I know if I gave up it would hurt something inside of her. And of course, I have my family and friends rooting for me.

    But there's also the fact that I just found out about these really awesome scores I got in a contest where I submitted a ridiculously rough first 10 pages, and the judges liked them! I got really great scores...I was totally blown away. And then later that day I found out I'd won a spot in Tiffany's class. It seems like fate is also telling me not to give up...I can't let fate down! LOL

    So yeah, right now, I'm going with everyone else's expectations as a way to fight through my fear. It's working so far, I was able to work on my wip for a couple of hours last night and I feel energized today - I can't wait to get back to it!

    ~ Kate

    1. Kate, you are awesome! Obviously, you own a pair of those panties cuz having others tied into my dream would send MY anxiety through the roof. You're braver than you think you are. 🙂

      Congratulations on your contest! Isn't that a wonderful feeling when someone tells you they love your writing?

  3. I finally reached one of my dreams this year. Four years I tried to final in the TARA Contest, and this year I placed third. Something I've learned through some very black years in my life is that I have indeed inheritied my Mother's Scottish stubborn streak and I cannot give up once I decide to do something. We lost our daughter to cancer nine years ago. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to face, but when it came to deciding if I wanted to live and succeed for her and me or cry the rest of my life, I chose to live. Then, three years later I had uterine cancer - I survived that as well and have been cancer free for six and a half years. It taught me I am a surviver and I will never stop writing until I see book after amazing book of mine published. I actually have four written, but none are up to what I consider my latest skill level. I am so close to sending them out so now I am going to have to rely on the stubborn streak I inherited and get them on their way.

    I always taught my children that if you don't have a dream, you can't have a dream come true. SO, dream big and don't waste your time.

    1. Paisley,

      I am in AWE! That's a hell of a lot of tenacity you've got there. You keep relying on that stubborn streak - keeping on is the most important thing. For my own books, my slogan is "Done is better than good. I can make it good later, but I've got to GET IT DONE."

      It doesn't sound like you've got an issue with "done" or "good" if you're placing in the TARA. You be sure to come over and tell us when you get that contract, because we want to know about it. (You notice I didn't say "if?" 🙂

    1. Thanks, Chris! You can absolutely get some - ours are made out of beer cans and titanium. Just start drinking your brew out of a can. 🙂

      Seriously, thanks a bunch for the compliments and for taking the time to share them in a comment. Write on!

  4. A beautiful post, Jenny, and a great reminder. I too, am afraid when I reach for a goal - what if it's not as great as I thought it would be? Another twist on fear. Is there no end to the ways we're afraid?

    All that matters though, is that you don't let it stop you!

  5. I've been facing some seriously big fears lately--ever since I started writing a gritty, dystopian YA which is a huge step outside my normal genre. When I get scared, I just focus on writing the best book I can and hope for the best. Usually that works.

    Last week, I almost fell apart and gave in to my fears--one of those "why do I write?" kind of things. I called a friend, someone whom I really trust, and sobbed all over the phone. She cried with me, sympathized with me, validated all my fears, and then promptly turned around and told me why I can write and why I need to write this story. It was incredibly healing. My advise is: be selective who you let in that close. Then, when you do, okay to turn to that friend. Shake off the energy vampires and hold close to your true friends.

    1. That's lovely advice, Donna. I'm so glad your friend helped you over one of THOSE moments (I know them well and hate them.)

      You keep writing - it sounds like an awesome book. 🙂

  6. Fantastic! You hit the writer's fear on the nail head. I let forty years of fear to keep me from reaching for the one dream that has stayed with me constantly and that was to become a published writer. My oldest son gave me the push I needed this summer and I now have two ebooks out. I still have the other fears to face, but I will remember to keep striving for what I want.

  7. Great advice, Jenny. Guess who I'm sitting with at a Starbucks in Greenville, S.C.? Nope. Not her. Not her either. Give up?

    Sherry Isaac and Carole St. Laurent. We took a side tour to Carole's house after the M&M convention for THE MAGGIES. Sherry and I both received honorable mentions. I'd SO join GRW if I lived closer. What a wonderful community of writers. I couldn't believe Darcy had the energy to comment after chairing the event.

    BUT, this is about fears, isn't it? Those "majors" you listed? Put me down for all of them at one time or another. I've completed and subbed two completed mss, but am not YET published. Before I started this ms, I took time to study the craft.

    I'm going in for a third time--this time better armed. I'm first draft deep in a new WIP and ready to enter the GH. After that? I'm going to dust off the first ms, apply new craft skills, and rewrite.

    Did the rejections hurt? You bet. Strangers told me my baby wasn't "good enough." It was not the baby who needed cleaned and educated. It was the baby's mama.

    LOVE the Eleanor Roosevelt quote. My other fave of hers? "Well behaved women rarely make history." Would it surprise you to learn Sherry introduced me to that one?

    1. Gloria,

      The fact that you've face all those fears and keep on trucking means you will make it. And how SMART you are to surround yourself with wonderful writing friends. 🙂

  8. Thanks for wraping up the discussion on "fear," Jenny. Each one of the writers who posted hit on another aspect of what fear does to us and how it keeps us locked in step. Okay, I think I might get those panties over my arm, or maybe around my legs and look like a homeboy with my crotch around my knees 🙂 Laura is a great kick-butt motivator and has already informed me to get it in gear and get out there. With the help of two generous and insightful readers and with my heart beating in my ears, I have decided there is no direction to go. I could get hit by a cross-town bus in Manhattan. Whatever it would be doing in South Florida I haven't the faintest ... only that I have always been sure, if I step off that curb the sucker will run me down. The question for me became ... what if I don't die and live in fear never doing what I want with my dream? I suppose since there is no crossing guard, I'll look both ways and head over to the over side of the street 🙂

    1. Go FLOrence, Go FLOrence! Email me when it gets scary - I'll put my cheerleading skirt on, and you'll have the benefit of not even having to witness that!

    2. Florence,

      It doesn't matter if you get those panties up over your behind or just in front of you on your desk. Either way, they'll give you strength...we promise!

  9. Jenny, where can I buy those panties?
    Great insight on dreams, and you know what? Sometimes dreams are best left as dreams, because to make a dream tangible the status quo has got to go, and that implies change (now that's scary).
    So baby girl is walking????? Now that's even scarier! Watch out!

    1. Buncha Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, and lots of ingenuity will give you some nice panties in no time. 🙂

      I know! Baby Girl is walking around like a drunken sailor. It's just wrong...

  10. [...] Jenny Hansen follows it up with her post at Writers On The Storm Blog asking Do You Fear Your Dreams? These posts are so inspiring. Fear is the noose around a writer’s neck and these ladies are shoving it into the spotlight so we can all face it together. Totally awesome! [...]

  11. You have a point. Often, I revel once a part of my dream is fulfilled (I still do). Yet, after the high had died down, I find myself working to fulfill another desire. That's what's fun. Running after my dreams and overcoming my fear. The adrenalin rush of just living that dream and the happy steps you have to take as you walk towards it.

  12. Hello Jenny! I came across your blog, because I reached one of my biggest dreams the other day, and I was absolutely scared! So I wanted to know if being scared of reaching a dream that I've wanted to for two years was the right response and your post let me know that it is perfectly normal to be fearful and scared. I just wrote a post on my experience too. Thank you for your lovely post! I feel so much better now!

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