The jist of recent conversation with my husband:
"You have big dreams," Shane says to me.
"Um, yeah," I say, thinking Is this some kind of trap/trick question?
"What if they don't come true? Or," he says, "what if they take longer than you expect? How do you avoid being crushed?"
Before you think that Shane's about to ask me to get a 'real job' or 'be realistic' about life, you should know that he's a writer too. So the conversation was more philisophical than threatening.
His question is one of the Big Ones that haunts all artistic folk. If the Dream isn't coming true, what do you do?
I think, before you write the Dream off, you should have a really solid frame around your Dream.
When I talk about my Career as an Author I think it's confusing to Shane, and perhaps others, as to how I can go on and on and on and on without doubting myself. I talk about being The Next Stephen King. I talk about author interviews. I talk about book covers and agents and editors and All the Author-y things.
There's a section in On Writing where King talks about him hitting the publishing jackpot and how he laid awake that night with his wife. He called that a night of dreaming. The next day, I'm sure, he was back at the typewriter.
The weight of all of that dreaming could be crushing if there wasn't some kind of frame around it.
The frame of my Author Dream is the writing.
When I picture myself in five/ten years (those old tropes) I certainly imagine lectures at universities and book signings and all that jazz. But I also picture myself sitting at a computer, at a desk with a notebook, or in some exotic coffeehouse with a scribbling pen. I imagine telling cool stories. I picture the work. It's part of my dream.
And, since I'm already typing on a computer, or writing at a desk with a notebook, or scribbling away in less-exotic coffeehouses. I'm already telling cool stories. I'm already living the Dream. At least part of it. So I'm not really disappointed or crushed beneath the weight of the other things. The rest of it is really window-dressing anyway.
So, just make sure, as you dream away, that there is a tangible part of the Dream that's something you already love and are already doing. It makes the grunt work easier and prepares you for when the rest of it -- OPRAH! -- comes into play. Don't get smushed by your hopes.
Do what you can to live the parts you can already live.