Now, now, before everybody gets upset and throws his or her chair/coffee/computer at my face, let me explain what I mean by this seemingly harsh exhortation. I’m really not trying to be a dream crusher, although I do think, as a culture, the fact that we tell people to do and follow whatever they want is both short-sighted and selfish. (Come on. “Follow your dreams” is basically Disney propaganda and deserves to be questioned.)
This post is instead intended to be an encouragement to those of you who have more than one creative dream or passion at which you would like to excel still more, but don’t think you have enough time. You know. Writing. Reading. Playing the piano. Painting. Knitting. Baking.
Here’s my first and most important thought: Just try to do one thing. Choose one (maybe two if you’re feeling ambitious, but I wouldn’t advise it), and go for it. Research. Get better. Make a lot of mistakes. Talk to people about it.
And a second thought: Start by doing this one thing for just fifteen minutes a day. Write a character’s stream-of-consciousness. Scrutinize the first few bars of Moonlight Sonata. Read through a complicated recipe several times and strategize. Fifteen minutes is the very minimum—there’s no maximum within reason. You may be surprised at the progress you make as well as the restored sense of excitement you feel for your One Thing of choice.
Otherwise, if you don’t target your time, you’ll spread yourself “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread” and you won’t get anything done. What could have been one or two passions, slowly and steadily cultivated in patience and perseverance, becomes five or six unwieldy passions that quickly wear out. They may even die.
For me, that One Thing—my so-called dream—is writing. Would I love to make time to bake so much that I get really, really good? Absolutely. Prinsesstårta, I’m looking at you.
Would I love to practice piano for several hours a day? Of course! I am ashamed at a.) how far my piano skills have fallen off the deep end and b.) how woefully incompetent I was to begin with. But if I’m to be serious about taking the novel I’m working on and attempting to do my best by it, then I need to concentrate on just that.
This doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your other passions completely. You better believe that I’ll keep tinkering with the piano and baking chocolate chip cookies. (My famous ones. Look out for the recipe soon.) But focus on one. I’m only repeating it because it’s so important and I myself need it hammered into my head.
And yes, maybe someday I’ll happily melancholy my way through Chopin and Debussy without an anxious thought and/or bake the Prinsesstårta of queenly dreams. But for now… I need to be consistent. I need to make writing my One Thing. My One Dream.
What will you choose? Your fifteen minutes—and mine—can’t wait.