I grew up in Nashville. It was a very intimidating place to grow up if you aspire to sing or make music. Nearly everyone that ever came to work on our air conditioner was trying to be in the music business. Most of the waiters and waitresses were, too. I saw lots of people TRYING to be singers and songwriters, but I didn’t know anyone who was actually doing it.
So, I sat on the steps to our basement and wrote my songs quietly, secretly almost. The only person I ever shared them with was my mom. If I wrote one I really liked, I would climb out of my cave and go find her to see if she would listen. She was my first fan. She liked them ALL.
I’m not sure my dad would have “gotten” my writing. I feared a critique from him. I worried that my brother might laugh at my songs or that he might know which girl I was writing about and tease me about that. So, I wrote alone on the steps unless I was courageous enough to play one for mom.
I never even told her (until I really began pursuing it as an adult) that I dreamed of being a songwriter. I’m not sure I even acknowledged to myself that being a writer was my dream. It seemed too crazy and unattainable.
When the time came to go to college, I left my two inch thick folder of songs at home. I didn’t even take my guitar. In my mind, I had to let that dream die.
I was tempted by the siren song of a “Commercial Music” class in college. It was taught by a realtor who also wrote jingles. That’s a long story, but it was better than it sounds. Not quite what I had envisioned, but it did spark the desire to dust off the guitar again and begin writing for fun once more.
College was followed by a “safe’ job. I never once thought of trying songwriting as a career. That dream was dead, remember? It wasn’t until I came to a career crisis – meaning I was in a job where I was miserable and was on the verge of being fired – that I decided to quit my job and decide what I wanted to do with my life.
What I discovered was that dreams don’t die. They may hibernate, but they are still there. Still breathing, still waiting. We can push them down, beat them up, and deny they exist, but that doesn’t take the life out of them.
I have come to believe that our dreams are an essential part of us. If they are not nurtured, a part of us may die, but the dream doesn’t.
If you have a dream – even a CRAZY one – feed it and keep it healthy. Every day, let it breathe just a little. Work on that song, pick up that guitar, type a few more lines in that novel, sing with the mirror as your only audience. Give yourself permission to chase the dream, even if you never catch it. The joy in a dream comes as much from the chasing as from the catching.
Hibernating dreams will wake up one day with a terrible case of morning breath that tastes like regret. Keep dreaming and write on!