Recently I found a line in my old diary that reads, “All I really want is to be the top student in creative writing.” I wrote this on February 9, 2011 – about nine years ago. I had always loved books and writing, was studying towards honours in English and Media. When I found that declaration of my real passion in my journal, I was surprised, I didn’t remember I had wanted to write that far back.
I was around 19 when I wrote the journal entry about wanting to be the best, though back then my only experience writing creatively was two years in A’ level high school and two semesters in university and a few opportunities here and there during my vacations when I wrote lousy fiction and mediocre poetry. The truth is I wasn’t ready then.
It would take me five more years to focus on writing creatively with any measure of consistency. However, I have since come to accept that there’s no deadline for success. In between all that time, I swore I would write on my own, and I never did. That’s what I wanted to do, but why was it so hard to do it? Perfectionism. It kills any opportunity to make real progress. The fear of incompetent paralysed me.
With time I realised and convinced myself that’s when I realised that whatever I wrote was “just a draft” that could be fixed later. It was freeing, really. I learned to move through the fear, a fear that won’t ever really go away. I could not have begun to understand how much I would achieve in the last three years when I showed up to that first job at the local newspaper.
My work did get better, and it will continue to do so. It really is about determination. I’ve never been one of those people who believe everyone should pursue their dreams at all costs. When actors say, “Never give up on your dreams!” during Oscar speeches, I recoil. Not everyone is gifted enough to win an Oscar; very few will get one. I would say, don’t give kids false hope.
However, I’ve discovered dreams don’t have to require an acceptance speech and a podium. They can be smaller, and they can change as you get older. Practical expectations are healthy. It is nice to aim high, but goals need to be reachable, too. I am not the best writer today, but now I realise I don’t need to be the best at what I set out to do, I need to accomplish it. Writing and editing a decent news website was my goal; I’ve now accomplished that.