Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How to Resuscitate a Dying Dream {with Special Guest Ashley Mays}

Laurie here! I had the privilege of meeting author Ashley Mays at the ACFW conference this last year. We share a passion for the hearts of young women, a love for the magazine Brio, and our wonderful literary agent! Love her heart and love this message! Let's get a good conversation going :) 


I remember the day I thought my 13-year-old dream was dying. I’d sent my beautiful baby manuscript to an agent months before. Though many periods of waiting may feel excruciating and endless, I was hopeful. I was sure my wait to find an agent was nearly over. I’d worked hard to hone my craft. My platform was decent. Critique partners were complimentary. So when I received a kind but very clear rejection from the agent I’d queried, my robust, healthy dream suddenly went into cardiac arrest. I had no idea how to save it, so I decided to let it die.

I was tired of trying. Tired of putting my life so fully into something going nowhere. Tired of failing.
I stopped writing entirely. I told people I was no longer passionate about writing, trying to save face. I searched and searched for a new dream to replace my desire to be an author. Surely I anything else would be easier than the whole writing gig.

It turned out, though, my dying dream still had some fight in it. Novel ideas continued to bubble forth. I was miserable trying to stuff them down. Many months later, I realized I couldn’t. And at that point, I had to resuscitate the dream I’d actually tried to smother.

We’ve all encountered sputtering dreams before. But they’re dreams for a reason, and they can be saved especially if we’re willing to be intentional in our resuscitation efforts.

First, when we have a dying dream we have to identify the motivation behind our dreams so we can either move forward or move on. Are we motivated by a heart of helping other people? Maybe God brought us to this particular dream. There are lots of great reasons to continue working toward our dreams even when they’re agonizing and difficult. But our hearts seem to know it when those reasons aren’t so great. If we’re following a dream because someone else wants us to, because we feel like we’ll never be special without it, or out of some other less-than-wonderful motive…maybe it’s time to move on.

Sometimes we don’t need to move on completely. We simply need a “vacation” from our dreams. Passion requires so much from us all the time. When we’re exhausted, we start to feel like it’s an obligation. But burnout doesn’t mean a dream is dying. Dreams, like many other aspects of creativity, really seem to benefit when we take a few days away to let our minds and hearts recharge.

Once we’ve rested, we’re ready to take on our excuses. I find that the more important something is to me, the more I sabotage it with silly things because then at least the failure would make sense. It’s a stupid way to act toward something so dear to me! Are you frustrated because you’ve booked your writing time with coffee dates? Maybe you’re procrastinating with your daily word count. We’ve each got our vices and excuses, but that’s all they are: excuses. We can take control of our excuses. Figure out how you’re sabotaging your dream, and commit to leaving those things behind.

Finally, we’ve got to examine if we’re smothering our dreams by giving ourselves a self-imposed deadline for success. For me, especially as an author, it’s easy to imagine what success looks like and what I should be striving for. A bigger platform. A more engaged audience. Contracts! 

I wanted all those things to happen before my 25th birthday because it seemed like I’d be more successful that way. When 25 came and went, I felt like a failure. But God’s timeline for my dreams mattered so much more than my immediate and overwhelming idea of success. Sometimes we feel like a failure because we’re pushing our successes, or lack thereof, into the wrong timeline. When we let go of our self-imposed deadlines for success, it gives our dreams room to breathe and bloom.

Is your dream dying? Take heart. All is not lost. God is in the business of redeeming and reviving dying dreams. In the right time and in the right way, He’s positioned to do more through your barely breathing dream than you could ever ask or imagine. And isn’t God’s track record with resurrection pretty excellent?

Though they may be sputtering right now, it looks like our dreams may make it after all.


About Ashley: 

Ashley Mays writes fiction to inspire young women toward strength, dignity, and laughter. She is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management. As a former member of the Brio magazine editorial team, she has a heart and passion to write for and work with teens from all backgrounds. She enjoys spending quiet evenings at home with her husband of almost six years. Ashley is a huge fan of North Carolina, camp counseling, and anything that allows her to be creative.

Facebook - Ashley N. Mays
Twitter - @AshleyNMays
Instagram - @AshleyNMays
Pinterest - AshleyNMays


Laurie Tomlinson said...

Love this. Such a great and encouraging word, beautifully expressed as I have come to expect from you :)

Thanks so much for guest posting today!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I can relate to every word of this. Yes, sometimes the dream that means the most to us carries the most pain, and it's easier to do almost anything else than face the possibility of failure. I'm totally there... I've made a whole other side-gig out of temporarily avoiding my dream. I set lots of expectations for success and find it a lot easier to see the ways I fall short rather than how far I've actually come. As you say... thank God he's in the business of resurrection. Beautifully written words Ashley, we're so glad to have you here.

kaybee said...

Ashley, this is a good post because what we do is SUCH an inexact science. I had an agent turn me down last year only because historicals were currently out of fashion. Nothing wrong with my historical, which she liked; she just couldn't take a chance on a new writer who did historicals. It is a dicey business. And it's not that much different from the ministry itself. Pastors can strive in a church for years and, hello, nothing. Our hearts have to be right. There is no way, in our human strength, we can make the results happen. Sometimes your call, or your dream, is all you have. I got a jumpstart in faith about a year ago, when I read a post by Martha Rogers, who did not sign a contract until she was 73. And is still writing. We need to nurture our dreams to keep them alive, without at the same time becoming bitter -- or desperate.
Thanks, Ashley,
Kathy Bailey

Ashley Mays said...

Thank YOU, Laurie, for giving me the opportunity to guest post. It's an honor to post within this community. :-)

Ashley Mays said...

Hi, Karen! Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I was wondering if I was writing the best message for this audience, and I kept doubting myself along the way. So glad to know these words spoke to your heart! I'm excited to see how you get back to the hard work of your dreams. :-)

Ashley Mays said...

Kathy, yes!! I've had similar experiences as well. You're so right. What we do is very subjective. Often that reminds me how powerful it is when our dreams start to come to fruition. God truly is at work, and no circumstance overpowers his purposes even in my writing! (I need to hear that daily, I think.) Thank you for reading and commenting!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

What a beautiful post, Ashley! I especially loved your first point—identifying the motivation behind our dreams. This is what helps me to keep writing when I want to give up. I hadn't thought about the importance of knowing my motivation . . . LOVED this.

Dan Balow shared a great blogpost on Steve Laube's site today about God's timing. It dovetails nicely with what you've shared. (Here's the address, if you are interested: http://www.stevelaube.com/time-travel/) not sure how to make it a link. ;)

Thanks for sharing your heart! It blessed mine. :)

Casey said...

I can so relate to this as I've had to set my writing aside for a time and now wondering when it'll be right to pick it back up. Praying and waiting on God's timing for all of that...