How I Quit Daydreaming and Started Doing
In an alternate universe, I am famous.
In fact, there are a lot of alternate universes floating around that contain different, more dynamic, brilliant versions of me. I’ve been a best-selling novelist, an Oscar-winning screenplay writer and actress, a distinguished and worldly journalist (I’m also bilingual in that one), just to name a few.
There are also smaller alternate universes where I am just a slightly better version of myself. Witty and confident, I always think of the perfect response when someone insults me. I’ve also fought a lot of people and won.
But then there’s the regular universe—you know, the one we live in? In this universe I’ve had some amazing accomplishments, but they pale in comparison. Why?
Because for a long time, fantasizing about my goals was satisfying enough.
Also, in my fantasies, I can’t fail.
I’ve always been a chronic daydreamer. It started when I was a young, introverted only child. I spent most of my time alone, reading or imagining other worlds in which I was a princess, a genie or a sorceress.
As I grew older and became socialized, my fantasies evolved into more reality-based scenarios involving impressing my friends or boys, or winning school awards and talent shows. In the real world, I was painfully shy and quiet, and much too afraid to take the risks involved in actually doing what I was dreaming up.
In high school, I started to find myself through music, drama and cheerleading, and I got my first taste of what it’s like to receive recognition and praise through hard work and practice.
But I never ventured far from my comfort zone, and I still fantasized…a lot.
In college, I knew I was destined to become something great. I had always felt special, like I was meant to make a huge impact on the world, and college was going to be my bridge to success. But here’s the thing—I still wasn’t willing to do any hard work.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t exactly lazy. Well, maybe I was, a little bit. I had the unrealistic expectation of just being discovered by some magical mentor who would guide me to success, and that I would be famous, someday.
But someday kept drifting further and further out on the horizon.
My fantasies were still quite satisfying, except when I would see someone else actually succeed at one of my dreams in real life. I would see an inspiring short film, or read an amazing novel and think, Wow, I could have done that! Sometimes I would seethe with jealousy.
Seeing amazing artwork always reminded me that I had great potential, but soon the daydreaming ensued, and I continued to enjoy unlimited success in my own mind.
When I graduated college, reality finally set in. I didn’t magically get my dream job, and I fell into a cubicle for 2 years, doing customer service and feeling depressed and restless. I became angry at my perceived oppressors— “society” and “the man” were forcing me into wage slavery and stifling my creativity.
It took 6 long years for me to finally learn the few simple truths that would break my cycle of daydreaming and drudgery:
- All my life, I’d spent the majority of my waking hours daydreaming instead of living and acting in the moment.
- No one was holding me back from using my gift, and no one forced me into a cubicle. My life situation was created solely by me, and my choices.
- I’d never put 100 percent of my effort into doing anything I dreamed about.
Once I accepted these truths, something inside me moved. I felt alive and inspired, excited by the thought of what I could achieve if I left my fantasies behind and put all of my potential to use in the real world.
I was done daydreaming. It was time to start doing.
I decided I didn’t need “the man” to hire me, that I could make money on my own, and that freelance writing was the best place to start.
I was still working full-time to pay the bills, but from then on I scheduled time every day to practice writing. I woke up early in the morning even when I didn’t want to. I wrote even when I wasn’t inspired; I just kept clicking away at the keyboard until inspiration showed up.
Don’t get me wrong, working toward my dream isn’t easy. I’ve had to swallow my fear of failure and embrace my vulnerability. I’ve had to dust off and polish the skills I’d left to atrophy for so long.
I am terrified every day. Every word I write, every pitch I send. Only now, I am even more terrified of giving up, so I just keep going.
Every day that I connect with my talent, I create my own, very real universe.
And it’s better than my wildest fantasy.