Behind our house is a few hundred acres of state owned property. That means I have miles of hiking trails at my disposal. It is a rural area, and I have never run into another person while up there. But I do run into wildlife.
The other day while hiking with my dog Molly, she spotted a squirrel and took off after it like her tail was on fire. She laid her ears back, lowered her body to the ground, and was digging up dirt as she flew down the trail. She wanted that squirrel so badly she could taste it. Literally, I'm sure.
I couldn't help but notice the difference in the way Molly pursued the squirrel and the way she goes after a deer. We often see whitetail deer in the woods too. I try to spot them before Molly has the chance to scare them away so I can observe their majesty and beauty. I'm fortunate to catch a glimpse before they bound over the ridgeline. As soon as Molly spots one, the chase is on. But there is a hesitancy in her stride. She doesn't lower herself to the ground. She doesn't run so fast it looks like her feet are missing the ground. She's curious, but you can tell she's wondering what in the world she'd do with the thing if she caught it.
Sometimes I wonder if we do the same thing with our writing. We say we're going to write the next great American novel. We'll do whatever it takes to finish that project and see it on the bookstore shelf. We attend conferences and read the right books and groan in indignation when a celebrity or ex-president's wife signs a multi-million dollar book deal.
But are we like Molly chasing the deer? We say we want it, but we aren't really willing to put our chests to the ground and paw up earth the way we do when we're chasing the squirrel.
You see, the squirrel isn't a threat. We're confident of our abilities should we catch the squirrel. We can handle an overgrown rat. But a deer, well that's different. We're not big enough to hold onto it on our own. We need help. So we begin our pursuit, but hold back. Even while we're running, we wonder if we've bitten off more than we can chew.
Writing is harder than it looks. It's not as romantic as we've come to believe. It's like any other job. It's hard work. It takes blood and sweat and a strong constitution to stand against the frustration and rejection. That's why you probably know someone who's talked about the same book idea for years but hasn't written the first word.
How much do you want it? Molly thinks she wants that deer when she sets off down the hill after it, but even she knows she's outmatched. She'll put forth a half-hearted attempt every time because she's a herding dog and it's in her nature to chase whatever runs from her.
It's in our nature to want affirmation. We want the pat on the back, the accolades, the respect of our peers, the right to say we've done something that most others only dream about. But are we willing to get down in the dirt and go after it? Only you know how badly you want to catch the illusive dream of writing a novel or seeing your name in a national magazine's byline.
Don't be afraid to chase your dreams. Don't let your dreams be stopped by the fear of what happens should you catch them. Pretend it's only a squirrel you're chasing and see how far it takes you.