It all starts with me packing. Deployments are long and I'm a reader, so I packed an entire largish duffle bag of books. At this point in my life, my appreciation for physical books in lieu of e-readers made carrying a heavy duffle bag halfway across the world a worthwhile endeavor. Inside said duffle bag was Jon Acuff's latest book, Quitter.
I finished the book two weeks into the deployment and knew Jon was right. Putting my dream of writing into motion seemed stupid for lots of reasons, but Jon's argument made more sense in the long run than any excuse I tried to justify. Did I want to wallow in excuses and be miserable at my day job, or man up and try my dream out--even if that meant possibly failing badly and publicly?
There's a saying that goes, "imagine what you would do if nothing was stopping you." I don't have that quote quite right, but Quitter is within the same vein. Except Acuff doesn't amp you up and then leave you more lost than an GPS in desperate need of an update. He provides logical steps toward your dream that won't leave you hungry at night or waiting ten years for a breakthrough. You should read the book, right now.
Fast forward one long, but memory filled deployment. I'm back stateside and determined to quit my job (I'm a reservist, so after deployments it's back to the civilian coal mines for me.) But I wasn't going to quit and go get the exact same job with a different company. No more lateral moves for me. I was going to break into writing and leave my job for my dream. That's the only way it was going to happen.
So I read every writing how-to book I could get my hands on and joined a writer's group. That's where I met Jaimie Engle, and life hasn't been the same since I met my best friend and writing buddy. With her gentle prodding, I completed my first manuscript, which is now in the editing stages, in a hair over two months.
This was no easy task, because I was doing it the Acuff way--meaning that I didn't quit working to finish it. I stayed at both my jobs, continued taking my college courses, and occasionally spent time with my husband and daughter. I don't tell you this to make myself sound like a superhero; I just want to paint an accurate picture for those about to take on their dreams. It's not like chasing a fluffy cloud around--it's more akin to lassoing a fire-breathing dragon.
You will have bad hair. You will be sleep deprived. And your family might start to resent you after the third night in a row of take-out for dinner.
Fast forward again--this time to the launch of Acuff's newest book, Start. I'm reading his blog, Stuff Christian's Like, and realize that he is coming to Florida for a book signing. It's on the other side of the state. I don't care, I'm going. I have to tell someone thank you for making my dream happen.
Jaimie and I get into the car and make our way to Tampa. Talking about her upcoming books and my manuscript are my favorite things to do, so I'm happily distracted--until we pull off on the exit. That's when I start to get nervous about the whole thing. Thank God, Jaimie is there. Stuff like this never rattles her--it has the opposite effect. She thrives on the stuff that makes me want to pass out--like talking to people I've never met before.
We find the place, and we find him. The rest is history. I tell him about how he inspired me to write my manuscript and I show him the first draft. I'm thinking he's going to pat me on the back and say something crazy like, "good job, sport." But he is so much cooler than that and doesn't wear argyle.
He says I inspired him. What?
Fast forward an entire weekend. I'm still freaking smiling, every time I think about it.
I have to work in the morning, and nothing about my job inspires me to write. The crazy hours drain me of all my creativity, but I'm still smiling. Because now I know that this job is temporary.
And I've got a half-way lassoed dragon out there to capture.
Note: Here's a link to a free download of the first chapter of Acuff's latest book, Start.
Note: These videos are incredibly motivating. They deserve multiple views: Start NYC Launch and the Quitter Book Trailer.