Chasing Dreams

I learned a valuable lesson recently: the dreams we seek are often not up in the stars, but lurking in the shadows of ordinary life.  I learned this in pursuit of two very different goals: becoming a licensed CPA and writing my first fiction story, a 51-page novella published on Amazon.com.

It took me seven years to pass the CPA exam.  Seven long, humbling years.  Starting out, I did not “dream” of becoming a CPA. Rather, an MBA professor had simply advised, “take the CPA exam to tell the world you’re a business expert.”  It sounded easy enough, but as with much of life, the devil was in the details.  To become a CPA, you first need a slew of business curriculum credits…I piled mine up in undergrad and MBA school.  Next, you need related professional experience; I earned my stripes at Deloitte Tax, sweating out 50-60 hour weeks.  But the most painful step – excruciating, in fact – is passing the Uniformed CPA Exam, a 4-part multiple choice behemoth with a less than 50% pass rate.   Studying for the exam requires surrendering your nights and weekends – for months! – to take sample multiple choice tests over and over again.  When I first took the test I failed all four parts.  It was then that I made a promise to myself: I will pass this beast. I will slay it.

Which brings me to my writing.

I have always harbored a dream of writing a story and publishing it.    But over the years, I have found my biggest obstacles were pride, pragmatism, and procrastination. Pride: what if no one reads what I write?  Pragmatism: what is the point of putting in all that time and effort if it is not a success?  Procrastination: yes, dreams are worth pursuing, but tomorrow will be the day I finally take the first step.  Yet when I quit my job last fall, I started hurdling those obstacles with small, mundane steps.  First, I realized after several months as a stay at home mom that I needed an outlet, so I started SpeckledNotebook.com.  Then, as I wrote each blog post and received feedback from friends, neighbors, even strangers, I realized that pride is over-rated; connecting to just one person through something I write is hugely satisfying. Which left procrastination…

As with many dreams realized, a bit of luck was sprinkled my way. Last month, Hugh Howey, author of the NY Times best-selling “Wool” books and a trail-blazing supporter of independent authors, joined KindleWorlds.  KindleWorlds is a publishing market for fan fiction, a virtual literary bazaar where each tent is a different story’s universe.   The pragmatist in me was thrilled; I loved the “Wool” books, and this was an opportunity to write a story that had a much higher likelihood of finding a micro-targeted audience.

So I set about writing my story.

I am not a professional writer, but now that I have written a story I can attest that writers are unfairly saddled with this cliched imaged: sitting with a glass of Cabernet or a fourth cup of coffee while you pound out words, the first draft being perfect and final.  But in truth, writing is akin to studying for the CPA exam. I had to carve out hours on nights and weekends, finding precious time to write after long days with the kids.  Writing a story is about mastering (or attempting to master) story structure, character arcs, dialog, and plot points.  It is about respecting the art of writing, from use of proper pronouns and prepositions to sentence structure and best placement of nouns and verbs.  “Writing is re-writing,” as the saying goes, which gets really mundane and boring as you revisit the same paragraph or chapter multiple times until it’s as perfect as it can be.  Writing is about persistence and discipline, and not giving up. I was struck by how exhausting writing my novella was; on more than one occasion I wanted to throw in the towel.

I finally passed the CPA exam on my second try, and I finally wrote my story and published it.  Having accomplished both, I learned that chasing dreams is less about looking up, and more about digging in.  Dreams do not live in the clouds; they live within us, lying in wait, eager to be discovered.

My book, “Silo Saga: Unhinged,” is available in KindleWorlds from Amazon.   It is a story set within Hugh Howey’s “Wool” universe.  Read Hugh Howey’s blog here, and check out his books on Amazon here.  Amazon e-books are downloadable to Kindles or the Kindle reading app, which is available on most smart phones, computers, and tablet devices.

Brownies and the 4th of July

Omigod…these ribs taste so good.  The sauce is awesome.  And this corn…so sweet.  Nothing like the farmer’s market.  I love the fourth of July!  

“Hey! Arjun, honey bear, please get down. That’s Grandpa’s seat.  Your plate is over here.  See?  Mosie put a small plate out for you.”

This potato salad is probably killing my Weight Watchers points for the day, but…so what!  This is delicious.  

“Arjun! Get your hands out of the salad bowl. I know you’re hungry, but just wait, I’ll spoon some out for you.  What?  No, you cannot have a brownie!  You have to eat your dinner first.”

Those brownies did look good.  I hope there are still some left after dinner.  

“Pumpkin, please don’t touch the silverware. That is Auntie’s knife, okay?  Leave it alone!”

Should I go grab a brownie real quick before they’re all gone?  Last time Mom made those, everyone ate them up before I finished dinner.  They looked so fudgy.  I think she put chocolate chips into them.

“Dev, Arjun is acting up.  Can you come over here and help out?”

I’ll grab a brownie real quick.  I’ve been outside all day with these kids.  I deserve it!  Just one brownie. 

“What, Arjun?  No!  You cannot eat the salt.  Do you want some corn?  Here, have an ear of corn.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have a brownie.  Why did Mom have to make those?  She knows I’m on Weight Watchers.  God these holidays are crap for a diet.  No…not a diet…Weight Watchers isn’t a diet, is it?  Just points.  Points I killed with chips and beer and all that other crap I ate on the deck earlier.  But…what will a brownie do now?  It practically doesn’t matter at this point.  

“Hey, Arjun, no picking lettuce from the salad bowl.  Or tomatoes.  Just settle down and eat your corn!  Dev!  Please…can you help?”

I shouldn’t eat the brownies.  No brownies.  I need to be good. Have to wear my bathing suit on Monday for that play date at the pool.  

“Honey, no you cannot drink Grandpa’s wine.  Please just sit in your seat.  Come on, honey.  Please?  Dev, what are you doing?  Can’t you come over here?  Oh…sorry, didn’t realize Indira was doing potty.  No, help her…I’m fine.”

You know, the brownie might actually be good for me.  Chocolate is good for my heart, right?  Is that dark chocolate or light chocolate?  Is it good for my liver?  I know I read that somewhere. 

“Oh, God!  Arjun, did you poop?”

God he’s cute when he giggles.  But that smells awful.  Sweet lord have mercy.

“That smells awful, Arjun! What, Dev?  No, it’s ok.  Just a poopy diaper.  No, take your time with Indira.  Get some food when you get a chance.  The corn is great!”

I should ask him to grab me a brownie before they run out.  Omigod what a huge poop.  When will this kid potty train?  I cannot wait to be done with this crap.

“What?  What, Dev?  Yes, Indira likes beans.  You can give her beans.  She already ate them?  Okay, fine.  Whatever…why are you asking me, then?  Okay, Arjun, all set.  Let’s go back to the dinner table!  Finish our corn!”

I should grab a brownie while I’m up.  Yes…I do deserve it!  I just cleaned my third poopy diaper today.  That warrants a brownie for dessert, right?  Yes!  It does!  I can start Weight Watchers over again on Monday.  This week is done anyway…over…I killed it with like, a gazillion points already.  Brownies brownies brownies here I come!!!!  

“Arjun you sit here…Mommy will be right back.  Eat your corn.”

Oh no!  Only one left…let me grab it before anyone else-

“Oh!  Hi Indira!  Papa said I’d give you a brownie?  Because you ate all your beans? And your potatoes?”

Damn.

“Yes, honey-bunny, here you go!  You get the last one, you lucky duck!  Go back to Papa now.  Eat it at the table, don’t let the crumbs get on the floor.  Here, put it on this napkin and walk back to the table.”

Man…these kids are a real buzzkill sometimes.