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.