Our recently established loop has quickly become one of my favorite parts of this season of life. No topic of conversation is left untouched as we meander through side streets and back roads, picking out houses we like and stopping occasionally to smell the lavender. We go in the evenings when the neighborhood is hushed and we feel free to discuss our days and our dreams and all of the in-betweens.
Over the past few months, her and I have cultivated a sweet friendship with a single unspoken rule between the two of us; a promise to let the truth run wild and rampant from our mouths, even when it is raw and unrefined and scary. Our unannounced honesty hour is a sweet space without filters or hesitation, a sacred space to gush and vent and praise.
It was on that route during a particularly frustration-fueled rant that I uttered the sentence, “I just want to get out of here and be a writer already.”
I had suffered through 3 hours of painful rush-hour city traffic just before we had left and my patience was at a low. I had been in the car with a dear family friend who had spent a decent amount of time trying to convince me that I belonged to the medical field, “not writing. Please not writing, Alyson.” I tried to explain to him that my “I want to be a nurse” phase quickly ended after my inability to stomach a semester of hanging out with a skinned cat in an introductory bio class freshman year. He shrugged off my sad experience with poor little whiskers as “quitting too soon.”
We walked along the back streets that had grown familiar to us and I expressed my frustration from the car ride and the way people seem to react every time I tell someone that I want to be a writer. A look of disappointed pity spreads across the face of the questioner as if to say, “Oh come on, you could do better than that sweetie. You’re so smart! Have you thought about nursing? Maybe business?”My reaction is always uniform. Bite my lip and respond cooly with, “I think there’s always a need for intelligent writers in this world.”
After two-miles of a toddler-style “I want to do what I want to do” type of tantrum, she responded with, “Okay, so then write.”
I could feel my heart tense up immediately as she said it. Fear was my heart’s newest guest and it hadn’t bothered to knock.
“I don’t know if I’m good enough though. I don’t know if I’m a natural. I don’t know if I have the creative ability or raw talent or the ability to grow a big platform.”
There was the truth. The unrefined kind that we had promised. The uncomfortable, “I wish I hadn’t said that out loud but now it’s too late” kind.
She scoffed. “Do you want to write? Is it what you love?”
“It’s all I want to do. It’s when I feel the most like me. It’s how I stay sane.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you suck and would you believe them if they did?”
“Well no, but…”
“So write. It is going to take work. It is going to take time. But if it’s what you love, then you should go do it. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says.”
I knew she was right. About all of it. I love writing, so I should do it. But it won’t be easy.
I think it’s a common misconception people have that if we’re really meant to do something..if it’s truly our “calling,” then it should come easy. We act as if inherent gifts and abilities should equate to effortless success and achievement, despite the fact that no major success in the history of the world has come without hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. A garden doesn’t come to fruition without water and sunshine and fertilizer. In the same way, our hustle is a muscle. We have to put work into our dreams in order to keep them from becoming weak and stagnant. Our biggest dreams deserve our most dedicated work.
Writing isn’t easy for me at all. I had a good friend tell me once that he assumed my writing just flowed out of me the way that you see it on this blog, without any need for editing or forming. He thought I just write and it is good. Far from his sweet assumption, my writing takes time and energy. It is a process of examining my heart, identifying and differentiating between facts and feelings, and then crafting stories in a way that is true to who I am while also being compelling enough that others choose to read what I have to say. It is a total dissection of the heart, kind of like Bio 101, but more fun because no pointy tools or blood.
I’m learning that our dreams require hustle. We can’t just sit around idly waiting for something big to happen. We have to be willing to roll up our sleeves and do the grunt work without complaining(!!!). We have to be willing to dance with our fears instead of letting them trample us. We have to devote time and thought and action to what we choose to love.
I texted my favorite author the other day and asked who her writing mentor had been in college. It turned out she never had one.
It’s easy to complain and come up with excuses to let our hustle lose it’s muscle. I don’t have the resources. This isn’t the right time in my life. I’m not surrounded by the right kind of people. No one understands my work. I need to be living in a different city. I need a different degree. I need the right technology.
When I asked Hannah how she managed to grow, she responded with, “A lot of discipline. Practice. Willingness to fail.”
It’s simple, but I think it’s worth a blog post. We can’t let others choose how we spend our lives, but we risk doing just that if we aren’t willing to put the time and effort into cultivating our dreams and passions into more than just side-hobbies. We can’t be afraid to fall down and fail. We have to get up and get back to work.
I know the saying is a bit cheesy…but it’s kind of catchy too, don’t you think?
Hustle is a muscle. Time to go work it.