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When Big Author Dreams Become Toxic

When the lines blur between dreaming and obsessing, it's time to take a breath.

I can obsess with the best of them. It's been a defining trait of my life, actually. Dare I say, even a superpower. With lifelong anxiety, it kind of comes with the territory. We lean into our talents of hyper-fixation to make shit happen. So it's no surprise that my big, overarching dream of becoming a published author has landed me in the pit of wallowing more times than I can count. And I know I'm not alone.

Why do we do this? Maybe we take negative self-talk from our childhood and put it to work for us. Like an old frenemy who never leaves our side. Maybe we believe that if we want it deep enough to hurt, we can make our dreams happen.

What I've come to realize as my own truth is far less philosophical. I'm afraid. There it is. I'm afraid. If I stop obsessing over the agent and the publishing deal with a big house, I'm admitting that much of this whole author journey is out of my hands. I'm admitting I have no control.

And yes, I understand at a gut level that I have very little control over anything, which makes this whole cycle maddening.

This spring, my sixth historical fiction book will publish with a small press. I've won seven awards. I have 17,000 social media followers, and my TikTok series on Badass Women in History is growing by the day. My first five years in this game have been more than I could ever imagine. But I keep looking forward with such extreme disappointment, it's hard to smile sometimes.

We never feel good enough. It's a feature of creatives. It's how we continually grow despite spending a colossal amount of time alone in our thoughts. But how can we dream for the big thing without toxic thoughts of inadequacy?

I don't have the answer. I do know that I don't agree with the accepted outlook that we can merely choose to do so. That we can reframe our reality and change who we are with nothing more than a snap of our fingers. I don't believe anyone has that superpower.

I offer you this: it's a practice. Just like the craft of writing.

My oldest daughter left gymnastics in tears this week. She's an overachiever and perfectionist of the highest order, so a difficult skills day left her crying in the car the entire way home. I found myself doing what we all do. "Focus on how far you've come," I told her. "You've learned so many new skills the past few months. It's just going to take some more time."

When we arrived home, I looked in her weepy eyes and realized, this is her big, giant, obsessive dream. I decided to stop trying to dry her tears. So we bought a floor beam for home.

Practice. And a healthy dose of self awareness. It's the only armor I have against toxic dreams. And for now, that will have to be enough.



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