I used to have big dreams.

I was going to be a movie star. So, despite evidence to the contrary in my mirror, I went to Hollywood to give it a go. Faced with actually having to go to auditions, I got a massive case of “No, I don’t think so,” and decided to be a screenwriter instead.

Between customers, I scribbled dialogue on paper napkins at Langer’s Deli, where I worked as a waitress. That ambition crumbled a few months later when a hit movie came out with almost the exact same [true] story I was writing. A real screenwriter wouldn’t have given up at that point, but I wasn’t a real screenwriter. What was I? I didn’t know. All I knew was I didn’t want to be a waitress anymore.

So the universe answered my prayer: I got fired.

I took a magazine writing class and, with a beat-up, used electric typewriter, began faithfully writing 2500 words a day, as prescribed by my teacher. I was going to be a Freelance Writer.

The words didn’t come easily at first, but we were told not to worry about that, just to write whatever came out — and keep writing, no matter what, until we reached 2500 words. I would often write, “847 words to go,” like bottles of beer on the wall, just to fill up space. To save on paper, I filled up every square inch. Reading those crowded pages later, I could see plenty of drivel, but the exercise worked. More and more of it was surprisingly good. There were glimmers of interesting ideas, snippets of clear, graceful writing, and sometimes, whole stories that weren’t bad at all.

And then I gave up.

I don’t even remember why. It may have been financial; I had run out of savings and needed to find another waitressing job. But now that I think of it, that wasn’t it. We had reached the stage in class where we were expected to submit actual queries to actual magazines. It was a put-up-or-shut-up moment. I shut up and dropped out of class.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? My family was. My son asked me, “Mom, why are you always trying new things? Nothing ever works.”

“I’m playing the percentages,” I said in a fake-confident voice. “If I keep trying, eventually something’s got to stick.”

Then, I asked my mother for a loan and went to radio school. And it stuck. Thank GOD.

But to be honest, for the first year I worked in radio I was sure it wasn’t for me. I was a terrible street reporter, too petrified to approach people and ask questions, and I couldn’t ad lib for shit because my short-term memory was so bad. Fortunately, I had a good voice and spoke clearly. I lucked into an anchor job at a tiny, all-news station in Las Vegas. I was no journalist but dammit, I could read out loud.

Surrounded by real reporters, I felt completely inadequate. The only reason I stuck with it was this: I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to waitressing [even though it paid more]. After about a year, I fell in love with radio and lived happily ever after—no wait, that was a different story. I did fall in love with radio, but you know, life happens.

A few years later, I decided to write a nonfiction book based on an incident that had happened in my family when I was a teenager. I wrote five chapters and sent them to a big agent, who wrote back that he wanted to read more. I never replied.

I gave up another dream.

The point of all this is that pattern I mentioned earlier: each time I hit a roadblock, I gave up and jumped to something else—until I had no choice. Why? I call it Flakiness, but Steve Pressfield, author of The War of Art, calls it Resistance — with a capital ‘R’:

How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, sucumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to? Resistance defeats us. If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage, and dandruff.

Wow.Β Really makes you think about how much of our economy is dependent on people NOT going for their dreams. Depressing, isn’t it? Pressfield’s entire book is on the subject of this one unbelievably persistant trait that apparently all humans share. [Btw, there’s a great interview with Pressfield on Lateral Action. You should read it.]

After seeing all the self-destructive ways people resist following their dreams, I don’t feel so bad about my own. I used to joke that my radio career was the world’s most profitable avoidance technique. But I’m still resisting my dreams, and—

—hey, wait a minute. I’m writing, aren’t I? NOT resisting! Woohoo!

I am SO getting that book.

What’s your most profitable avoidance technique? Or not profitable — how do you resist your dreams? I want to know! Tell me in the comments below.

Photo credit: ucumari

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Showing 24 comments
  • Slackermomspeaks
    Reply

    Oh man, this made me tear up. (If I wasn't already cried out from watching August Rush today, I totally would have cried.) This is ME. When I was in high school I was a dancer until I thought I had to decide whether to study it in school or not. Then I decided I wasn't good enough to be a real dancer. I worked in NYC in production but quit when it came to the point where I had to work freelance. Couldn't imagine living paycheck to paycheck. So went to plan B (law school). Loved it for awhile until I hated it with a passion and the universe answered my prayer too and I got fired. So now I'm following my passion and I'm much happier but there are days when I'm terrified and if I had a new plan B might be inclined to take it. Thank the universe there's no other plan B!

    So my avoidance technique? I either convince myself that I'll never be good enough (I've wanted to be a writer for years but whenever I start writing fiction, my inner critic takes over and tells me how awful it is) or I get “lazy” and start playing computer games or doing crossword puzzles instead of doing the Thing that I want to do. And it becomes “too late” to do the Thing. I think I need to read Art of War . . .

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    Yes, read The Art of War, but also try writing 2500 words a day. Not kidding, it really works. The important thing is to start, so start!

  • Jane Bradbury
    Reply

    I've already written about my two biggest dreams that I gave up on, under You Can't Do That! at my blog. The story is much the same as yours, and that common theme runs through all our resistance to dreams tales.

    For this week at least, I'm not offering resistance; I am motoring along with surprising speed and determination. I do believe that there comes a time when you get fed up with the procrastinating, the denial, and finally make the progress you should. I think I'm at that point now. :o)

  • wdaunheimer
    Reply

    LaVonne, we're leading such parallel lives its freaky. Big weekend for me, figuring out what to stick with this year and what to give up – no, wait – delay for a year. I'm proud of you for sticking to it. More stick-to-it-iveness helps Flakes like us. Thank you for continuing to write and continuing to live your dreams. It inspires the rest of us.

  • Sandy
    Reply

    I'm so happy that you are writing this blog! There are so few places that are safe for flakes to be honest without somebody who doesn't get it posting something like, well, just use willpower and stick to things like the rest of us do!

    I winced on your behalf at your son's words, though I'm sure he didn't mean them to be hurtful. Oh, I hate it when people say things like, “Well, we'll see how long you give this project,” or “You'll do that until the novelty wears off, but then what?” Ouch, ouch.

    LaVonne, you're singing such a sweet song to those of us who fit this personality profile. Keep singing!

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    Yay, Jane! Me too – motoring along. Feels good, doesn't it?

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    Yay, Jane! Me too – motoring along. Feels good, doesn't it?

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    It was a big weekend for me too, especially after reading that interview with Steven Pressfield. I don't often buy books because I can save a lot by going to the library, but his book isn't available–cheap though, so I'm gonna cough up the cash. Go Wendy!

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    It was a big weekend for me too, especially after reading that interview with Steven Pressfield. I don't often buy books because I can save a lot by going to the library, but his book isn't available–cheap though, so I'm gonna cough up the cash. Go Wendy!

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    I'm so glad you're getting something out of it, Sandy! I've been worried about whether my blathering was helpful to anyone, but I needed to talk about what I've been going through in order to start figuring out solutions. Now I'm starting to find them and will be writing about what I find.

    My son was just echoing what he was hearing from his dad, my ex. It hurt a little, but I was proud of my answer and I think it was a good lesson for him. He never said anything like that again. Plus, after I got a job at a popular rock radio station, his friends were so impressed that he started looking at me with new respect. Sweet.

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    I'm so glad you're getting something out of it, Sandy! I've been worried about whether my blathering was helpful to anyone, but I needed to talk about what I've been going through in order to start figuring out solutions. Now I'm starting to find them and will be writing about what I find.

    My son was just echoing what he was hearing from his dad, my ex. It hurt a little, but I was proud of my answer and I think it was a good lesson for him. He never said anything like that again. Plus, after I got a job at a popular rock radio station, his friends were so impressed that he started looking at me with new respect. Sweet.

  • Linda Wolf
    Reply

    LaVonne,

    Wow, I have never read such a succinct summary of why so many of us are not pursuing our dreams. The resistance stuff is amazing, I am definitely reading more of Steve Pressfield. Thanks for your honesty in this post – I'm glad you've found something you love and keep giving yourself credit and the chance to keep growing. It's taken me 40+ years to figure out my passion – sharing personal development ideas and skills with others to help them overcome self-hate – and it was so worth it, and I am so happy I'm on the path. Not that I don't still get in my own way at times, and move at a snail's pace at others due to my overly cautious nature. But I do keep moving. Yay!

    So glad to find you in the blogosphere.

    Best,
    Linda

  • Barb
    Reply

    Hi!

    Finally made it over here to read your new blog and it's surely proof of your writing abilities. As for key blocks to my achievements? I've always found myself blocked when I concentrated on 'what' it was I wanted to do instead of the 'How' to achieve that goal.

    Can't cook without a recipe.

  • Slackermomspeaks
    Reply

    Ok – now that Idol, Glee and Parenthood are over (I know – I'm a tv addict) I'm starting to write my 2500 words for the day. Man it's a lot harder than I thought. I'm at 680 . . . it could be a long night lol

  • Slackermomspeaks
    Reply

    I know it's weird to reply to my own comment but I wanted to mention that I did the 2500 words (2513 to be exact) AND got a blog post out of it. So I just wanted to say thanks!

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    Linda, thank you, and I'm so glad you found me too. πŸ™‚ I'm trying my
    darnedest to keep moving, but I feel like molasses in January. Btw,
    did you know that saying is based on a <a
    href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Molasses_Disaster”>real
    incident? I'm just full of fun facts. πŸ™‚

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    Hi Barb, thanks for visiting and the compliment. “Can't cook without a
    recipe.” I'm going to print that out and tape it above my monitor. πŸ™‚

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    Holy cow, I'm so proud of you! It's a lot of words — ten
    double-spaced typewritten pages, as I recall — but it sure does break
    through writer's block. And it gets easier. I guess this means I have
    to do it now too, doesn't it? ::sigh:: πŸ˜‰

  • Slackermomspeaks
    Reply

    Ok – now that Idol, Glee and Parenthood are over (I know – I'm a tv addict) I'm starting to write my 2500 words for the day. Man it's a lot harder than I thought. I'm at 680 . . . it could be a long night lol

  • Slackermomspeaks
    Reply

    I know it's weird to reply to my own comment but I wanted to mention that I did the 2500 words (2513 to be exact) AND got a blog post out of it. So I just wanted to say thanks!

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    Linda, thank you, and I'm so glad you found me too. πŸ™‚ I'm trying my
    darnedest to keep moving, but I feel like molasses in January. Btw,
    did you know that saying is based on a real incident? I'm just full of fun facts. πŸ™‚

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    Hi Barb, thanks for visiting and the compliment. “Can't cook without a
    recipe.” I'm going to print that out and tape it above my monitor. πŸ™‚

  • LaVonne Ellis
    Reply

    Holy cow, I'm so proud of you! It's a lot of words — ten
    double-spaced typewritten pages, as I recall — but it sure does break
    through writer's block. And it gets easier. I guess this means I have
    to do it now too, doesn't it? ::sigh:: πŸ˜‰

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  • […] again, into the breach! I went and pushed Slackermom in the comments to write 2500 words a day, thinking that would keep her busy for a while — and she went and […]

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