It was an innocent enough comment, I thought.
I "followed" successful New York Musical Theatre composer and lyricist Timothy Huang on Twitter. When he "followed" me back, I sent the thank you message I send to everyone, with the added comment "I dream of writing Broadway musicals."
And he called my bluff. He wrote me back. And he said, "May I ask what steps you are taking towards realizing your dream?"
I don't know why he asked that... With further exploration of his web presence, I found out he seems to be a bit of a coach at heart. Maybe even a teacher. And he might have heard a hopeful dreamer whispering in the dark, and wanted to see just how serious she was.
Maybe not. But as soon as I read it, I knew it for what it was--a question that required an honest answer. A question that I had been avoiding the answer to for myself. The spotlight was suddenly on my excuses, and I couldn't hide them from myself any more.
I got angry with myself. Because Candace and I have been working on Queen of Persia for FOURTEEN YEARS--but not really. We worked on it for short, concentrated bursts over a span of fourteen years. And had those bursts been "concentrated" not only in effort, but in time elapsed from each other, we could possibly have not only one published play, but several by now.
Thus rang the thoughts of self-condemnation in my head. Followed quickly by the well-practised excuses. "... The kids were too young... I've been too busy... I was home schooling... I've been learning how to write music/tell stories/write musicals better.. I've been too busy investing time into my 'investment capital' business, which leaves no time for the creative stuff..." And on and on.
But "what steps am I taking towards realizing my dream?"
Not enough. That's all I could come up with.
Several years ago, when I had gotten tired of constantly being frustrated at the slow pace I was advancing in each of my various activities and projects, but knowing that I really couldn't give up much more than I already had at the time, I had an epiphany:
A sweater gets knit one stitch at a time. As long as you keep making stitches, the sweater will eventually be finished. Dresses get sewn one step at a time. And novels get written one page at a time. Or one sentence. Or word.
Progress may be slow. But as long as progress is being made, things will eventually be accomplished.
But have I been making steps towards getting Queen of Persia onto a stage? Not really. Not for about four years, now. If that sweater only got one stitch every four years, or even a few rows in that time, it would take a lifetime to complete.
And getting a musical finished and produced takes a lot more effort than knitting a sweater.
"What steps am I taking towards realizing my dream?"
It's funny, because for the last week or so, a voice has been niggling in my brain that it is time to finish. It's time to move forward with this dream, to really begin the career that I have dreamed of since I was in college. Yesterday, I emailed Candace and asked her about a possible next step, and told her a couple things I was thinking of doing, just kind of testing the waters. Testing, because I'm still a little afraid--not of the work, but of my own lack of resolve. Will this be the time that I will follow it to the end? We are SO. CLOSE. Kind of. Not really. Where do we even go from here?
This morning, with that simple question asked by a complete stranger, the lid was blown off the container of my fears. I sat down and composed an email to Mr. Huang that actually did outline the steps that I have known to do but have been avoiding for four years. When I was done, the anger at myself was gone.
In its place is resolve. It IS time. If my pastor and church elders could give me their blessing to sacrifice an entire winter of going to church in 2010 so that I could compose from morning to night that day (at the time, the ONLY niche I could carve out of my schedule to do so), holed up in my freezing cold bedroom (which is where the piano was then), then I owe it to them to finish it. If my husband was willing to sacrifice his Sundays with me, taking over sole responsibility for child care so I could compose undisturbed for one day a week for six months, then I know (for this reason and so many others) that he is behind me 100% on this project. I owe it to him to finish it. If my co-writer can keep reminding me and encouraging me and being passionate about this project, after fourteen years and eight kids between us and moves and misunderstandings and remaining friends through it all, I owe it to her to finish it.
And if, after fourteen years, I still want this so badly that when I allow myself to think about it, to dream it, to feel that flame in my heart that I try to ignore most of the time because the heat would burn and bring me to tears (like right now), then I owe it to myself to finish it.
There is no other dream I have (with the exception of seeing a world where the poor and orphans are cared for properly) that brings me to tears. I don't lose sleep over what knitting patterns I will write in the next year. I don't burn with frustration that my next novel isn't progressing as quickly as I would like. The only dream I have yet to accomplish that leaves my gut twisted with unrequited desire for it is to write music for a living. And specifically, to get Queen of Persia to the stage.
What steps am I taking towards realizing my dream?
Starting tonight, I will be working on the revision Candace and I started in 2012. And continuing on my list of steps from there.
With one step at a time, the journey will finally reach completion. I can't see the end of the road right now, but at least I'm finally walking on it again.
Thank you, Mr. Huang. It was an innocent enough question. But it was exactly what I needed.