Admit it. You’ve spent a lot of time imagining what it would be like if that one thing you’ve always hoped would happen … actually happened.
We all do it. Especially when we’re small and naive and have yet to experience what the despair associated with disappointment feels like.
The older we get, the more we try to pull ourselves away from these imaginary scenarios. You can’t spend your whole train ride into work daydreaming about, you know, what it might be like to sit across from your favorite talk show host to discuss your upcoming book release.
Why can’t you? Because the odds say this will probably never happen, and you might spend your whole life dreaming about it, and never actually experiencing it.
Have you ever really thought about the worst thing that could happen if you let yourself keep hoping your dream might actually come true — even if it never does?
Well obviously the disappointment that will follow when you don’t accomplished what you hoped to accomplish will crush you into a million pieces and you’ll never write again.
So why take the risk? Why let yourself hope?
OK, let’s get real for a second. I know being afraid to fail is a real problem. I know how devastating it can feel. I know you’d do anything to never have to feel so disappointed you want to quit doing what you love. I’ve experienced all of it, too. I’m not here to tell you your feelings aren’t valid, or that you’re dumb for feeling them at all.
But are you really going to let this hold you back? This fear you’ve magnified to a thousand times its actual size in your head?
Yes, daydreaming, specifically, seems a little silly. After all, if I haven’t repeated this enough times in the past three years, dreams mean nothing if you don’t transform them into goals you can, and will, actively pursue.
But I know there are a lot of you out there who don’t even let yourself wonder about What Could Be anymore. It’s not that you’ve given up completely on the possibility, or that you’ve stopped working on the project you hope might be successful one day.
You just … don’t let yourself hope too hard. Because you’ve failed and been disappointed before. And it’s not fun. And you really don’t want to have to fall too hard when things don’t work out.
If that’s you, listen up.
First — again — I get it. You’re certainly not alone in feeling this way. Disappointment is one of the worst feelings we have to deal with, both as creatives and as human beings. We’re built to run away from things that hurt us. It’s only going to hurt more if you let yourself hope for the best-case scenario.
Second … so what?
Will it really, really sting if you submit that project you’ve poured your entire essence into over the past year and it gets rejected — even though you’ve imagined the moment you get the acceptance email at least a thousand times?
Will you want nothing more than to quit writing altogether when you create a product that doesn’t sell? Start a blog that doesn’t gain traffic? Apply for a writing job that totally falls through?
But here’s the thing about imagining what could happen.
Sometimes, it’s the only motivation you have.
Sometimes, when no one else believes you can do it, at least some small part of you does.
Sometimes, your imagination is all you have to thank for getting you through all those times you did not want to get up and write … but did it anyway.
You’re allowed to imagine What Could Be. Let those scenarios play out in your head. Wonder. Plan. Decide what you’re going to do to make that dream more of a possibility.
Yeah, things might not turn out exactly the way you hope they will.
But you’ll never get to see how they actually do turn out if you stop trying.
Keep dreaming. Really, what’s the worst that could happen?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.