Monday, January 14, 2013

The Death of the Dream

The neck is stretched out, vulnerable and bare.


And there you have it, the headless chicken.

Have you ever had a secret dream? One you wanted so bad you'd move the earth to have it? Since I was 6 years old, I've known what I wanted to do.

Grandpa said I could talk anyone's ear off as a toddler--I just had so much to say. I quieted down when I started drawing horses at 3, then unicorns, then cartoon characters. Pictures consisted of multiple layers or stories, characters doing things in the background that contributed to the overall development of a plot--and I was in heaven.

At six, I finally could apply words. My first book was "The Elephant Father's Day Surprise", illustrated and written by a steady-handed seven year old. Story dreams filled my nights, and their preservation led to my first non-illustrated (and handwritten) ten-page story at ten years old.

Writing through elementary school allowed me to escape from from 1. my older brother, whose life mission it seemed was to make my existence, well, not so happy, 2. the ostracization from my peers because I happened to have a funny name (C.Hicken--literally), and 3. the girls at church who turned their noses up because I was in a younger school grade. Writing enabled me to vent, emotionally.

At twelve I completed my first hundred page novella, and my plan for life. I would become a writer, published by the grand old age of sixteen--a career I could easily manage around my expectations of being a wife and mother one day. I smile now to think back on that.

The one thing that is inevitable in life: change.

We moved to a new neighborhood. I stepped into a new school with the chance to be whoever I wanted. (Chicken became cool, by the way.) We were attending a different congregation where I was not only accepted, but welcomed with open arms. My brother finally realized that I loved him, despite it all. Life was no longer one cloudy storm after another. I could see the sun, and it illuminated the world with new-found understanding.

People are what really matter.

At 14 I made a firm decision to quit writing. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I did it to become a better person.

I've often wondered who I'd be if I hadn't quit. Where would I be now? I know myself. Once I set a goal, let heaven and hell get out of the way. It's going to happen. I would have researched, attended conferences, met agents, completed a writing program in college, entered every writing contest and won myself a place on the shelves.

But at what cost?

When this life is over I won't look back and say, "Man, I'm sure glad I had a successful career." I'll see the faces of my children, my husband, close friends, relatives and others, and I'll think, "What an amazing life I lived."

So back to that dream. Is it okay to let it die? Ten years ago I completed my first full-length novel. Nine years back I got my first rejection and finished my second novel. Eight years ago I wrote a musical and expanded to orchestral composition. Seven years ago I moved to New York City, met my first literary agent, discovered the joy of editing, wrote another novel, and turned my back on the idea of public school. (I mean, it was NYC. Can you blame me?) Six years ago I put it on hold to raise two babies and home school my oldest (while writing book 5 for fun). Five years back I started a blog--simply to share my writing with family and friends on the other side of the country. Four years ago I finished book 6.

People tell me I'm a great writer. People say they love my stories. Those people aren't agents or publishers.


The last rejection jarred my eyes wide open, and so I am on the verge of killing the dream--the one that got me through some of the hardest years of my life, the one that has always been my distant star and great hope. Maybe I don't need to be published by someone else. Maybe I don't need an agent to validate my talent. Maybe I should give in to my hubby who keeps begging to let him publish me.


Why do you write? --or do whatever you do? And what is your life-long dream?


  1. Please don't stop writing! I remember your stories helped me through some hard times in high school. You do have such a great talent, even if silly publishers don't think so. You are an amazing mother (home schooling! Wow!), incredible friend, and most creative tale spinner i have ever met. Besides, even if you aren't published, your stories are something you're kids and grandkids will cherish forever!

  2. Please don't stop writing! I remember your stories helped me through some hard times in high school. You do have such a great talent, even if silly publishers don't think so. You are an amazing mother (home schooling! Wow!), incredible friend, and most creative tale spinner i have ever met. Besides, even if you aren't published, your stories are something you're kids and grandkids will cherish forever!

  3. If you want to self-publish go for it, but don't stop writing. You have talent even if agents don't always see it.

    (Rolls in buckets of cheese) Maybe this will cheer you up.

  4. 1. Have you ever considered self-publishing to ebooks? I know a few authors who have found a niche with that.

    2. Most of my life to this point has been a complete surprise, and I know there is some big stuff ahead that scares me, to be honest. I try and remember that my life is not my own. I believe God has a plan for each of us. Often this plan has not been my choosing, but by seeking His guidance, I have found which paths to take, and grown through following that council. Good luck with your journey!
    - Emily

  5. You're at a very personal crossroads in your writing career. The interesting thing is that it's just like a road. If you make one choice but decide it's a bad idea, you can always just make a u-turn and go back.

    As for me, I write because I have things I need to share. I always have these moments where I've been hiding something so dark that I couldn't even conceive of letting other people know about it. Whenever I let it out, someone always says "OMG, I thought I was the only one." I write because I want others to know that they are not the only ones. That's also why I'm pursuing traditional publication, to get my stories out there.

  6. It's a wonderful world filled with many options. Look at all of them first (and there are many), and don't give up. You rock Crystal!

  7. I write because I need an outlet for all these thoughts running rampant through my mind. It gets so cluttered and writing is my way of organizing and making sense of the world, my experiences and my relationships.

    I don't know if I ever wanted to be a published author. i would like to teach university and not just high school/ students who receive special education services.

    My dream- become an adjunct professor, publish an educational text and travel the world with my family. Too big? I don't know. Sometimes I think, not big enough. :)

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It has me all reflective . . . :D

  8. I used to get discouraged by rejections from agents too, but we are living in such an exciting time in publishing right now. Really, things are changing quickly. Self-publishing and getting work out in front of readers at a minimal cost is an easy, available option. So, if your goal is to connect with readers and share your stories, then there's nothing stopping you. Just, you know, make sure everything is edited really great first. :))

    And if your heart is set on traditional publishing then just keep trying. No reason for a dream to die just because someone said no.

  9. My dream used to be traditional print publishing, but I'm taking stock of that given the changes in the industry. Don't stop writing, just find new ways to bring it to readers.

    And eat more cheese...

  10. Amy--thanks!=)

    Rachel--thanks for the cheese. It'll happen, right?

    Emily--e-publishing is the route my hubby wants to go. I'm still convincing my self it might be okay.

    Rena--What an excellent reason for writing. I love those moments when universal experiences or truth just pop out on the page.

    Kerri--thanks for the pep talk. =)

    Shaharizan--that sounds like an excellent dream. Not much better than teaching, eh?

    L.G.--I KNOW, RIGHT? Self pub is so often riddled with typo's, but as I've been watching, even big press books tend to have one or two. =)

    Ian--TOTALLY. Let's do it, eh?

  11. I think all we can do is live where we are now. We can't change the past. I try not to dwell.

    My writing career started late. I came up with stories as a kid, but because nobody told me I was good or that I should, I ignored the ideas.

    All we can do is keep writing and move forward. Good luck.

  12. Sometimes dreams have to die. See the movie "A Merry War," based on Orwell's "Keep the Aspidistras Flying," where a man had to choose between his dream and family. But in your case, you put your dream on hold do some childraising, but there does not seem to be anything essential in your life now that you would be sacrificing for your dream. So why not keep writing?


Hit me with your cheese!