The 8 Stages of Completing A Big Dream

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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I was on the edge of my seat! she said.

It is definitely a page-turner. I had to keep reading to find out what happened to you… I mean I knew I’d seen you standing here in front of me before, so you obviously survived what he did to you, but I was biting my nails waiting to see what would happen next . . .

The Cliff Hanger Stages of Completing A Big Dream

My First Reader!
Marie was the first reader of my complete book manuscript, Burning Down The House.

A real reader! Who read my entire book! Cover to cover, from page one to (gulp!) page 476. Yes, it’s a long manuscript, that still needs a lot of editing . . .

Marie is the mother of the man I’ve been dating since August. I met the whole family soon after Sean and I started dating, and his mom and I quickly hit it off.

Sean’s sister Kathy and I are also good friends. She had offered to edit the book for me at some point, because she is a trained copy editor and loves editing. I agreed.

When I dropped the book off at the house however, with strict instructions for Sean not to read it, since he is in it and I didn’t feel ready for that yet, Kathy was so busy with wedding planning, with her little boy Arlo, and with another editing project that she had to put it off temporarily.

So Marie dove into the thick binder, and amazingly read the whole book.

What Did My First Reader Have To Say?

I loved it! she said.

It was totally engaging. I kept wanting to find out more. You certainly have had a lot happen to you . . .

Oh, yes, I said. My life is definitely not boring.

I’d been a little nervous about letting my boyfriend’s mom read my book, for many reasons: 1) because he’s in it; 2) because I talk a lot about other men (previous boyfriends) in the book; and 3) because there are sex scenes in the book.

I warned my mom about that too. I said, “Mom, I know you’re going to want to read the book at some point, and I want you to read it, but be forewarned. There is sex in it. And, it might be tough reading in detail about some of the difficult things I’ve been through.”

She knows, and of course will still read it, whenever I hand it over. For now Marie is the first official reader.

Of course, the manuscript is already in the hands of my writing coach, Ellen Sussman, who promised to deliver it back to me by December 17. Two weeks away!

I don’t know how much she has read yet however, and haven’t received any feedback from her yet, so we will call Marie Reader #1.

Isn’t She Biased?
You may think, with good reason, that my first reader could be biased. After all, I am dating her son, and she likes me.

However, I did ask her for honest feedback, and she told me things I could improve upon, and what she wanted more of in the book. And in a way, I felt like she was a tougher reader than a stranger because it was scarier to hand her the book. I actually care about what she thinks.

It is validating to feel like someone read the whole book, all 476 pages of it, found it to be a page-turner, wanted to keep reading, was engaged by the story, and felt that it was inspirational and could help others.

Hallelujah, Amen, at least I will have one happy reader!

I’m so lucky to have many people eagerly awaiting the release of my book. Of course, there are still several steps before I can put it into their hands.

One, I need to finish editing it; two, I need to find an agent; and three, we’ll need to find a publisher. All do-able. All planned for completion in 2011.

Because of this blog, and my Facebook page, and my friends around the world, many people have been following the development of the book. It’s exciting to think about officially delivering this book into the world finally.

The Stages of a Dream
Writing this book has taught me a lot about what it takes to live a big dream out loud in the world. The eight-ball Stage of Completing A Big Dream

I first contemplated writing this book 15 years ago, when some of the tragic events I relate in the book took place. I promised myself when I survived a suicide attempt back then that I would tell my story someday if I thought it could help others.

It took me more than 10 years to really give myself the space and time to do some healing work around all the trauma I had been through in my early 20s. For years, I had simply suffered through the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder — fear, terror, anxiety, panic attacks, depression — without doing anything about it.

When I finally started to heal, I returned to the idea of writing the book. It took me a while to work up the courage to truly move forward with it, however.

I pitched the idea in writing classes and workshops, and always got a good response. Yet I still shied away from it for a while. It just seemed like, well, such a big and daunting project.

Writing a memoir while still in my 30s certainly seemed audacious. And I didn’t feel 100% confident that I would actually do a good job of it. It felt big. Overwhelming. Scary.

Committing to It
For me it took a health scare and asking myself the question, “What would I do if I only had one year to live?” to realize that writing this book was truly important to me. And, that I was — just about — ready.

Two years after deciding to write it, a suffering through another heartbreak precipitated me writing a poem that told my whole story, and publishing that on Facebook. When I got an overwhelming positive response, after going public with gruesome details from my past, I decided that I was, finally, really truly ready to do this thing.

Ready, Set, Go!
Looking back at the process so far, I’d say these are some of the eight dream stages I’ve been through, that can be applied when working on any dream –

The 8 Stages of Completing A Big Dream

1. The idea for the dream is born. It can be a passing thought, a nighttime dream, an inspiration that comes from any source. But you know that there is something that you want to do. A dream you want to make come true.
2. The idea percolates. For me it took literally years of percolating, and healing from the past, before I was ready to move on and tell my story.
3. You decide to make it happen. I remember the moment when I finally decided that I WOULD MAKE THIS HAPPEN, period. It was when I thought I might have breast cancer, which turned out to be a false alarm. Yet I knew that writing this book was important to me, part of my future legacy, and felt strongly that telling my story could help and heal others.
4. You take some action, no matter how tentatively. Once I committed to writing the book, I found my writing coach and signed up for her Memoir in a Year class, which was scary and also felt right. And of course, finally, I started writing.
5. You ride the wave of inspiration for a while. Getting started with a dream is generally exciting. You feel pumped up and enthusiastic because you are finally doing what you have long dreamed of doing! It feels great.
6. And then when the wave crashes you keep going anyways. There is bound to be a moment, which Seth Godin calls “The Dip,” when the excitement of pursuing your dream isn’t “carrying” you anymore and you simply have to slog along for a while and do the work.
7. You make it through the hump. If you make it through the Dip and keep going rest assured that soon enough the end will be in sight.
8. You repeat these steps until the dream is complete. I still have to edit my book, look for an agent, find a publisher. Each step will take commitment, time and follow-through. I know I can do it.

And, I know you can too! Let me know where you are this week in the stages of completing your big dream.


Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton, and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House – a dream come true! Now, to get it published! Lisa is also a lindy hopper, blues dancer and belly dancer, and a globe-trotter. Her post day is Tuesday.

  • Heather Montgomery, CEO & serial entrepreneur

    My dream status? I have about 6 newly hatched ideas at step 2, 3 at step 4 in beginning action stages, at least 2 ventures deep in step 6, and one I’m pulling out of step 7.

    Thanks for the rundown and congrats on your first rave review… with many more on their way!

    – Heather

  • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

    Awesome lady! It has been amazing watching you on this journey. Thanks for letting us be a part of that.
    Keep us updated! xox Rem

  • Congratulations Lisa! It’s wonderful to get that kind of feedback. I am excited to hear what Ellen offers.

    Very exciting is right – so proud of you for everything!

    Hugs, Cath

  • I cannot quite explain how exciting it is that SOMEONE ACTUALLY READ MY BOOK! And liked it! reader #1! I’m amazed. She had some great feedback (thanks, Marie!) and I’m looking forward to sharing it with more “test-readers” soon and hearing back from my writing coach with edits as well… All very exciting. :) Living the dream, one step at a time!