Dream Achievement Found Lagging

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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Dream Achievement Lagging: Creativity blocks and Inspiration quote

For most of you who follow my writings here about dream achievement know that when I was in my 20’s I set aside my dream to become a journalist and chose another career direction. I had lost all interest in writing due to the emotional fallout stemming from a traumatic event where I set my writing aside for 20 years.

Throughout the subsequent years, I didn’t reflect much on this decision until I hit the age of 40.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, my subconscious mind began to scream at me to write. I attempted to ignore these creative urges by throwing myself into work, dating, and caring for my son, but I eventually the creative screams won me over and started my first blog so that I would have a place to write.

It was hard to begin writing again. Much to my great shock, about 6 months into writing on my blog all the pain resurfaced from the traumatic event I experienced as a teenager and I found I had to write my story and set it free.

Once that story was out of my head, I found my passion for writing returned and I have been blogging and writing ever since.

That is, until two years ago, when my mother became ill.

She’s 87-years-old, so even though I’d like her to live forever, the reality is that we are in the delicate years of the long goodbye. This fact hit me a lot harder than I thought it would, but thankfully I am older and more experienced now. I am surrounded by a loving family and very dear friends–not to mention my hilarious, kind son and his college friends–so this time around it felt like it would be different.

Since I am putting a college son through college and helping my mother, my life has been stuck in this pattern of obligation without much room for personal pursuits–especially my dream. I also rolled myself into a Yoga class at the beginning of the long goodbye because I saw that I needed something for myself that would dissipate the mind-numbing stress that comes with painful, life-altering events.

I wish I could say that I am handling it all beautifully, but that would be a lie.

When you are placed in life situations that you don’t want to witness–but is required because of the inevitability of loving people (and pets)–you do the best that you can. You won’t be your regular-self and you will need people in your life who have walked this path and understand that you may not be your true-self for a while, and that it is OK.

It’s called, “life.”

And life will still happen to you while you are pursuing your dreams.

What has been most shocking to me is how difficult it has been for me to sit down and write, or once I do down to write and scribble a few paragraphs, I find myself running out of steam almost immediately.

I see the behavior that caused me to give up writing when I was in college has returned.


I did not expect this as a part of everything that has been happening in my world.

Why do I, once again, find myself struggling with writing?

New York Times bestselling author and former Big Five editor, Ruth Harris may shed some insight into what could be causing this for me. She writes:

“In a famous study of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop by Nancy Andreasen, 80% of writers surveyed met the formal diagnostic criteria for depression. And recent research shows the part of the brain used for complex thought is also active in the brains of the clinically depressed. Researchers found evidence that if you spend too much time engaged in intense thinking, your brain can get stuck in thinking/depression mode.”

So it’s quite possible that “writer’s block” is the brain’s way of protecting itself from a “depressive episode.”

Since being creative, especially writing, requires contemplation and a lot of “thought dwelling” it would stand to reason that my sub-conscious might be trying to protect me from crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head and living there with stale crackers, cheap wine and a case of tissues.

This theory of Ruth’s makes complete sense to me.

I am doing my very best to handle my long-goodbye experience in a better way this time around. When my father was diagnosed with Esophageal cancer, I was just a teenager, really still a kid, and he died when I was slightly younger than my son is now.

Now, I am a bit older than my father, with a child close to the same age that I was–but this is coupled with real-world responsibilities that I cannot shove aside.

I made a decision some time ago that I would be productive–even happy–and find better ways to cope with loss. Through the years, I have been able to deal with the death of my step-father, beloved Uncles, adored Aunts, and cherished friends in more healthy and positive ways.

I used these tragedies to push myself towards more creative activities and away from toxic people and toxic situations.

Dream Achievement Found Lagging: Joseph Campbell quote on pain

I’ve used painful experiences to remind me of just how precious and short life is and to make sure every single day that I tell my son how much I love him and how much he matters to me.

I tell my family and friends that I love them and they matter to me.

These days, when I sit down to write about my dream, I find a certain sadness washes over me because my dream journey feels scattered like fall leaves dancing away down a windy street. It feels like I am chasing something that remains just out of my reach. It is completely understandable that my subconscious would step in to try to help me avoid these sad feelings by urging, or even blocking me from my writing practice.

Ruth advises during such times that you do something else to get your creative juices flowing.

I can see that I must allow myself to have the writer’s block, but not give up on writing.

She further advises that we try something else when we feel disconnected from the creative process. For me, updating my vision board and crossing off items on my 150 lifetime goals is something easy to do when writer’s block hits.

Believe it or not, I have actually achieved events that are listed in both places.

Say it isn’t so!

Just thinking about the fact that I have achieved many of what I see in images on my dream board and listed on my 150 bucket list reminds me that I am participating in life and keeping promises to myself. This practice motivated me to finally sit down and write about what I am experiencing here in this post in case life has you fighting for your happiness too and you feel like quitting your creative pursuits.

You have to remember not to get down on yourself for being human.

Being found lagging with your dream achievement when life sideswipes you in unexpected ways is an understandable reaction. It’s important to allow yourself to grieve, while paying attention to when you might be stuck and ignoring, or even shelving, those tasks that bring you joy, calm your frayed nerves, and remind you that there is hope.

Sometimes we creatives tend to further punish ourselves in sadness by not making time for ourselves and doing something that brings us joy.

Creativity is where happiness is–just look at how happy kids are when they play.  Don’t let that be lost on you.

I can’t change the long-goodbye that I now find myself living through, but I can change how I deal with it and I can keep a steady course on my dream journey.

You can too.

And who knows, maybe just by talking about it, you and I will change how we look at it.

Catherine Hughes
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