I have pretty vivid imagination, we all know that. I can dream things into existence in infinite detail just to create a world my mind can wander around within and explore.
Elaborate landscapes in which my soul can dance.
At inception, I create lands that only God can see, lands that he alone can walk beside me in. When I pull those lands into reality, dragging them from my mind and onto the written page, I’m opening a door for you. A rabbit hole, a wardrobe, a looking glass, a lamp… Imaginary worlds, mighty adversaries and battles of true valour all translate into word pictures beautifully. But what happens when I dream into reality something I dare not ask for? I can pull whole worlds into existence, yet like the rest of us, I’m too fearful to dream for my own future.
Why? Because there was point in my life where the Legend of the Broken Dream took hold.
I’d hedge a bet that it began the day my best friend and I stood in the park down the road. We must have been approaching eight or nine years of age. I had my favourite soft toy lion in my arms, and I was shoving it under her nose, “Can you feel that? I swear I can feel it! Right? Can you feel him breathing?!”
She stuck her hand up to the lion’s stitched on cotton-thread mouth. I’m convinced she gave it a good shot at believing. She said, “Maybe,” and frowned with concentration, adding, “I think so…”
My soft toy lion was lovingly named Aslan, and for a long time I had quite seriously believed that Narnia was real. 100% no doubt in my mind. We only had to find one of the last doors, and we could go there too. Just like Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. And we’d probably do it better…
Luckily, my friend has her entire life carried wisdom to never dash my hopes or challenge my dreams. Whether she agrees or disagrees, she’s stood there stoically though it all.
And we spent months in training. We took survival classes, we did archery, we studied bush cooking (Yes, growing up in New Zealand you have every chance of covering these topics at some stage), but despite all our efforts, we never found Narnia. I began to suspect that not all dreams came true.
When I was fourteen I ditched the Girl’s Brigade to join a rock band. It sounds glamorous but it wasn’t. I was convinced I’d one day be a rock star like Jonathan Davis from Korn. We thrashed the speaker system in the church hall week in and week out but only ever made it to one proper concert. We broke up. We started another band, heavy metal this time. We covered Kittie and Marilyn Manson, but it became apparent that I was never going to be a rockstar. A dark little shadow on the back of my mind had cottoned onto the concept of the broken dream. I knew I wasn’t good enough.
I was always a fairly okay artist. I loved sketching and drawing. I don’t know how I passed physics and chemistry, because I spent the greater portion of the lesson sketching faeries, monsters, sirens and dragons over my work books. Eventually, I just worked straight into my sketch book, in the middle of the lab. Teachers, pay attention! But I still knew I wasn’t good enough. I saw the girls who worked in fine art and painting, I saw the creations they produced and knew I could never compete. There are too many great artists in this world, and I was never going to place in line near any of them.
By seventeen, perhaps I was starting to get it. I had a moment of some teenage sanity in which I considered all the things I thought I may have been good at, and started to realise the long and narrow road, the road that believes dreams can still come true, when we work at them, relentlessly. It’s that moment when we begin to suspect we may have talent at something specific. Something we love doing.
It’s that moment when we give up spreading ourselves thin over things we like and things we want. Things like Narnia, like being a rockstar, like being a painter (unless you are C S Lewis, the next Jonathan Davis, or the next Luis Royo, of course!)
It’s that moment when we realise there is that ONE THING we LOVE doing, that satisfies us whether we ever succeed in it or not, and we turn to give that specific thing our all.
For me, this meant I ceased imagining myself in other people’s worlds, and I started pulling people into mine instead. I could tell a good story, and maybe one day, maybe I’d learn to tell the best stories.
Did that make sense?
And yet, the Legend of the Broken Dream is still there. Telling me that I’ll never meet Aslan and never be a rockstar. Telling me there are thousands of writers in the world who never get a book published, and of those few who do, most never sell more than a few hundred copies. I don’t dare to dream I can achieve more, because I know how the odds are stacked against me.
So I’ve decided to aim for something far bigger and far more cataclysmic. If I can create a whole world in dark and bleeding reality, and sprawl it out into words on paper, in vivid colour and striking detail…
then I can also change the world.