Slightly updated repeat of Friday’s post. New post coming soon.
Okay, say you’re inspired by this post about launching a freelance career by going abroad and setting yourself up as an independent foreign correspondent, or by this post and you’re girding your loins to start a big writing project. Or you’re not inspired by this blog at all but your heart is carrying you toward something big, complicated, and hard to achieve. The question becomes: how do you make it happen? How do you accumulate the money you’ll need? How do you get everything done that needs to be done first? And how do you do it all without a) letting work/school/other responsibilities keep you from achieving this big, complicated dream, b) losing heart that you can really pull it off, or c) losing interest in something as distant, complicated, and abstract as this big, scary plan?
The trick, I have found, is to let the plan rule. Make it a tyrant who will not be denied, and then bend your entire life to its will.
Say you have decided, after careful research, to move to Colombia and establish yourself as a freelance foreign correspondent, reporting on the Colombian peace process, the effect on the drug trade of a shifting global attitude toward illegal drugs, the crisis in Venezuela and the refugees therefrom living in Colombia and Brazil, environmental despoliation in the Brazilian Amazon and elsewhere, Chinese efforts to crack central American markets and blast a second inter-ocean canal through Nicaragua, the caravan-inspiring gang violence in Honduras, and any number of other roiling regional issues. Lots is going on, and while the New York Times has people in the region, such Triple-A ballclubs as the Kansas City Star, the Atlanta Constitution, the Minneapolis Star-Herald and others probably depend almost entirely on wire-service copy for their Latin-America coverage, leaving you an opening. You intend to become the Central American correspondent for as many of these newspapers as you can sign up, a process I will take up in detail if you’d like me to.
The advice that follows doesn’t only apply to deciding to move abroad and freelance. Making a tyrant of a deadline works for finally moving out of your parents’ house, finishing a book proposal, finding a job in your chosen field. But to return to the freelance-foreign-correspondent idea as an example:
Your parents don’t want you to go. They worry about your safety and they’d prefer you have a job with a regular salary and health insurance. Your friends don’t want you to go. They’ll miss you, and also — and this is a painful secret truth — on some level your peers are going to be threatened by your pulling this off. If you can launch yourself into the big world and live your dream, what are they doing at Starbucks, or at safe jobs that don’t really scratch their itch? Your having the courage and energy to do this will be seen by some of your friends — even some who love you most — as a rebuke and a reproach. Point is: don’t expect a lot of support from the people around you. When it comes to making this big thing happen in your life, you’re on your own.*
I will continue tomorrow about how to make the plan an absolute dictator over your life, which is how you make plans come to fruition and dreams come true.
*Unless, like me, you have a sweetheart who is also your partner in this adventure, which not only makes it way more fun and rewarding, but vastly increases your chance of success. I’ll write about how I got struck with that particular lightning bolt in a later post if you’d like me to.