If my email inbox was a terrible 1980s faux-political anthem, it would be Latin Quarter’s Radio Africa. I literally only ever hear bad news. And despite the protection offered by the mental barricades I’ve worked so hard to build, this news does start to break through. Through the Barricades, as it were. Because what I’ve put behind these barriers is a dream and it’s way too delicate to withstand much more negativity. So, I’ve decided to set it free. I can no longer protect it or nurture it. And I’m worried that if I just allow it to be beaten to death, it could pollute the remainder of my notoriously fragile mind.
This may seem unrelated to my search for Not God, but in fact it’s at the heart of it. Through meditation, therapy and Ayahuasca, I’ve found a universal connection. A connection that comes with responsibility. I owe it to myself and to the wider consciousness not to let myself suffer. So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to sit down with my dream and explain that it’s going on a holiday and won’t be coming back. That Daddy loves it very much, but he can’t look after it anymore. How it’s not done anything wrong, but it’s time to go.
Six years, four novels and close to 600,000 words (or half a Game of Thrones book) later, I’m tired and bruised. I’ve battled despair, boredom, writer’s block and, worst of all, hope. I’ve written for the market, I’ve written for myself, I’ve dreamt my stories and fantasised about them being read. All of it is exhausting and most of it has been ignored. I’ve got pretty close, but not close enough. I know I’m not a terrible writer, but neither am I good enough. And enough is enough.
I wanted to be a writer because I felt compelled. I thought I could do something good – leave a worthwhile legacy and touch people’s lives. Entertain and maybe make people think. I know now that I chose the wrong route for those ambitions. Because, no matter how hard you try, how much work you do, how much you hope and wish and toil, some things are beyond our control. And recognising that is an important part of coming to terms with who I am. I can’t love myself if I’m harming myself and that’s the point I’ve reached.
A year ago, the idea of setting this dream free would have terrified me. I had nothing else. In practical terms, I still don’t. No job to speak of, no life to return to, as if this were just a failed attempt to climb a mountain on a gap year. The dream became my life and so there’s something deeply sad about letting it go. Through the hard work I’ve done to save myself, at least I know there’s more to me than what I do and how I introduce myself at weddings. And I’ve been lying about that for so long, I have an almost perfect imagined CV anyway. I can still use it if ‘failed writer’ seems like too much of a downer.
So, goodbye dream. I’ve learned from you and the challenges you brought with you. Perhaps you’ll make room for something better, but first, I need to get used to your absence. Pack up your things in boxes and repaint your bedroom. Live with the space. I still have value and there are things I can achieve. It just turned out not to be this. As Gabrielle so wisely taught us, dreams can come true. Just not this one.
If this sounds depressing, it isn’t. It’s growth. It’s knowing that forming too strong connections to things beyond your control can be destructive, whether it’s the success of a sports team or what another person may think of you. In life, control the things you can control and don’t depend on external validation for your happiness. That way madness lies. Trust me, I know. Have dreams – please have dreams – but let them be yours. You can never really own a dream if it requires someone else to make it come true.