Friday Night Think Tank: Chasing Dreams Edition

Doc BrownI’m going to really change up things tonight, Modern Philosophers!

Rather than waiting until close to midnight to journey out to the Think Tank, I’m going to open the doors now, in hopes that it will spark even more Deep Thoughts than usual.

I’ve had a lot on my mind this week, and I really need our time together in the Think Tank to sort out some of the thoughts crashing around inside my head.

The last two Fridays have played host to the best sessions in the history of the Think Tank, and I would love to see if the earlier hour draws some new Modern Philosophers to our weekly gathering.

So put on your Deep Thinking Togas and meet me there…

This week’s topic: Today was a coworker’s final day.  She quit her job, has nothing lined up, and said she is looking forward to spending more time with her kids.  This got me to thinking about how much I’d love to quit my job and write full time.  Of course, this leads to the great internal debate of:  “Should I chase my dream, or be responsible?”  Where do you stand on this?  Have you ever just chased your dream?  Have reality, bills, and other responsibilities made chasing your dream impossible? Is it ever wrong to just throw caution to the wind and go for it?

This great debate has raged on inside my head for decades now, Modern Philosophers.

chaseIt is no secret that my dream is to be able to support myself as a writer, and while I have achieved things that would make any screenwriter proud, the annual income from my writing is nowhere near enough to pay the mortgage and keep The House on the Hill heated through a Maine Winter.

I’ve always known that very few who set out to become screenwriters are successful at it.  I have been lucky enough to have had two of my screenplays made into movies, and when I first moved to Los Angeles, I optioned a screenplay for a large amount of money.

Those successes tell me that I have the talent necessary to make it as a screenwriter.  However, for all the happy tales, I have dozens of stories of agonizing failures, rejections, and giant pay days lost just when I thought I had finally “made it”.

So why haven’t I ever just said #$%^ it and gone after the dream?  Maybe a little history lesson will help me explain.

I have been living on my own since I was 17.  The summer after I graduated from high school, my family moved to Virginia.  I stayed in Brooklyn, worked all summer as a busboy to help pay the bills for college, and moved into the dorm when it was time for my freshman year at NYU to begin.

I haven ‘t stopped working since.  Four years of NYU were expensive,and my family did not help pay for college.  Every weekend, I went home to Brooklyn, worked in the restaurant, and then returned to the dorm on Sunday night.

When I graduated, there were student loans to pay, so I couldn’t just lounge around chasing the writing dream.  I was living with J, the girl who would grow up to be my ex-wife, and she was only working part time so that she could finish college.

I met J when I was a sophomore and she a freshman at NYU, but she never graduated from college.  She was constantly going to different schools, forever changing majors, and never working full time so that I could stop working and pursue my writing dream.

So, I just wrote when I could.  I sent out tons of query letters to agents, and worked on becoming a better screenwriter.  All the while, I was paying off my student loans and whatever other expenses a twentysomething living in New York City had.

After we got married, and I was successful at a job that was so far from screenwriting that I started to worry that I had given up on my dream, we decided I had to give writing a real shot before it got too late.

We moved to California, and the plan was to live rent free with J’s Dad and Step Mom while she worked and I did nothing but write.

That didn’t last long.  J decided to go on a cross country bike ride for charity.  You don’t earn a paycheck when you do that.  I took a part time job as a tutor and kept writing.

During this period, I wrote Close To Me, the script I would go on to option for a large sum of money, and .33 Reverse Gunther, the bank robbery script that will hopefully start shooting later this year.

We ended up moving into our own place, J went back to school, and I went from being a part time tutor to the Director of the tutoring clinic.  I still went to Hollywood meetings around my work schedule, but as always, I put paying the bills and being responsible ahead of chasing the dream.

Sure, if that deal with Dr. Dre to buy .33 Reverse Gunther hadn’t fallen through at the very last second, I’d probably have an entirely different life write now.  But after that, I was frustrated with Hollywood, wanted to get the hell out, and start a family.  So, we bought The House on the Hill and moved to Maine.

I got a job and wrote the two screenplays that have since been produced.  But I also got divorced, so the full weight of the mortgage fell onto my shoulders, and I was never really able to capitalize on the heat of having two screenplays produced.

DreamEvery time, responsibility wins out.  I want to quit my job, write all the time, and finally catch that elusive dream.  Something inside me just won’t allow me to do that, though.  I’m too damn responsible.

Or am I a chicken hiding behind the excuse of responsibility?

I know it’s not too late.  It’s never too late.  I’ve got a really good shot at getting Gunther made this year, this blog is very popular, and I’m writing for The Nite Show with Danny Cashman.  As my Dad would say, I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire.

As I would then say, hot irons don’t pay the mortgage.

I’ve rambled on for far too long, Modern Philosophers.  It’s time for you to chime in here.  Where do you stand on this whole “Dream vs. Responsibility” issue?  I’ve pulled back the toga to reveal some of my secrets, so let’s hear some of yours.

Remember, there are no wrong answers in the Think Tank, so write whatever comes to mind.  I’m really looking forward to reading what you have to say, and learning if your are dreamers, responsible types, or stuck someone in limbo.

Thanks for joining me in this.  I really enjoy having this safe place where we can share our Deep Thoughts and say whatever we feel.

Happy Friday.  May your dreams never be out of reach…

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
This entry was posted in Humor, Philosophy, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

75 Responses to Friday Night Think Tank: Chasing Dreams Edition

  1. navery101 says:

    Alas, you have made your chose but the question is really do you follow your head or your heart. Perhaps there is a compromise in your future…perhaps part-time work could get you closer to your dream but not make you feel as though you were totally devoid of income….just a half-baked idea that might rise to the occasion (oh , that was bad but you get the idea!)

  2. rowanaliya says:

    It’s always scary to jump into the unknown when security is right there. Sometimes though you have to take the plunge or nothing will change. I have found myself in a similar position on more than one occasion, I say if you have a bit of a finacial cusion to afford giving your dreams a chance you owe it to yourself.

  3. Before I married my wife and became Daddy to 2 little girls, I would have thrown caution to the wind. Now? Not so much, but I am chasing a dream nonetheless, just not quite at breakneck speed.

  4. floridaborne says:

    Deciding what is the most important to you comes first. Is a comfortable lifestyle in your house on the hill your priority? If not, the housing prices are going back up and you might be able to find an apartment that costs less per month and you don’t have to pay for it when appliances or plumbing don’t work right.. Would you be just as happy living in a mid-priced 1 bedroom apartment if it meant you had more time to write? Is your house less than an apartment? Would you be comfortable having roommates? Can you budget well enough so that you can get by with a part-time job so you have more time to write? ‘

    When I divorced husband number 3, I was forced to go from upper-middle-class to below middle class (aka, poor). The sprawling ranch-style home, fancy dinners once a week and frills such as cable TV, were the first to go. They were replaced by the $1 menu at KFC once a month, local TV stations, and a small apartment.

    Bottom line: What are you spending money on that isn’t necessary? What are you willing to give up for your dream. If your dream of writing is important enough, you’ll find a way.

  5. jerryofcali says:

    Dreams are fine to have, but it take work to make them come true. I had to sit through years of my father trying to make his own business to learn this to be true. Even though he never actually made one work. He didn’t have the right tools. My dream is to teach abroad, to live abroad. And so I work in school, I build connexions abroad to make the dream a reality. Reality only sets in when we give up on ourselves. While some may call people who follow their dreams to the grave ‘crazy,’ it is only because those people have given up on one-too-many of their dreams.

  6. I’ve always chosen responsibility over chasing dreams. Sometimes my “dreams” were impulses disguised as dreams. You’ve got the talent to back up your dreams. You’re closer, than most will ever be, to realizing your dream.

  7. karen698 says:

    The first commenter is right on, in my opinion. But make a plan first. Have a timeline. Devote more time to the thing that might bring some extra income. If you can build a small cushion of cash, then perhaps do a trial period of working fewer hours with your regular job. After you get a little taste of freedom from the office, you may never go back, though, so be prepared for that. Ultimately, you will be successful, do alright, or fail. It probably won’t kill you, but it will likely scare the pants off you.

    • Austin says:

      Great advice. Thank you.

      You guys seem to be missing a key point here, though…I’m asking about your lives not mine. I want to hear about whether you chase your dreams or player it safe. This isn’t all about me!

      • karen698 says:

        What? I missed an opportunity to talk about myself? Actually, my plan for myself is similar to what I shared with you. I became a writer last year out of necessity and made so little money, but that was somewhat related to the fact that I was also looking for another “real” job. I did get recruited for a good-paying gig, but those are usually limited editions. I have higher hopes of writing after I retire (in my 40s, hopefully), because it is so difficult to do a job and then write on the side. But I will continue to do this until the time I can hopefully draw a pension and then begin my next career. If I had more money to sustain me through a lean period, I would definitely throw caution into the wind and go for it; but alas, I am just a working stiff, like most everyone else. Is that better? I forgot to put on my toga earlier. This may have been the problem.

      • Austin says:

        I am intrigued by your comment that you became a writer out of necessity. Could you expand on that?

        Yes, this was an excellent answer. They are always better when one is wearing a toga. 😉

      • karen698 says:

        You know, I almost wrote a post about your thinktank, as I have done once before, but I already have a blog about this, sort of. In 2012, I was displaced from work because my group of doctors left our university. It was an international research program based in Zambia. It took me a while to find another job, but when I did, it was a flop, and I was only there for 4 months. Once again out of work, I decided to join Elance and Freelanced, and got work pretty quickly. I was a churner-outer of web content, but for pretty low pay. The gigs got better, but I couldn’t devote 8 hours a day, since I had to pick up my child from school, and continue looking for another job. I have always wanted to be a writer – took many classes as electives during college – and am convinced that I am pretty good at it (it’s all relative, of course). It could still happen, but for now, it will have to remain on the sidelines of my life as a hobby.

      • Austin says:

        I’ve never heard of Elance and Freelanced. Are these sites I should be investigating?

        Thanks again for sharing. This has been a very thought provoking Think Tank!

      • karen698 says:

        Um, you may too far along to consider those, but it wouldn’t hurt to check out Elance. You put your profile on, and you can bid on jobs, or just let your profile sit for folks to invite you to bid on jobs. There is a lot of competition for the lowest bidder, but your resume will help. I have seen ads on both sites for folks looking for screenwriters. I liked starting there because I was able to build my writer resume, but I don’t think you need that.

      • Austin says:

        I wouldn’t mind making some money on the side writing. It wouldn’t have to be screenwriting. I’ll check it out. Thanks!

  8. amandagrey1 says:

    It feels like a strange sense of coincidence that I stumbled across your post tonight. I recently quit my job, because I was tired of doing the responsible thing – as my goal is to write for a living as well. For a couple years after college, that’s all I’ve done, pay the bills, work and more work, which has left me very little time for writing, and none of my jobs have been even close to my major. The trouble that I have now, is not blowing through my savings while I find that ‘perfect job’ or work away at crafting some story or article that is worthy of publishing – if it ever does get published. I was tortured by the idea of giving up my job to find something that I might be more content with, but I don’t regret my decision. While things might be stressful now, it is pushing me to put away my fear and go for things that I hadn’t pushed for before – most importantly my writing career. Sorry for the book, but it is an idea that I’ve struggled with, too. I say if you have the chance to pursue your dream, go for it. You don’t know if you don’t try.

    • Austin says:

      I love this answer. Thank you for taking the time to share it with the Think Tank.

      So how goes chasing the dream? Do you think you’re going to get there? Do you have any leads? Are you making progress?

      Please keep us posted. Good luck! I applaud you for going for it!:)

      • amandagrey1 says:

        Thanks! To be honest, no leads yet – but this is definitely teaching me that if you really want to pursue your dreams, you have to work hard at it! I think what I want to work at is trying to have a somewhat successful blog, some articles published and work at getting some kind of draft of a novel finished – all those are obtainable right now, and I’m learning one step at a time! It definitely is a learning process for me.

  9. It has taken me most of my adult life to realise that dreams don’t die. Like you, I’ve always taken the path of responsibility, and I thought my dreams had died. But they were still there, screaming to get out, scratching away at my sanity, a little at a time. It comes down to the authenticity of a life lived. There is an undercurrent in your post, a bitter edge to some of the words. I recognise it well. Perhaps age gave me courage to embrace my dreams, the recognition that the years were racing past. I gave myself permission to fail, but to enjoy the journey if failure was to be the destination. After all the years of denying them, it took a while to work out exactly what my dreams were – turns out they weren’t the pipe dreams of youth, when I wanted best-seller status and all that goes with it. My dreams are quieter now, rooted in the satisfaction of daily writing that I am proud to read, and a voice that is truly mine. And I haven’t failed yet. I love my life now, because there is a clarity in my thinking and a genuine pleasure in everything I do. I learned to understand my dreams before I chased them, to be honest about their foundation and their relevance. I’m not sure how much sense I’m making, as it’s 2.30a.m. in England and way past my bedtime!

    • Austin says:

      What a wonderful answer! I really enjoy it when my fellow Modern Philosophers open up and share their Deep Thoughts with the group.

      It’s great that you haven’t failed, that you’re writing daily, and you’ve found your voice. Keep at it. You are an inspiration for the rest of us!

    • karen698 says:

      That was a beautiful answer. I like your realistic approach, and was blown away by your wise comment, “I learned to understand my dreams before I chased them….” Wow.

  10. hollie says:

    I say chase your dreams. This, of course, is coming from the girl who has two jobs, a blog, and will try very hard to write a novel this summer. I also have history junk to publish and haven’t managed to submit that either. The thing is, I can’t say fuck responsibility and pool all of my resources (and by resources I mean time and energy because we both know I don’t have monetary resources!) into writing because someone depends on me. While I wouldn’t trade my son or my responsibilities to him for anything…if I were single and childless I could move to Brooklyn, write, soak up the atmosphere that gives me energy and hopefulness. However, I’m stuck in Western Kansas toiling away and expending my energy on things that get me by for the meantime, but don’t do much for my overall dreams. I keep the job as a teacher not just because I depend on the extra income, but because it makes me feel a little less like I’ve let go of the original dream…the history dream, the academia dream. Chase your dreams…learn from your failures…you’ll never regret that you didn’t work at a job you don’t have a passion for when you grow old…but you may regret not chasing your dream.

    • Austin says:

      Thanks for the pep talk, Hollie! I’m from Brooklyn, you know. Where would you want to live in Brooklyn?

      Maybe some day I will just ditch my responsibility to spend more time with my writing…

      • hollie says:

        I don’t know where exactly…but I know I fell in love with NYC when I visited and I WILL go back. If I were to move there (which I totally will if I’m still unattached when Owen graduates) I would absolutely move to Brooklyn over Manhattan. The city is lovely but a Brooklyn brownstone is more my style. I feel like anything is possible in NYC. The city that never sleeps is a magical place for an insomniac! We stayed in Manhattan when we went at The Pod. The only complaint I had was that there was no ice machine at the hotel. But, ever night I went to the convenience store across the street to buy a cup of ice. Every morning we ate breakfast in the same little place, I got a black and white cookie every day…We ate at a tiny Italian place twice…it is so interesting to me that as tourists, we developed a routine and a little community so quickly. People have this perception (especially here…where a lot of people have not been more than a state away in their whole lives) that in NYC people don’t have the sense of community that we do, but that is absolutely untrue.

      • Austin says:

        I do miss Brooklyn. I know it’s changed a lot since I left, but it will always be the Brooklyn I remember. A great place for a writing to live…

  11. ksbeth says:

    i have done it twice in my life and it has worked out very well, though it was rough along the way at times. if the house means a lot to you, then make that part of your dream, branch out with your writing and creative side, and maintain an income on the other side maybe?

  12. Errrm, please put the toga back on. OK, no, seriously, I have thought a lot about what you posted today. I don’t think there is a writer alive (except for the Nora Roberts and Michael Crichtons) who can afford to quit their day-to-day jobs. It just isn’t a feasible proposition. The fact that you have written two screenplays that have sold (two! fantastic!) is impressive. I know my own writing wouldn’t keep me in pizza, much less pay the mortgage. Perhaps writing is a profession that is only suited to dreams. Truly, I don’t think you can call it irresponsible to quit your job, as your co-worker did. (Believe me, she’s working – she’s just not getting paid for it.) I think you are still chasing your dream – you are still writing, yeah? Responsibility and dreaming are not exclusive. You make people laugh, you make people think. How are these bad things?

    As for me, I wish devoutly I had not majored in journalism (oh, talk about the wasted years of youth). Dreams are lovely things but you cannot eat them. I am practical.

  13. mandolinsummer says:

    For me, it’s all about balance. I work at the career that I trained for, but only in a part-time position. No, I don’t make the great salaries that my colleagues make and yes, I have to stick to a very tight budget that doesn’t allow much “fluff” but my extra hours are spent chasing my dreams: to write, to seek my passion, to be available to my family. You could probably do the same. You already have a firm foundation for your dreams – screenplays that have been made, a well-respected and popular blog, a good following – see what other room you can make for them in your life by cutting out things that aren’t so important or necessary to survive! You don’t have to throw away every responsibility, but I bet that if you sat down and re-examined the things you spend time and money on, you’d realize that some (or a lot) of it is just “fluff” that’s getting in the way of your dreams. (Just don’t cut out your running…I enjoy reading your posts about your running adventures!!)

    • Austin says:

      I’m glad someone likes my running posts!

      Thanks for the kind words and the boost of confidence. That to see that you are finding time in your life for your writing. I guess we are all chasing our dreams…just to different extents.

  14. Well…….let me ask you this, was your co-worker married?? If the answer is yes; there’s not much fear in leaving, she still has a financial supporter. But like me, who was thrown into a jobless state…….it’s down right scary. I have lots of time to write and work on my photography which are two of my biggest passions; BUT………….neither of them feed me or keep my house cool when it’s 100 degrees in Texas. No matter how much you cut back, if there are no funds coming in; you don’t eat and it’s gonna get pretty damn hot without electricity. Ok, so I don’t always see the glass as being half full, I try to see the reality of the situation and the reality is; if there are no funds, you don’t eat or stay cool or keep a car or have Internet and so on and so on; which makes it almost impossible to enjoy chasing anybody’s dream, much less my own. Oh dear Austin, this was a touchy topic for me :-).

  15. List of X says:

    I think chasing dreams is a little overrated. So many of these dreams have competition level so high that most people who chase their dreams end up disappointed – and not because they aren’t talented, just because that there is no market for a million writers, or a million actors, or a million baseball players. But we only see a few who made it, not 999,900 who didn’t.
    So I think it’s obvious where I stand on dreams vs. responsibility. But – if you have something that you enjoy doing, you don’t have to stop doing that just because you won’t necessarily make a living out of it (as long as it’s not illegal, of course :).

  16. robotdangerkitty says:

    I think you made up your mind already and are now seeking confirmation from enough people to go for it. The problem is not one of indecision but of confidence. I disagree with those who say you should set a timeline. Why set an expiration date on your dream?

  17. drishism says:

    I have made rational decisions that turned out well. I have made rational, well thought out decisions that went poorly

    • drishism says:

      I have gone for it, and failed. I have gone for it, and succeeded. Going for it, even when I failed, felt fine to me… because I tried and don’t need to worry about “what if I tried…”

      Do what you think is the right decision for you.

    • Austin says:

      Interesting way to look at it. So there really is no right or wrong answer is there? You just have to do what you got to do. 🙂

  18. Matt Fitzpatrick says:

    Austin…I left a great job in nyc to play poker in vegas…while married..did it for 3 years..made a boatload LESS than I would have staying on wall street…now i have 3 kids and work 60 hrs a week and play much less poker…if i had won 5 million..I would probably still be a poker player..but I didnt and have little regret..I found a new dream (family)…and I dont think I end up ‘here’ staying in nyc…you obviously have talent (they dont accidentally buy scripts…twice!) if you swing the big bat and bounce back..if you watch the pitch go by…you spend the rest of your life wondering…this isnt an have been on this road for 25 years…hit the Damn gas pedal and see where it takes you…

    • Austin says:

      Fitz, thanks for the advice, my friend. Maybe you can just teach me to be a decent poker player, and I can use that to pay the bills while I work on chasing the writing dream.

      Or you can use your connections as a past champion to get me on Wheel of Fortune. 🙂

      Glad to hear life is treating you well in Vegas. I will try to be more like you and go after my dream. Thanks for the pep talk!

  19. Chase them!

    3 years ago I hated my job. Well, I didn’t hate the job but I hated that I didn’t have my dream job that I had just finished a masters program for. I was working at this temp job for 8 months and when August hit, I was so tired of it I decided Sept. 2 would be my last day. I had no prospects whatsoever. I also started packing up my apartment because I didn’t want to live where we were anymore. I knew that by september we would be out of there. My husband thought I was crazy, I had decided enough was enough of the misery we were in. I had prayed and prayed, and this was the next course of action. The last week of august I got 2 job interviews, and by Sept. 2 I had 2 job offers.

    Have faith and move forward!

  20. Thank you for being so open and honest about your situation, and giving all of us a safe place to talk about ours 🙂 I am definitely in limbo between responsibility and chasing the dream. I truly hate working for “the man” when all I want to do is be creative, I feel so suppressed. Like you, I have rent and bills to pay. I would LOVE to make Contortum Designs full time, but how on earth would I keep a roof over my head, food on the table and be able to purchase supplies for my craft?! I need to learn how to market my business more effectively, but I know close to nothing about marketing! So while I writhe around in limbo I just keep working for the man and creating jewelry in my off time, still hoping to find a way to make it work in my favor!

  21. Don’t get me started…I’m depressed now. Thanks. You’re pretty fearless. A good thing, I think. A sugar momma would help you tremendously, you know?

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