I love Roxane Gay’s work, and when a friend sent me a link to a response in the The Sunday Review’s “Ask Roxanne:” Is It Too Late to Follow My Dreams? I appreciated her response, and the honesty regarding her own struggles to be published and recognized as a writer. Her envy, her despair, her anger - and her acknowledgement that we can do everything right, we can be really good, and still not gain recognition - are all refreshing, because they’re true.
Of course, the ultimate answer to the question has to be a resounding NO! As long as we are physically and mentally able to work toward them, we should not give up on our dreams. And in terms of creative dreams, there has never been a better time in terms of opportunities to put your work out there. Self-publishing opportunities abound; Patreon and other crowd-funding sites allow creatives to find fans who will support their work; the internet offers unending ways to be seen and heard. In fact, it’s not so much a challenge to put your work out there these days as it is to gain an audience in a world of endless distractions and calls for attention.
Some people are happy creating on their own, without worrying about finding an audience or dealing with the business end of things. Some have a specific dream, that has to do with wider acclaim and possibly riches (why not?). And sadly, some people do give up, beaten down by the harsh realities of rejection, audience indifference, or their own self-doubts.
Some are so paralyzed by self-doubt and fear they never get started. Or they got sidetracked by other responsibilities, and never got back to earlier creative pursuits. Or possibly, their dream didn’t manifest in a way that felt like authentic success. It is from these people I sometimes hear, wondering if it’s too late. And my answer is always some version of: “Will you be asking that question the same time next year? What could you have accomplished in that time, if you only started today?”
The reality is, we can’t think our way to the correct answer. We can’t know what may be in store for us. We can only act. Take that first step: sign up for a class, or coaching; buy materials; promise ourselves we’ll dabble, no set goal in mind, for ten minutes a day. We can’t know for sure that success will take the form we anticipate, but we do know that no success of any kind will come if we don’t act. Start small, and trust that your ambitions will grow as your skill grows. And know that, whatever happens, the only failure is the failure to act. Now. Today.