Just forget the words and sing along

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Death of Dreams

Dreams die the hardest death of all, and we hang onto their remains until long after they've turned to dust in our hands.

That's a quote I love, but I forget who said it. I think it was Macbeth.

I've been thinking alot about the death of dreams lately. When is it time to let go of a dream? When do you admit that it's just a little bit beyond your reach and it's time to move on to another task? When is it time to open your hand and let the dust scatter in the wind, to play off my above quote.

I guess it all started about a couple weeks ago. Back before Christmas, there was a medium-sized issue before the Athabasca Town Council. It seemed that a couple of town councillors wanted to have blogs. That wasn't the issue, even though Garth Turner was still making headlines. No, the issue was whether they could put links to these blogs on the official Town of Athabasca website. Eventually, they said yes. And a smattering of town councillors started up blogs.

(For my friend in Australia who may not have bothered to follow the link...Garth Turner was this Conservative MP who got booted out of the Conservative caucus back in November because he was spilling the beans about what goes on in caucus at his blog, and because he was posting frank comments about (ie badmouthing) Stephen Harper at his blog. He recently joined the Liberals, because, as he said at his blog, you have to be part of a party to get anything done in our version on democracy.)

So when I cover town council meetings, I generally call ahead to see if there's a Municipal Planning Committee meeting that night, too. MPC meetings take place before town council meetings. They talk about the granting of building permits and stuff. If there's a big new construction thingie going on in town, that's where you hear about it first, which is why they're worth going to. My learned colleague at Athabasca's newspaper forgets to call ahead, which is why the newspaper doesn't cover them anymore.

there was an MPC meeting a couple weeks ago, and there was a hot button topic. An apartment building in town is switching over to condos, and was applying for the necessary permits. One town councillor really objected to this, fearing that people would be turned out on the streets if they couldn't afford to buy their apartment-turned-condo.

When the newspaper reporter finally came in, just missing the MPC meeting like they always do, that town councillor walked over to the newspaper reporter to fill in my learned colleague about everything he missed at the MPC meeting, and to offer up a quote or two.

(Of course, in this process, he didn't offer up a quote or two to me. Despite my efforts over the past almost-a-year, the newspaper reporters are still held in higher regard then me down at Town Office. I've come to accept it, but it still offends me a little.)

The town councillor filled in the newspaper reporter on everything that the newspaper missed. "Oh, be sure to keep an eye on my blog!" he told the newspaper reporter. "I'm going to have one hum-dinger of a blog entry on this issue! You know, thanks to this blog, I'm starting to see what it is your writers go through. What information to share...what spin to put on it all...oh, it's so terribly exciting!"

And there we had it. Another blogger turned writer.

I'm starting to think that the vast majority of bloggers are just frustrated writers. I mean, that's how my blog started.

About five years ago or so, when the word "blog" started entering the lexicon, I would be really offended when people referred to Chaos in Print as a blog. "It's not a blog!" I'd exclaim. "Blog entries are tossed off in a minute, without any thought put into them. But with my column, I sit down! I put effort into them! I think about each and every word I put into it! I write them!"

But let's be honest. It was a blog...with excruciatingly long entries. And it was the worst kind of blog too...going over every little thing in my life in embarrassingly intimate detail.

But as I did it, spending weekend afternoons pounding furiously at my keyboard, I had dreams for my blog, oh yes. It was going to be something! It wouldn't be too long before I was discovered and become a published author and write books for a living! Today, a blog, tomorrow...a writer.

I had dreams of writing a novel...even made a few false starts. My only attempt at some serious writing and composing a short story resulted in dismissive shrugs from my friends.

I did have one friend who was supportive of me, and whenever I considered giving it up, he'd say to me, "Mark, if writing were so easy, everyone would be doing it!" Then I'd walk through Chapters. OK, not everyone is doing it. But when you see the rows upon rows of books...a heck of a lot of people are.

I've been on a forced sabbatical from Chaos in Print for almost a year. I stopped doing it because when I got hired here in Athabasca, and started putting long hours in at work, I found I just didn't have the time. And as the end of that first year draws closer, I'm finding that I'm not missing it at all.

But I think what's finally, officially making me give it up is The Edmonton Journal. A lot of their columnists have started doing blogs, and I find them wonderfully entertaining. These people are professional writers. Here, in a simple little blog entry, they can invoke more emotion and generate more thought than a planetful of angst-ridden-teens, in their parents basements, pounding furiously at their keyboards.

the Journal blogs know the written word and know how to use it.

So I think the dream of being a writer is one I finally have to let go. It died a long time ago, so I need to open my hands and let the dust scatter in the wind. But it's tough. I still think I'm going to get back to Chaos in Print someday. I've still got an idea or two for a novel. But little by little, day by day, the desire to do it grows less and less.

I leave the professional writing to town councillors and their blogs.

Further Reading

The Blogs of Athabasca Town Councillors
Mayor Richard Verhage
Councillor Paula Evans
Councillor Mike Gismondi
Councillor Hugh O'Farrell

The Blogs of Edmonton Journal Columnists (actually, just the ones I read)
The Cult of Pop by David Staples
Smart Quotes by Iain Ilich
Salad Daze by Elizabeth Withey
That Internet Thing by Todd Babiak

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