"This is interesting," came the muffled voice across from the coffee shop table. Micah was reading Fretboard Journal, a magazine filled with all things guitar (and various other stringed instruments to delight the spirit of musicians everywhere). "What?" I asked, looking up from the laptop and pulling an ear plug from my left ear. "It's a story about this guy who drives a nail into the wall," continued Micah. "The guy said he'd hang his first gold record on that nail." The guy, Marty, was an aspiring songwriter whose "next best option was a job writing toaster manuals." Over the next six years he walked by that empty nail. So did his wife and three kids. "Until one day, a gold record hung on the nail, and then a platinum next to it."
"It's an ad," concluded Micah.
Micah handed me the magazine and sure enough there was the short story, "The Man Who Drove A Nail With A Dream," laid out as an advertisement for Taylor Guitars.
A few hours later Micah and I were at a storytelling event focused on the theme of "Legends." We listened to eight different stories from folks across Wyoming. The night began with the story of a modern day outlaw. It ended with a disastrous get-rich scheme from the 1800's. Together we considered, in a haze of freshly popped popcorn, what makes a legend. I wondered, what makes one man drive a nail into the wall and declare the impossible? There are the folks who set out on heroic journeys in their quest for gold or a dream (in Marty's case, the gold was his dream). And then there are the rest of us who stay home and struggle to get up the gumption to take the guitar out of the case to practice. What separates the dream seekers from the couch potatoes?
It seems to me that one of the distinguishing characteristics of Marty's story was that he made a declaration. He drove the nail into the wall for all his family to see...and hear. "Pound, pound, pound." It's one thing to secretly hope for something, hiding away a desire or a passion inside our hearts, lest it be dashed by sharing it with the world. It's quite another to declare it openly, knowing that if you fail, everyone else will know too.
I used to covet the safety and secrecy of hidden dreams. Why share your dream with, say, your husband or your family and friends, when you can hold it close and secure? Maybe, just maybe, I told myself, I can pursue this writing thing from the secrecy of my living room sofa, hidden away from the world. That way, if I fail no one will ever know.
By telling no one, I'd already failed. You can't pursue a dream while hiding in the dark.
The first risk we take, and maybe the biggest, is making our dreams known to the world. We begin with those close to us and eventually work our way out into the world. There are no guarantees we will succeed in the end. But for me, still in the beginning stages, making a declaration is its own kind of success. I declare, "I want to publish a book." Shit, that's scary. I just felt a swell of anxiety in my chest and a burning desire to hit the "Delete" button several times. But there it is...can you hear it...the sound of my declaration...pound, pound, pound.