Put The Cart Before The Horse On The Road To Your Dreams

6 Feb



Writeous Chicks hatched three years ago this month.  On Wednesday, February 8th, 2006, I met a friend for an after-work drink at what was formerly Link Bar near Union Square.  We were talking about jobs and my career frustration when she said, “It would be cool if you started your own writing school in Brooklyn.”  I opened my mouth to offer my standard litany of excuses:  I didn’t have a graduate degree, I already worked full-time and I didn’t have enough time or energy left over, I didn’t have enough money…  But suddenly, I was really sick of all my regular old excuses, so instead what I said was:  “Yeah, that would be cool!”


To backtrack, the year before I had applied to, and been rejected by, several MFA Playwriting Programs.  I had put so much into my applications and had wanted to teach writing so badly, and I was devastated by the rejections, taking it as the end of the road for my dream.  Then, a few months later that summer, the road started up again as I began to get an idea about teaching classes for women that would combine writing, self-care, and personal growth.  At that time, it was just this vague, far-off notion that that was something I would like to do in the vague, far-off future, maybe when I had more time, energy, and/or money.


Having given myself the permission to override my excuses this time, I was so exhilarated by the idea that I could start something, I could create something from scratch that combined my interests and my passions, and that I could put my whole self into.  I immediately filled up two notebooks with ideas for classes and assignments and even business names, voraciously read books about writing that I filled with underlines, margin notes, and Post-It flags, and excitedly and energetically immersed myself in this project.


Now, I know a thing or two about myself, and one of those things is that I happen to have a tendency to self-sabotage, and a pattern of getting really excited about an idea, taking a few actions in the direction of that idea, meeting with some discouragement and disappointment, and giving up.  I also knew that I did not want that to happen with this idea, and I was too passionate about it to have my notebooks wind up in the back of a dark closet and my inspiration disintegrate into a fine mist of what once was a good idea, what could have been something really cool…


So, I started to trick myself into following through to the next step.  Conventional wisdom suggests putting the horse before the cart so that said horse can pull said cart.  But what happens when that horse has self-sabotaging tendencies and just refuses to move, and the cart goes nowhere?  What I did instead was put the cart before the horse so that the horse would have no choice but to get its ass in gear and MOVE to catch up. 


One of the first things I did was pick the dates for a six-week course a few months out, book the rental space, and put down a deposit.  Investing in my idea made it concrete, and I didn’t want to lose that money to the bandits of self-sabotage and discouragement.  Taking this action enforced my confidence that I would keep my promise to myself of following through on the creation of this particular dream.  Feeling giddy as I hung up the phone after making my space reservation, I knew that I had cleared the first hurdle. 


A few days later, I went on vacation with my family in the Colorado Rockies.  My family is very outdoorsy but after one day of snowshoeing, I opted to spend the rest of my vacationing days warm and toasty inside, sipping hot coffee at Starbucks, hanging out with my books and notebooks and ideas to keep me company as the rest of my family braved the cold and rugged terrain, and I prided myself on the fact that Starbucks baristas in both Brooklyn and Colorado could identify me by name and beverage-of-choice.  One day though, my aunt took a break from rugged outdoors-ness and joined me at Starbucks, and from our conversations over coffee and hot chocolate that day, she then designed my logo, and the flyer for my first class.


I had the concept for my class and two notebooks full of ideas, so the next thing I did was plunk that cart in front of the horse again, and promoted the course by talking about it with friends and sending out emails to people I knew.  And then.  People started to sign up.  People I knew, and also people I had never met, who had been forwarded my email by their friends.  As soon as people signed up and I knew there would be students, I holed myself up in my apartment one cold and dreary Saturday with my notebooks, books, highlighters, and laptop, and formalized the curriculum for my first class.


That spring, I taught my first six-week class, which I had begun creating in conversations over a beer in Union Square and over coffee in Colorado, and which took shape over the next few months in notebooks, in my mind, and on my laptop.  I had not gotten derailed by self-sabotage and I had successfully followed through and completed everything by when it needed to be completed.  The horse had caught up to the cart and was now leaning against it, catching its breath, basking in the sun, and sipping on a margarita, proud of all the obstacles and excuses it had left in the dust.  However, I think, that had I tried put that horse before the cart from the start, had I tried to follow the path of conventional wisdom and done everything in the “right” order, there is a good chance that I never would have made it out of the gate, and that today, three years later, I would be lamenting about that great idea I had a few years ago, wondering where those notebooks filled with my ideas, excitement, and inspiration went, wondering where my ideas, excitement, and inspiration went, and wishing I had taken that first step.


If your ideas, excitement, and inspiration are locked away in some dusty cart in the back of a dark closet, and you are overwhelmed by how much it will take to line everything up in the perfect right order to make your dreams into a reality, just take the first step and plunk that cart down in broad daylight.  Even if the horse isn’t in front of it, even if that horse is nowhere in sight, once it sees that you are keeping your promise to yourself this time, your passion will lead the way and fuel it to catch up and keep racing forward on the road to your dreams.  And remember to take time to bask in the sun of your accomplishments frequently, and enjoy the view along the way…


Have a Fantastic February!


Lots of love!


Jen xoxo


Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Garam

2 Responses to “Put The Cart Before The Horse On The Road To Your Dreams”

  1. Larie February 6, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    Hi Jen, What an inspirational piece! I am amazed at how resilient you are by not letting setbacks get in your way. Imagine if your notebook of ideas were still tucked away – how we would be missing out on your writing – positive, quirky, heartfelt messages. Happy Anniversary Writeous Chicks!

  2. sandi February 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Jen, that was excellent. I am also one who is easily discouraged and am finally in my ripe old age of 34, after many regrets of giving up too quickly, learning to follow through. xo, Sandi (carpello)

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