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Posted by Priscilla on October 22, 2013

dream.jpgNo one knows better what happens to a dream deferred than the graduate of Martin Luther King High School, who enters ninth grade full of plans for the future and leaves with little chance of affording college or securing more than a low-wage job. The ironies startle.

Writ large on the outside of the school named for the man with the Dream are the plaintive questions of Langston Hughes.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up 

like a raisin in the sun? 

Or fester like a sore-- 

And then run? 

Does it stink like rotten meat? 

Or crust and sugar over-- 

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags 

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

What does happen when a dream, your dream is deferred? What happens to the dream? What happens to you?


Hughes gives us some ideas in his questions. The answer, of course, is yes. Yes, dreams dry up. You think they’re gone forever. You settle down to work the life you’ve been given, the life of computer repairman, the life of mom, the life of dependable Peewee coach or choir member. You remember the dream. Barely. It has become something to laugh about. “Yeah, when I was young, I wanted to…”

But you do remember, and that’s because, yes, dreams deferred do fester, like sores. They begin to stink. Oh, not all the time. Mostly, you carry on. But every once in a while, you get a whiff of the old dream. You remember that what is now decaying inside was once alive. It once gave you life.

Yes, sometimes dreams explode. If you are mocked for your dream, you may place the bombs around it yourself. If you fly your dream straight into a glass wall enough times, it will explode around you, leaving you crashing to the ground in humiliation.

What happens to you when the dream is gone?

Do you give up? Retreat into sadness or passivity? Or do you lash out in anger and bitterness?

Writers have dreams. All men and women have dreams, but for the writer the dream is intricately intertwined with the power of words. I write to affect you. I write so that my published words will bring joy or hope or laughter or recognition to everyone who reads them. What happens when my words are rejected? Overlooked?

When the dream dies, the power leaves. With the power gone, the writer self fades. Where there had been light, darkness reigns.

Writers cannot afford to let the dream die. No matter how long the dream is deferred, it must not die, for the dream

Blesses us with our identity

Creates a path toward our destiny

Pulls us out of our small story.

Gives to us History

Connects us to eternity

If your dream feels lost to time or the accretions of life, pick up the most powerful tool of the writer, the trowel of pen and journal, and start digging. No matter how far down the layers of life and emotion your dream may be, a good archeologist will find it. No matter how broken, he will order the pieces, bring them back to you, and offer you the chance to display them.

Toward the end of his life, Basho wrote this profound understanding of the power of dreams:

Sick on a journey, 

over parched fields
 my dreams

are wandering still.

May your dream live on.



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