What happens when a dream catches up with you

There he was: Avi, the one-named author of more than 70 books for children and young adults, whose massive output includes The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, one of the novels that inspired me to become a writer. He was standing right there, being friendly, normal, and impossibly human.

I, meanwhile, couldn't breathe.

And while I was busy not breathing -- instead reliving the many hours I spent with Charlotte Doyle wondering how I could make that same magic happen across sheets of paper -- the tent filled with other word nerds of all ages who had flocked to the National Book Festival that weekend to celebrate stories well told.

Ever the overemotional ninny, I watched child after child crowd the microphone, eager to ask Avi their burning questions: What inspires your characters? How do you do your research? How many drafts do you write? What's your favorite part of writing? Have you ever run into any legal problems?

Avi was splendid with them -- always interested, never condescending, and clear and direct with all his responses. He respected every child first as themselves, second as his readers, and third as his "potential competition" in another few years.

As Avi shared his wit and wisdom with the overflowing tent, I welled up for a different, more profound reason. "Oh my god," I realized. "I can do this. This is a thing. And it's my thing. I can write and tell stories and touch people and talk to them and encourage them to do the same. I want this to be my life. This should be my life."

The conviction behind the thought overwhelmed me. I wasn't considering my day job or personal development; I wasn't project-managing the situation. I was simply stating what I wanted more deeply than anything else in the world.

The epiphany scared me shitless.

Knowing your goal, finding your tribe, acknowledging that what you want most in the world is absolutely okay to pursue because if the idea of it thrills you, imagine what reality will deliver ... that combination of ideas and lightning bolts has to be the most exhilirating and terrifying thing I've ever experienced (especially in a tent).

I have marching orders insofar as I've been ordered to march. I don't know where or how yet, and frankly, am not even sure how to figure it out.

It strikes me that an appropriate first step would be to write something awesome that only I can write. An appropriate second step would be to get it published before I leave this mortal coil.

Beyond that, I think I will have to make it up as I go.

So what now? What do I do after crying at Avi? All I have is a vision of me standing in a tent on the National Mall someday, speaking with children about books, imagination, and the mattering of words.

But that might be enough. Because that's what happens when a dream catches up with you in Technicolor HD 3D Smell-o-vision. You jump between wild hope and abject terror. You try to discern which questions are worth answering first, later, or never. You fend off the pitchfork-wielding self-doubt just long enough to get the job done.

You believe it in your heart, and you keep knowing it.

Sounds good. Let's start there.

Prayer #226: Vision

I have planted this vision in your heart, and it is meant for you, and you alone.

You will rail against me in frustrated moments. You will shove me aside in short-sighted weakness. You will question your judgement, and my judgement, and everyone else's judgement, and wonder why you're sticking to a plan you can't see and don't understand.

Through all this I promise: the vision is yours, and yours alone.

Because when you succeed -- when all the gears click into place and unlatch the hidden chamber where I stacked your nascent abilities and you placed your wildest dreams for safekeeping  -- then you will thank me for revealing to you early on not your results, but your potential.