Last month, I gave the keynote speech at the induction ceremony for Sigma Kappa Delta, the English Honors Society at Collin College. I thought, "Hey, I can share all my words of wisdom at the League." And if you think I'm just doing this because I couldn't think of an original blog post ... um, maybe you're right. But seriously. Words of wisdom. You're welcome.
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Henry David Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
And a T-shirt I saw recently said, “Follow your dreams … except the one where you’re naked at work.”
Both of these quotes offer good advice.
Let me tell you something, you’ll be subjected to all kinds of advice. Some of it you’ll ask for and perhaps even want, but most advice will be given to you unsolicited. You have no doubt already experienced the joy of hearing other people’s opinions about your goals … about your dreams.
You are the dreamer. Be confident. Only you can decide what’s important to you, and how much effort you will put toward your goal. It’s not that you should discard all advice, or ignore the wisdom of those who have gone before you. It’s that reaching for your dreams is risky. And scary. And a little crazy.
You might assume that you are not strong enough or good enough to chart your own creative course. So, you listen to others and try on their recommendations, attempting to find what fits on you. This can be a trap. You can drown in the efforts of others to re-make you in their images. You can be boxed in by rules. You can imprison yourself with fear and with doubt, and never move forward.
You don’t have to listen to others bombard you with their so-called advice, peppered with their own disappointments, their sureties that you will do no better.
Worse still, is that cranky voice within you that constantly disparages your efforts. I wish I could tell you that it’s easy to silence your inner critic. Unfortunately, that critic is made up of too many facets of your life. It is a combination of your parents, your teachers, your significant others, playground bullies, too many self-help books … and those late-night informercials that promise a whole new you for only three payments of $99.99.
It’s not easy to silence your inner critic, but you must try anyway. And I will give you the two magic words, that if you say them enough, the voice will grow smaller, and so will its poisonous influence. Those words are: Shut. Up.
As for those people who seek to “help” you by crushing your spirit with phrases like, “you should be more realistic,” or “that’s just not practical,” or “use some logic here” … weeelll … you know, you probably shouldn’t tell your mother to shut up.
You are the dreamer. Be brave.
Oscar Wilde said, “I put all my genius into my life; I only put my talent into my works.”
You are the only one who can decide how much time and effort you will devote to your goals. You will decide the priorities of your life, and what sacrifices you will make to achieve your dreams. And there will be sacrifices. Just make sure that they’re the right ones.
Remember that dreams are shiny, beautiful, perfect. But making them come true is gritty, difficult, frustrating work. You will fall. You will fail. You will curl up in a fetal position in the corner of your bedroom and weep.
It’s impossible to give up just a little. Giving up is like sliding down a glass hill. There’s nothing to grab onto, no way to stop the descent. So. If you fall, get up. If you fail, try again. If you’re curled up in the corner sobbing … knock it off already.
Robert Louis Stevenson said, “You cannot run away from weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?”
Don’t give up. Persist. Put on your stubborn coat and wear it everywhere. Pull on your doubt-stomping boots and march around. Choose the weapons you will use to slay your fears and go to work.
Giving up is not the same thing as letting go. We change, and our dreams change with us. It’s okay to let go of old desires, to take what we’ve learned on one path and use it to travel on another. Don’t hold on to a dream because it’s familiar or because choosing something different feels like accepting failure. Not every dream comes to fruition, but every dream serves a purpose. You decide the purpose. You decide what you will take away from every experience. You will use all that you learn to build other dreams, to create other goals, to become a better version of who you are now.
You are the dreamer. Be patient.
Ambrose Pierce said, “Patience. A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue.”
Being a writer—well, being human—means you do a lot of waiting. Every writer waits. Published or unpublished, waiting is waiting. Waiting for proposal approvals, waiting for revision letters, waiting for copy edits, waiting for cover art, waiting for paychecks. (Most especially waiting for paychecks.)
"Wait" is an active verb. But it doesn't feel active. It feels stagnant. Like doing nothing. Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of doing nothing. I believe everyone should indulge in quality lolling. For writers, this is known as “day dreaming,” AKA “research.”
Remember, there are things you can't wait for ... like inspiration or a visit from the muse. Waiting can easily turn into procrastinating. Procrastinate long enough, and sometimes the issue you're avoiding goes away, loses its ferocity, its meaning. I know. I'm procrastination royalty.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Patience and fortitude conquer all things.”
You are the dreamer. Be resilient.
William Connor Magee said, “The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”
You will experience rejection. You will hear from people who think you are not talented, will never sell or find success, and enjoy shredding your dreams. You may even think these things about yourself.
You’ve no doubt heard the adage that you must “grow a thick skin,” to handle the slings and arrows of dream-following. But I think you should be more like Teflon. Let negativity slid off. Don’t let fear or doubt or other people’s opinions stick to you.
Mario Cortes said, “Nothing can sabotage winning, except for fear of losing. Success usually lies just beyond failure.”
You are the dreamer. I am the dreamer.
I like to dream. I think about my life, my writing, my children, my apartment, my animals ... about everything. In my mind, I re-arrange mental furniture. I chuck things out the door, and bring things in. I dream every day, sitting in my chair or lolling too long in bed, and think about all things I can do. It doesn't matter if I actually do them, not really. It's the act of dreaming that is wondrous. It's why I write. Why you write. To dream with words.
You are the dreamer.
And dream on.