Monday, January 7, 2013

When good advice is bad for you

It's only been 2013 for a few days and I wonder how many people have already veered away from their resolutions to change everything from their hair color to their marital status.

I have a  theory about why this happens to dreams and plans - the big and the little -  but first, a little story about imagination and knowledge featuring Reality, Romance and Capacity.  

I dream of one thing other than being a better person, parent, spouse, friend, sibling,  daughter and politically informed citizen and that is to publish a novel. Before I knew better, here is  what I thought I had to do:
Write a story I'd like to read myself, send it out and figure out who would play my characters in the movie.
"Guess what I'm doing?" I said to my friends.

Like everyone else who had this idea before me, I read Stephen King's "On Writing" for inspiration. Yes, I thought, I could do 1000 words a day. Five pages, give or take? Sure. Others would take it from there.

They are called literary agents, I learned.

And then, while I was still honeymooning with my dream I learned that:

Writers often write and submit multiple novels before they get published
...get rejected hundreds of times before they get published
... need to be published before  they get published.
... need to read the authors represented by their target agents
... have a website and a following
... join writer groups
...attend conferences
...and probably will not get published

Everything I wanted would  take years of preparation,  practice and patience in addition to those 1000 words a day. And then, it was only possible that I'd find an agent and even less possible that the book would sell.  

Hello Reality, here is my friend Romance. I don't believe you've met.

I sulked for awhile, then I got busy. Then I got serious.

A couple of years later, when I was not even close to finding an agent and predictably discouraged, I met Capacity when an author-friend told me that if I were really serious, I would be sending out fifty manuscripts a week. I would be following through with emails. I would be chatting up agents at conferences and writing an article here and there to submit to four or five national newspapers. Maybe lobbying the local newspaper for a regular column.

If I were serious.

At the time I had four children at home who needed rides and dinners and counsel and clean clothes, and the thought of managing such a crazy-ass number of submissions stunned me into silence. 

Worse, it made me question my drive instead of respecting my capacity.

It isn't that we don't need solid experts who can tell us just how monumental our goals are.  Or that husbands, friends, parents and children should not give you constructive advice.  The thing is  the timing of it. We seek input when we're unsure, just as our instincts are beginning to speak to us, when we aren't quite aware of our financial and emotional limits and when we  need to imagine more than we need to know.  With help from loved ones or from experts at the wrong time,  it's easy to confuse "naive" with wrong.

And give up.

The early life of a dream is like these first days of 2013 when you are still imagining the great things that lie ahead. Your enthusiasm is fresh and spirited and will urge  you from bed in the morning  like a puppy who needs to go. This is not when to broadcast. This is when to protect your dream, plan for it, learn what's involved and then figure out what you can do about it at a pace that fits into your life .

Capacity is a real thing and not only crazy-ass ambitious people make dreams come true.

So dream your dream and visualize your goal and  understand what you're taking on. But do not fail to understand that all you can do - is enough.  Do not fail to understand that if you can't do as much as some, your commitment and patience will bring you to the same party, if a bit later on.


When you do go public, be ready to hear good advice, all well-intentioned, all steeped in realism - the antidote to a dream - and prepare to ignore it.  Because nothing will kill a dream, plan, resolution, goal, idea faster than listening to others instead of that little voice inside who was there first. 

Be serious about your dreams. 
Every single day, do what you can. 
You'll get there. 


  1. I've always let my dreams propel me, even when everyone else said I was crazy and tried to tell me I couldn't make them a reality, or that I was doing exactly the opposite of what I should be doing. Sometimes they were wrong. Even if they were right, I'll spend the rest of my life trying to prove them wrong.

  2. That's the spirit. And you're lucky because some people HAVE NO DREAMS. Be true to thy Stephanie.