Dreams and Reality
Recently I was corresponding with a client whose book is fairly edgy and in some ways, counter-cultural. He knows I totally believe in him and his book, but in this one email I used some cautious language. I told him we were “walking a tricky line” trying to find the right publisher for the book—one who was liberal enough for the subject matter, yet not objecting to the underlying Christian message.
My client wrote back with a gentle reminder to let go of the fear of failure, and to stop thinking small.
He had a good point. I don’t think small. If I were thinking small, I wouldn’t take on a book that’s somewhat risky and definitely challenging. I’m thinking this book could be huge, and could definitely change lives. That’s why I took it on. So I appreciated the reminder to keep thinking big and not worry about failing.
As I’ve mentioned before , I think it’s crucially important that we all keep our expectations somewhat in line with reality. It’s easy to get caught up in fantastic dreams, but they can lead to disappointment when your book deal isn’t as big as you’d like, the process is more difficult than you thought, everything takes forever, and then even when you’re published, it’s no guarantee you’ll keep getting published. So I’m always advising writers to be optimistic, yet realistic.
It’s a tightrope, isn’t it? Trying to balance realistic expectations with big dreams? Yet somehow, we all need to walk it.
Q4U: How do you manage your expectations, yet “think big” about your project? How do you hold fast to your belief, yet not allow it to cripple you in the event the reality is not quite as big as your dream?
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I believe in this day and age it is unrealistic to think you will be an overnight sensation with your first book.
However, I believe it is also self defeating if you don’t believe in yourself and dream of a successful ending to a project you love.
As a Clinical Hypnotherapist I believe we have the ability to create our own reality and the only way to accomplish that reality is stay steadfast in our dreams of accomplishment.
I am at the threshold of seeing my book published and even if it doesn’t make the bestsellers list right away, I truly believe it will eventually. I believe that because I plan on continuing to write a book a year for as long as I can because I have found a new passion in writing.
Hi Rachelle – I just found this blog this morning and already have found great material. Thanks. As far as the question of managing expectations vs. holding onto a dream, I’m a runner and try to employ a similar approach to my writing/dreaming.
It’s fair to hope that I’ll post a fantastic race time, but in order to do so I need to obviously practice and as importantly watch my progress towards that goal in figuring out how realistic, say, a 3 hour marathon is. If, with much practice, I make no inroads towards that mark, it’s reasonable at some point to lower the bar (or look for another sport). 🙂
With my writing, I have one traditionally published and one self-published book. I follow their sales, listen to the feedback I receive, and perhaps most importantly keep aware of any event/writing I’ve done that has a positive impact on sales. It’s work, and not very creative, but it has helped me keep both the traditional and self-published book on a consistent upward trajectory. I don’t have to dismiss a lofty dream as unrealistic or cling to it despite no basis in reality.
I freelance write on a part-time basis, and especially pay attention to any correlation that a local (or the occasional national) article that I write has to improved sales. If it does, as with the running, repeat.
Thanks – TF
This is somewhat worrisome. Your clients book sounds similar to my current WIP. I wonder if I will encounter similar struggles.
Sometimes God asks us to give up a dream. I spent 15 years writing a middle grade fantasy novel. It was my learn-how-to-write book, and I had high hopes I could show kids the dangers of the occult. But a published writer gently asked me to try something else. Now I am working on a middle grade historical novel. My writing has improved, the words flow easily, and I feel like it’s a good fit.I am learning to let my light shine without being overbearing. God’s ideas were better than my dreams.
Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be, the future’s not ours to see, que sera sera. 😉
Hard question! Many of us are fiction writers, so we not only have these fictional stories going through our heads, we also imagine being published and how well our book will do. Back in the 90’s I designed craft patterns for a major crafting magazine and was thrilled every time they purchased one of my patterns and of course devastated when I would get the letter, “We’re sorry, we are not looking for this type of pattern at this time” And yes I did give up submitting new patterns, but not so much to do with the denial letters as to my mom’s death. But after a few years, I started creating again no longer designing patterns for others, but selling one on one by opening a gift shop. The writing process is relatively new to me and I am enjoying writing my first novel immensely and of course have high hopes, but also know that I could get that awful denial letter in the mail, “Sorry your story is not quite what we are looking for at this time.” But I prefer to think big, because it keeps me working on what I really want to achieve.
I love Voni Harris’ comment, “Roots AND Wings.” When I told my commanding general at my retirement ceremony that I planned to be a writer, he said, incredulously, “Do you know how competitive writing is?”
This same general officer had gone behind my back several times to try and limit my career. In my mind, I asked him, ‘Do you know how competitive it is to get into the Air Force Academy? To get into pilot training? To fly for the VIP Wing at Andrews, to fly the Vice President of the United States? To survive in a career field where men actively try to hold you back?’
To his face I just answered, “Yes Sir, I do.”
Past failures and accomplishments teach us, as writers, that hard work, luck, and persistence are vital to achieving dreams. As Harris says, “roots and wings.”
Reality AND Dreams…Roots AND Wings.
As someone who’s still kind of new to the creative publishing world, I’m always reminding myself that the whole process is exactly that… a process. I’m a former Division I Academic All-American. I didn’t get to that place overnight. It took years of work and learning skills in my sport until I achieved the honor as a junior in college. Although I tend to be a big dreamer, I know it takes a lot of effort to make dreams come true. There are so many different types of publishing opportunities out there right now that, if Plan A (traditional publishing) doesn’t work out, I have other options.
I tend to focus on the fun and excitement of the writing process and keep my expectations for the outcome rather vague. Of course, my brain sends me flashes of “what if” success.
For example, I am close to sending to a publisher a narrative non-fiction that is based on my experience surviving and recovering from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. In my dreams, I see the book in the hands of patients, caregivers and medical professionals who all agree that it is EXACTLY the book they’ve needed to encourate and support survivors.
I’ve been cooking up a supernatural novel that I will be writing this fall. My focus is weaving a thousand golden threads into a unique story that will inspire my readers to look at things like community, history, and activism from a different perspective. Sometimes I imagine the book being such a huge success that I am able to make a major financial difference for the small town that inspired it.
I think that the Dreams versus Reality question boils down to this: My dreams are about the impact I hope to make with my writing. Reality is about the goals I set in terms of completing projects and in terms of numbers of copies I hope to sell.
Dream HUGE. Set goals that are very challenging, yet attainable. Become so engrossed in your writing that it becomes your world 90% of the time. Trust serendipity and syncrhonicity.
What is meant to be will be.
For me, it’s all about giving my dreams to God and trusting Him to fulfill them in His way and time, not mine. When disappointment comes (which it will), I can rest in His truth and power. When anxiety takes over, I know I’ve stepped outside that safety, and I run back as quickly as I can!
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I read my first novel, yet it seemed like such a “big” dream, I didn’t see how it was possible. But God had other plans for me. I gave up a great teaching career to write full-time, and although there are days I have my doubts, God confirms over and over again that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. So I have to give it all up to Him and trust that He’ll do with me what He will. If I didn’t keep that mindset, I would have quit about a hundred times. The project is “big” because it’s God’s project–and He’s ultimately in charge and He’s much bigger than my mind can even grasp.
Thinking small and being realistic are not the same.
You can think huge and still be realistic. Heck, forget the realistic. Make art.
Think bigger. Use good grammar while going bigger. Make it a compelling story.
Even if it’s not a “money maker”, it’s fantastic, right?! Isn’t that why we write? For the wonderfulness of the story and the beauty of the language? Everyone, and by everyone, I mean me– ahem– everyone is not interested in being published as the end to end all ends. Some of us still enjoy writing as an art. Even. If. Nobody. Cares.To.Read.Our.Big.Thoughts.
Currently you’ll find me in the no small thinking zone. Consequences
[…] Rachelle Gardner- Rants and Ramblings […]
Send out your expectations and then release the result to the universe. Maybe it won’t happen that way I hope it will happen, but it can’t happen at all unless I dream it and then release the dream.
Right now I have a query out to Rachelle and a 12 page contract for a picture book in my hot little hand. That particular book was sent to the publisher with no expectations of any kind. I thought I was giving her a gift in return for a very nice rejection letter she sent me. Life is often amazing.
I’m in the same boat, although with science fiction. My books have some underlying spiritual or religious content, but probably not enough for Christian publishers (which don’t really do much SF, anyway) and, I have to hope, not too much for the mainstream publishers. This post is very timely for me. I try to let go of my fear by writing the book I want to write and telling myself that if it’s meant to be, it will be. I also accept ahead of time that one element or the other might not appeal to certain agents or editors, and try to distance myself from it emotionally, just a little bit, so any rejections won’t be crushing. We’ll see how I hold up once I start querying!
How have I defined my purpose/dream/goal, and what am I doing today to achieve that? I only get one day at a time. How am I spending it?
Hmm? It’s nice to know some genres blurr into others. Several of my novels have Christian values but are a bit edgy to be considered inspirational.
I just take it one day at a time, keep pushing myself to keep at it and my wife ensures I keep my eyes on the prize – rather than letting my head wander into the clouds. She’s very talented at it too!
I just write. There’s fun in that alone. Of course, I can dream too.
But dreamers dream and doers do.
Good points, Rachelle. If you haven’t already, you should try HarperOne for your client. It worked for Rob Bell. 😉
There is a goal. And there are many steps in between. I like to take one step at a time…That helps me. 🙂
I try to think big about the project itself—what I can accomplish with it artistically. I go all out with pursuing my passion and vision for the book. Then I get realistic about the process and results of publication.
I’m not sure what genre you’re talking about for his book, Rachelle, but when it comes to YA fiction, it seems the sky is the limit in terms of edgy, even in the Christian arena.
Awhile ago I read Broken Angel, a YA by Sigmund Brouwer. I was surprised by the graphic and intense evil portrayed in this Christian dystopian book and it’s sequel. (Well, not too much, since I had read Double Helix by him and knew what he was capable of. I was just surprised at him giving it to teens.) Then I caught a middle grade illustrated fiction put out by Tyndale. The level of dark material, from evil intentions to murder, in this book for children positively chilled me. (Note: My kids read a ton and love books like the Ranger’s Apprentice series and 39 clues, but I don’t consider these secular market books nearly as dark as that one from Tyndale.) I couldn’t for the life of me tell why a Christian publisher had chosen that book at all, because there didn’t seem to be any redeeming properties in it. It seems the lines (probably in an effort to compete with secular offerings) have been excessively blurred in Christian publishing. Unless your client’s book is extremely graphic in some respect, I don’t wonder at his getting published if his writing excels.
Perhaps in adult there’s a little more of a barrier to the edgy, but I don’t read much for adults so I wouldn’t know.
I think there is a high tolerance for “darkness” even in Christian literature as long as the overall message and theme is that good (God) wins over evil. As many have acknowledged, this world is full of darkness, and teens seem to like this kind of literature because it doesn’t pretend otherwise. They’re coming of age and they need to be encouraged that even though the darkness is all around us, good wins. Most teens prefer that kind of message over another kind of books that doesn’t address the darkness they see all around them.
And I know you found it hard to understand why a Christian publisher would choose to put out a book (many books) with such darkness. Tyndale is, after all, a Bible publisher. But doesn’t the Bible itself have far more darkness in it than any of the other literature you prefer to read in your daily life? There’s nothing inherently in Christianity that says we can’t or shouldn’t address these tough issues.
I understand what you’re saying, and it’s not that totally I disagree, but the book I’m referring to (probably a little unfairly since I can’t remember the title and you may have never read it anyway) was bizarrely dark. I read many books for kids, PB to YA, and the majority of them are from secular publishers. (This although I worked for a Christian publisher myself.)
This book would have seemed weird to me even if it was not from Tyndale, but coming from Tyndale, I found it weirder than weird. It’s hard to put it into words, but this wasn’t the kind of dark that was a commentary on society, human nature, etc. To me, it carried the essence of being contrived and in-your-face, like a piece of gaudy jewelry. (Please understand that I’m aware that my opinion is only my opinion. Somewhere out there, there are kids and adults who are loving the book I couldn’t stand and going back for more.)
Contrary to what you might think, I find it easy to understand why Christian publishers bring out edgy books. It is not just to address tough issues. Some of it is to compete with the other books entering the market. They have a bottom line just like any other business, and Christian or not, they wouldn’t be publishing fiction if they weren’t making money doing it. It’s just the way it is.
How are we found? When we are lost in darkness. My Jesus descended into the darkness for me, to redeem me into His love. I continue to hone and polish an “edgy” manuscript, and seek an agent and publisher; I step out in faith that this is simply the story I am given to tell. It has so changed my life to allow God to mine these words and images from within me, and to give those words back to Him, whether they are ever published or not.
I teach high risk high school students, and sponsor their Bible club (FROG – Fully Reliant on God!), and see their struggles as foster children, or abused children, or children on drugs, or children in gangs, each day. They hunger to see what a vision for redemption from darkness LOOKS like. I am not a YA author, but I understand why a youth who is seeking may need a map from darkness to light drawn clearly, in no uncertain terms. Love and hugs to you, and I appreciate your heartfelt, insightful comment. You made me think, and at bedtime, too!
True, Sylvia. Especially for YA, a path from darkness I understand. Even Hunger Games shows that. Darkness as shock value just for entertainment for MG? There I wonder.
I never dreamed in a million years (or less) that I’d be a writer. God just keeps opening doors. I’m walking through them in faith (as I chew on my finger nails). As long as He keeps opening doors, no matter how large or small, it’s the affirmation I need that I’m going in the right direction.
How do I walk the tightrope? I hug my kids a lot, kiss my hubby, and keep writing. That’s really all I can do. The rest is out of my hands.
Where were you when I was looking for an agent to represent my edgy subject matter with a Christian message? I was told that my writing pushes the envelope of Christian writing further than even Ted Dekker. Since I didn’t find you back in March, I indie pubbed instead. Perhaps my next edgy book that will be agent ready by the end of the year can be represented by you 😉
I tend to be cautious, but my then my hubby reminds me to think big –
“What are you putting all of this energy towards if you’re not going to think on the larger scale? Just keep one foot on the ground.”
I see something different regarding big expectations and big dreams and people who say to me: Think big, not small!
I see people who turn down reasonable offers.
I see people who, when a respectable publisher says, Yes, we’ll take your book! Send it to us, but we want our cut!
They respond back, You are thinking too small! Think big! I want more more more!
And the publisher says, You are out of our flipping mind. Please seek publication elsewhere.
These people can be a risk not just with the book material itself, but a flight risk when you finally secure a publisher, owing to the fact that their expectations are already stratospheric.
You hand them the moon and they say, Screw that, I’m holding out for the sun!
I’m projecting a bit, because I’ve seen this personally in my own business ventures (not just writing), but it is a real risk, especially if you already have someone accusing you of thinking small.
There is a very real non-zero chance this author will never be happy with any offer you secure, because it will always be too small.
I hope I’m wrong, though, and the author will be satisfied if and when you secure a reasonable offer for the book.
How do I walk that tightrope between dreams and reality?
I make sure I have some really strong supporters holding onto the net below me! They make my safety their priority and lend their certain comfort to me after the fall.
Research. Twitter. Facebook. Author’s Notes. Blogs. Dreaming’s easy, but regularly reading how various writers, agents, and publishers are addressing different steps along the way is putting a foundation underneath the proverbial castle walls. If I want “my” story to become “our” story with an agent, publisher, the public, that means asking for an investment, building a team, and I have to be willing to compromise and pick my non-negotiables with some skill. Research helps me develop the skills and insights I hope will take my work to the next level.
In general I tend not to give up until I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve. If I think there’s a way I’ll find it and make it happen, which is why I can’t let myself think that maybe there won’t be a way. That’s like giving myself permission to fail.
On the other hand, I don’t dream of making a million pounds from a book and buying a palace in the Bahamas, so maybe that helps 😀
For me, I keep writing because I can’t not write. I figure it never hurts to ask, and the step before a great achievement is always a step in the dark.
Having said that, I’m an eternal pessimist. I keep putting everything out there, hoping for the best, striving to achieve the dream, but expecting nothing.
I’ve been slammed down so many times I am the Little Train That Could. I think I can, I think I can. My expectations are realistic because of disappointment. Silly little train is still dreaming.
Personally, I like to throw caution to the wind. If you aim for the stars and miss at least you should land in the clouds and at the very most edges you are looking up. Needless to say; I am also very good at picking myself up and dusting off my backside. Never,never think small.
Love the answers I’m reading here. Such wisdom.
I’ve been contemplating this lately. I always dream big. I mean, “why not me?”
I asked a friend once, “How do you recon your life call in the Lord with the reality of ministry and people and things not turning out like you thought?”
He gave such a wise answer. “I never picture the outcome.”
It really enabled me to let go of imaginng all my books being on the best seller list. My Inbox full of “you’re awesome, I love your books,” emails. LOL.
It’s hard to deal with our failed life expectations, failed promises.
But here it is! Jesus! My identity, our identiy, is in Him. He’s for us. Loves us. David wrote in Pslams, “If we delight in Him, He gives us the desires of our heart.”
So, if my ideas of a huge writing career are just mine born from selfish ambition, then the Lord will adjust my heart as I delight myself in Him. If my sense of greater things is Him? He will adjust my heart as I delight myself in Him.
We don’t want to do this publishing game without Him. He guards our heart and mind with peace! Otherwise, it’s easy to find ourselves going down the dark path of dispair, competition, the negative version of “why not me?” and we end up jealous and bitter when we’re called to love and esteeming others!
Phil 1:9-10 “… let love abound in our hearts will all knowledge and discernment so we can approve the things that are excellent…”
Thanks for bringing this up, Rachelle!
Wow, Rachel…you have wisdom of your own to offer! I agree that Christian wordsmiths should focus on the Word in the person of Jesus Christ. I pray that I will have the grace to go where He sends me, always. When I feel like “suggesting” where that might be, I know I need to pray and submit a little more!
Thanks for shining a light, whether in words or in song. It’s brighter than you probably know! 🙂
Rachel, that is such wisdom. Do what He’s called us to do, the best we can right now, and leave the outcome to Him. Doing that requires constant conversation with Him about it, to keep my soul in balance.
I also think that what we’re called to, the desires God has placed in us, might not be JUST for this life. I don’t know what ruling and reigning with Him will entail, but perhaps He will need writers. 🙂 Perhaps some of the longings that aren’t fulfilled in this lifetime will be then.
I don’t know. Just something I ponder about.
One time I was greatly disappointed by the feedback from a writing assignment, and in fact I stewed for years over that rejection. I eventually tried again and found someone who believed in what I had written and was able to revise and update and see that project come to fruition. If I hadn’t sat and stewed for so long I would have seen that success sooner. A very valuable lesson, if I believe in what I have done – I cannot and will not allow someone else to make me feel “less than” successful.
I will keep moving on. Whatever happens with my current project, I know that if 1 person doesn’t like it that their feedback is subjective and perhaps there is someone else that will.
The secret seems to be belief and faith in yourself and your writing.
If you’re going to take risks, you have to stay out of the outcome. The risk has to be inherently worth taking. There’s nothing wrong with actively striving toward a big dream, but for me, the journey has to be worthwhile first.
I guess I’m one who dreams big and goes for it, without realizing. I do tend to set realistic expectations and bench marks, and I don’t hit them all, but if I didn’t think I could do it, why try?
I’ve found myself doing many things that others have said won’t happen. But I also have a great support system. I am a published author, though without representation (though I’m beginning the process now that I am ready to turn the dream into a career). I’m expecting a ton of rejection, but I believe it will happen. 😀
So I agree that you need to know that not every dream will become a reality, but if you tread too cautiously, you may miss out on a great opportunity. So if you think there is any chance at all, give it a try! The worst thing that will happen is that nothing in your life will change.
It is a difficult line to walk. You want to dream big, but you don’t want to be crushed if it doesn’t end up being as big as you dreamed. Maybe the idea is to plan for a disappointment while continuing to strive for the dream. Not sure how to do that, but hey, it sounds like a plan. 🙂
I think for me, I recognize that this life is not my dream or my journey alone. Ultimately it is God’s. So I let Him lead–no matter what. Some of my biggest “failures” have led me to find friends and make connections I never would have made had I been what I called a success.
The best thing I ever did was stop adding to the line in the Our Father…
“Thy will be done, but it better be done my way.”
God knows my dreams. He gave them to me. He also knows how to get me there, and He will if I let go and trust Him. A tightrope walker would never step out into the abyss if fear was in their thinking. To eradicate fear from your thinking, focus on God.
I think it depends on your definition of reality. It’s hard to believe in a reality that is concrete because for me God is always changing my reality. I know what you’re saying, but if I don’t believe that all things are possible, I might not keep writing for publication. If that’s having too high of expectations then I guess I do. Yet I understand the need to be balanced with investing our emotions and throwing caution to the wind.
I like this topic…lots to think about.
Mother Teresa coined the phrase “Do small things with great love”. She understood small things. So do I…maybe because I’m the size of Mother Teresa. 🙂
I think about that sometimes. I don’t think I’m meant to “dream big”. But sometimes big things happen to small people, so the world can see “the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower.”
Small people never lose sight of the flowers or the sand. God sometimes uses those types, too.
I’m a short person, too! Amazing and fun, the different perspective we have. God-given for sure.
We have to keep the dream going. I think for most of us, we write with the hope that we will eventually be published. Without the dream our writing gets lost in the ruins. One can write just for the fun of it, but if no one is reading what we work so hard on, eventually we give up. Perhaps it is best to dream small dreams at first and see if the Lord fans them into something much larger.
Expectations . . . smeckpectations. Who cares! I have to write as if I’m the next Ed McBain. I hope my agent (if I ever get one) works for me like I’m the next James Patterson.
I like to dream big, but I also keep my hopes even keel because I don’t want to crash on the rocks of unmet expectations.
By nature I’m the kind of person who loves to stay in her comfort zone, but I’ve learned the more I’ve put myself out there, the better I’ve become at taking risks. I’m a realist, and my husband is a dreamer, which works out great for both of us. He inspires me to dream big, and I keep him grounded enough to carry things through to the end. I think this balance is probably important in an agent/author relationship too.
I’m trying not to have too many preconceived notions and take things one day at a time. I believe God is in the details of my life, which includes my writing. Even with a healthy imagination, I can’t outdream Him. At the same time, I need to temper my expectations with the realization that He has a plan for me. That plan might take me in a different direction than I see myself going.
In every area of life, not just writing, we can tell the Lord our dreams and hopes and requests but then say — like Jesus did — “not my will but thine be done.” With that, we acknowledge that God’s will may look different than our dreams, and then that can help prepare us for whatever it may be.
I think for me, the mere fact that I haven’t given up yet is dreaming big, but within reality. I keep writing, I keep querying, I keep hoping one day I’ll snag an agent. That’s a pretty big dream at this point. I even know that should I succeed, having an agent isn’t a guarantee I’ll be published. But that’s my REAL big dream, and I won’t let go of it. Not ever.
I cling to my vision. Everytime I’ve had a vision that seems to go against the odds (like the one for my book) it’s come true.
I don’t put my hopes or dreams in areas that might fall short. I would never spend this much time on a project if I felt I could be walking a tightrope after completion.
I wouldn’t be writing this book unless I knew it had great potential. I have the backing of my immediate family. They immediately felt the idea was exceptional and unique.
One of them is writing the book with me.
My vision is not only about the book. The book is the start of a brand.
I agree with the writer in your post. Don’t think small when you have something that could turn out huge.
I think confidence comes when you know you have something special.
A heart-momma and I used the term “pessimistically optimistic” in the hospital when it came to our girls. I’m a HUGE believer in thinking positively, but we were dealing with the most dangerous and hard to fix heart defect there is, and our girls were throwing every curve ball in the book. How do you “think positive” when other parents beside you are saying goodbye to their baby? It’s not easy, but you HAVE TO.
Maybe not a great correlation, but the principle is the same. You HAVE to think positive and believe in what you are working toward. Too much negativity leads to failure. I fought for this in the hospital when doctors told me she had a good chance of dying, I told them where they could stuff their limited thinking and about a BIG GOD who I wasn’t giving up on.
Yet, even as I believed BIG THINGS, I always had a grip on the fact that every day was precious with my daughter, and to love her fiercely.
In my writing, I dream big. I want to be published. Multiple times. I want to meet those sales numbers. I am GOING to do those things. If I don’t believe I will… then I am a defeatist and will knock myself down before I even start. Yet, I know it is hard. And I know many do the work and never get published. I am thankful for every step closer I get, and acknowledge that it is going to be hard going. I am determined to enjoy the journey, knowing the end isn’t necessarily promised.
If I don’t dream big for my writing who will? Am I realistic about it? Sometimes I think no one will want to read it, or that no one would want to buy it, but that just makes me try harder to add something (or take something out) to make it so someone will want it.
This is such a monumental and essential question to ask in this industry. I take risks. I hold fast to my dreams, believing they’ll explode into something beautiful. I also remember who gave me the dream in the first place. Keeping the dream-giver in mind does wonders to throw it all into perspective—how the dream unravels and the outcome.
I think I’m going to take the opposite tack from most of the previous comments.
I dream big. REALLY big. I expect that my book will be made into a movie (starring Johnny Depp) and also win a Pulitzer.
Then when it doesn’t? I just think, “I’ll have to write the next one better so that IT wins the Pulitzer, and makes Mr. Depp come a’calling.”
If you’ll excuse me now, I have to go to work…
It IS a dream. Therefore, I really have nothing to lose, yet everything to gain. It’s all about keeping perspective.
For me, part of this literary walk involves staying grounded in my faith. More important than where I might want to go with my writing is the question, what does God want to accomplish through my writing? The other day I received an email from a reader in South Africa who wrote to say something I’d written had really blessed her. Encouragement like that helps me to keep putting one foot in front of the other down the tightrope.
For me personally, I always viewed this industry as too difficult and fickle to allow myself high expectations for it. I set goals instead, achievable ones. Get an agent, and get my book on bookshelves. It didn’t have to be a bestseller, it didn’t have to include a multi-million dollar advance. My first goal has been met.
But it’s important to note that it was a goal, not a dream. A goal is something to work toward. A dream, an expectation, is passive, something to fantasize about. Dreams are wasteful. Goals are not.
My advice is to set goals, not expectations.
You are so right – it is such a fine line. One I haven’t seemed to master yet. There are times when I’m thinking unrealistically, and there are times when I’m thinking small. I’d love to find that just-right balance. The search is a work in progress I guess.
Unfortunately it is in my nature to be somewhat pessimistic. It is easier to handle disappointment when you don’t let it blindside you.
I just trust that my ‘baby steps’ will get me to the ‘big places’ I want to end up. I’ve got no problem climbing the ladder slowly. My debut is out with a small press and I’m extremely satisfied with that being one step up the ladder. I think sometimes patience has to come into play too. Many authors want to hit the big time NOW. But sometimes that’s just not possible.
God is the safety net under that tightrope. Perfect love drives out fear. So we can have big ambitions to do great things for God’s kingdom and if we fall off that rope, we hit the net and we bounce off and we climb up and we start across again. It’s not like God is going to drop us. It’s not like he’s going to say, “I’m tired of you now, I’m not going to catch you the next time you fall.”
What if the goal was to make it across and you fall halfway over and you break your leg and can never get up on the wire again? Well, then God lets you do the bearded lady act and you find out you love that way better than the tightrope, even.
We really can’t make mistakes if we’re yielded to God and willing to be spent where he chooses to spend us. We can run across the rope, or do the bearded lady deal, or join the clown act. It doesn’t really matter. God’s going to put us where he wants us and he’s going to use if we’re willing to be used.
I love the bearded lady analogy! Seems like that’s happened to me a time or two in school, in work, in life! Usually about the time I think I know just where God’s headed with something he takes a sharp turn to the right!
Sally, it all comes down to trusting Him and His plan for us, doesn’t it? I can remember saying that exact phrase, “God hasn’t dropped me,” to a friend when I went through cancer at age 30. While that season had its challenges, it was also a season of the sweetest peace I’d known up to that point. It makes it much easier now to trust Him with my writing.
I dream, but I hold it in a loose hand, because it’s all, ultimately, in God’s hands anyway. So I write the best book I can, and do the work I need to do, and I try not to stress about the rest. I do stress, but it’s just like anything else in life – I have to keep giving it back over…
I agree! That is what I continue to do, not only with my dreams but also with every day life. God has a plan for all of us, we just have to keep living for Him to see what He has in mind. We do our part to make our dreams come true and He will do His!
Prayers, conversations, and constant reality checks (slaps) to the face. 😉
Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best! I find, when writing, dreaming big is essential, but the business aspect (and even editing) requires me to be more of a ‘boots on the ground’ kind of person. It’s like having a split personality, really, but oh well – writer’s are crazy dreamers to begin with, right?
It’s becoming clear I’m an unrepentant dreamer especially when it comes to my books. I think we need that kind of illogical inflation to fuel our dreams if we ever want them to get off the ground.
As for tempering myself with reality I say no thanks. Reality is what happens around me, not to me. 😉
I think the best expectations are no expectations. But I do believe in hope. And I do think there’s a difference.
You can expect your child to become a doctor and see them fail, or see them succeed at becoming a doctor only to have them fail at something else you came up with, because expectations are like an addictive drug. The more you use it, the more you hurt yourself. Expecting failure is the worst kind of expectation. You’ll live a life of disappointment.
With hope, you can detach yourself from the outcome. You hope your children will always love you. You hope they will make good choices. You hope they will grow into great people.
But you give them the freedom to do it in their own way. You don’t consider them failures when things go differently. You consider them simply as they are.
I think letting go of expectations is the ability to say, “Wow, THAT would be my dream!” and then when something else happens be able to say, “Wow, this dream is even better because it’s real!”
Hope for the best and then love what is.
If you didn’t dream, you wouldn’t do it. It’s too much work.
Realistically, though, I know my book is on a tightrope in a similar way.
This is where faith comes in.
It all comes from God.
I so agree with this Marion. I try to keep focused on the fact that I have dedicated my writing to God for him to use as he sees fit. That may not “look” anything like my dream, but it will always be right. I have written some things for my Sunday School class that were well received (a prayer guide for the season of Lent), and so many people expressed how God used that in their lives. It’s very humbling and very exciting. I do want to be published one day, and I would love to be able to write for a living, but I want to be in the center of God’s will more. Maybe those two things will be the same one day and maybe not, but either way, this is a journey I’m walking with him and he is teaching me so much. Hard to argue with that. Besides…I’m learning that in this business you don’t have to look far to find reality; it’s usually right there in your face! 🙂
Goodness gracious, Rachelle. I’m quite happy I read this. I have ALWAYS struggled with HUGE DREAMS and WILD EXPECTATIONS and just assuming that my works will be successful one day. I am still yet unpublished (and unrepresented) and, like Neurotic mentioned, have a day job. I, too, would give anything to give up working to write full time.
Recently, though, I realized something about myself, who I am, and why I dream big and settle for nothing short of worldwide phenomenon. I’ve come to grips with reality and now understand that – as a writer – your success does not lie within financial gain from your work; your success is determined by how satisfied you are with your finished piece.
I am now satisfied to simply write my pieces, consider them complete, and be happy with that. I will try to get these screenplays made, sure, but that’s not what success is. That’s merely the cherry on top. And that has REALLY helped me embrace happiness in writing for the sake of writing, and to stop dreaming out of control.
GREAT post! Thanks!
I manage my expectations by realizing and embracing the fact that a dream is composed of pieces and steps and that realizing each piece is a dream come true. Each book I edit that makes it into print, each story I write that even places or is recognized – these are all parts of the whole. I also put trust in those with experience and who know the game. We all have to specialize – my specialty is writing and an agent’s specialty is selling it.
I think that everyone dreams of being a best-selling writer, or at least being able to give up the day job to write. But I know that it is quite possible that I’ll always have to have a day job; that’d be okay as long as I was still able to make time to write.
Perfect question for me right now and I will be checking back here for the answers!
Encouraging words from others who know me and those who do not are so helpful and sometimes the only thing that keeps me thinking it can truly happen.
I err on the side of caution for sure.
Thanks for this good reminder : )
Even the best tightrope walker in the world sometimes falls. So, I would that I try to balance my dreams and reality, but I also try to accept the wild swings in between. Just recently I started a project that part of me hopes could be huge, but part of me is sure is just yet another project lost in a sea of projects out in the world. And part of me think it is too crazy to work, but yet crazy to be successful, but not crazy at all and I’m the one crazy for even thinking this was anything worthwhile.
And in no way is it going to make any money.
But I just keep trying to balance. Who can be balanced every minute of every day year after year?