Could the next amazing writer to land a book deal after years of slog, after years of rejection, after years of their obvious talent failing to be acknowledged or recognised, NOT take to Twitter and promptly tell every other aspiring writer to do this:
NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS!
Share how excited you are, of course. Tempt everybody with the plot. Let us see your tears of joy, by all means, and show us how hard you worked for this. Sincerely: you deserve every indulgence and celebration. You’ve beaten ridiculous odds, and I’m full of admiration. That cover art is beautiful too. I hope the book sells insanely well, that you have a long and fruitful career.
But please, please do not tell other writers what they should do simply because this one astonishing thing happened to you.
I dreamed of winning Wimbledon. (Gave that up circa 1987.)
Not unrelated, marrying Chris Evert. (Circa 1989.)
Becoming a published novelist. (Yes, me too.) (Yes, I wrote one.) (Just checked my files — I wrote TWO!) (Both tripe.) (Abandoned in 2003.)
Travelling the World. (2006-ish.)
Dethroning David Beckham as #1 Men’s Fashion Icon. (2010 or 2011.)
Not unrelated, reversing this Great Middle Aged Spread and getting back into My Most Favourite Jeans Ever. (All hope not yet abandoned, but expect 2020 to see the faint candle of optimism finally fizzle out into a charred and meekly droopy wick.)
It is OK to move on from a dream, be it fanciful or serious. It is OK to dream up new dreams. It’s OK to do neither.
It is almost always novelists who I spot championing the eternal dream. I don’t want to be too hard on them. It’s forgivable when they’re caught in the throes of new publishing excitement, but less so when that has died down, or when they’re established.
And I don’t wish to blame them for this following frustration of mine either, but why is publishing a work of non-fiction much less likely to be seen as a desirable aspiration to shout about? Why is there an assumption, when it comes to writing, that only long-form fiction is worthy of The Dream?
You can dream of an article being published, a poem being sold, a letter being the ‘Star’ on a letters page, a cheque for something you wrote, seeing your name in print in any form, a regular column in a local paper, making a humble income from your words, or whatever. These are all legitimate.
And no one has the right to tell you to either keep dreaming or to stop dreaming.
Nobody but you.
Whether to say goodbye to a dream (not keen on ‘give up’; it’s not necessarily a sacrifice), or to simply move on to new dreams without looking back or regret, or to decide to have none at all, is for you to figure out. You need no-one’s consent.
If you are happy working towards your goal, and things are going well, remember that nobody has any right to divert you — not least me. How you deal with nay-sayers and sceptics is up to you, but redoubling your resolve to prove them wrong appears to be a popular choice.
But if you are struggling and unhappy and your life outside of your writing is being affected, do not feel it a failure to re-evaluate this dream, whatever it is, and whether it is worth pursuing at any costs you may be incurring. I covered similar ground in Mistake #108, so won’t repeat myself.
Writers: we are given one period on this earth.
Chasing a dream is all very well, but must it necessarily be at the expense of actually living a real life?