I woke up on Thursday morning and was greeted with the happy news that several more of my FB author friends were both NY Times Best Sellers and USA Today Best Sellers. I’m pleased to say that this happens often enough that it almost feels de rigeur now. Lol. I remember when my friends list on FB was less than 300 people, and in the last nine years I’ve been on the social network, my reach has grown to almost 1000. That’s a lot of people! And when I’m not scrolling past politics, I’m witnessing a slice of humanity, a swirling amalgam of wants and needs. Of dreams.
Watching my fellow authors work hard reminds me that we all have dreams, dreams of writing, publishing, succeeding. While the newbie writer dreams of finishing a book, an intermediate author wants to earn $1000 per month, and that experienced author is shooting for the best seller list. Each level is dreaming of their next hurdle, their next winning. Each dream spurs them on.
I can’t tell you how important these dreams and goals really are. Sure, we can just be happy with what we have, never urging ourselves to do more, but I argue that stagnation is death in a creative field. I recently watched a documentary on an artisan village in Western Japan that made this clear for me. A woman in a wood-working shop was making wooden bowls and the interviewer asked her about her method. She mentioned that making bowls may not seem like anything special, but refining her technique and always improving until she could make the bowls perfectly each time was her passion. She was always striving to be better. It was her dream to be the best at what she was doing. But it’s also a very Japanese ideal to feel like perfection can never be reached. Our dreams must always grow and evolve over time to make our lives and our work better and better. We must acknowledge our progress and be thankful for our hard work, but the goals and dreams should move further down the field as we accomplish each milestone. I see this mindset in the successful authors I know. They’re always working harder, writing faster or better, dreaming bigger.
Last year, I lost my dreams for a while. It’s hard to admit, but it was real. I dreamed of making $100 per month, and I only made $30. I dreamed of finally breaking even with my business, and I only fell further into the hole. I remember staring out my front house window (one of my favorite pastimes) and thinking I should give up. My dreams were important, but they were also devastating. And then, I changed things. I switched my dreams. I had this little series I’d started, a mystery series that I loved, with a character I could relate to. She had her own dreams that were crushed and she had to figure out how to find new dreams amongst the wreckage. She was my daydreamer, a light at the end of the tunnel. I began to think about her all the time, wonder how she was going to get by, where she would take herself. Her struggle wasn’t real, it wasn’t mine, but it was what pulled me forward and kept me moving. She became my dream, reigniting my passion for success. Without her, I wouldn’t be here.
When authors around me shared their dreams, they inspired me to do the same. Some people may be jealous of another’s success, but not me. It gave me the boost I needed. When people I know and root for everyday made the NYT list this week, it gave me a new dream, one I can’t even say out loud because I’m so embarrassed by how small it is. But it’s mine. It’s keeping me going. Hopefully some day I can achieve it!
Author dreams are worth the long hours of work. They’re worth the blood, sweat, and tears. They’re also worth the effort to climb on their backs and reach for the next dream.
The only way forward is up.