You Don’t Ever Have To Give Up On Your Dreams

When I long for something and no matter how hard I try it doesn’t come to me, it’s so easy to see that as evidence that I’ve got my head in the clouds, that I’m unrealistic in my dreams.  It’s easy to give up.   But what I interpret as hard evidence isn’t an accurate representation of ultimate truth – it just represents what I can see.

What about all the things I can’t see, all the facts I haven’t taken into consideration?  All the things which will contribute to my success which might actually have been set in motion already – and which I don’t know about yet?

Take J.K. Rowling before she was published.  She was rejected – and depressed about her life, at a real low point.  She didn’t consciously believe anything good could happen.  All the evidence she could see showed that success wasn’t going to happen for her.  The publishers who rejected her said “no market for this”.  Part of her believed it, but no matter how low she was, she couldn’t stop herself hoping.

Even at the moment that one of the publisher’s employees picked up her manuscript off a pile  – the moment that things had been set in motion irrevocably – nobody else knew, and J.K. didn’t either.  At that point, when the reality of her future success was in the making, “evidence” still pointed to her failing.

We often don’t allow ourselves to contemplate our possible success because we’re so hell-bent on believing the “evidence” of our non-success.   But “evidence” is about what’s happened, it’s not about the future.  If we take it as prediction of what’s going to happen, we give up.  We can’t afford to.  And that time of not giving up is the most important time of all – it’s when we sow the seeds of our conviction that our dream is meaningful and possible.

Maybe that’s the secret element that actually makes dreams come true.  Something that defies logic and can’t be seen or touched.

It’s a choice.  The provocation to give up is often huge; there are plenty of times when all evidence seems to be pointing to the impossibility of dreams coming true, when fear is on the prowl and the inner spoiler is a constant pop-up – you’re ridiculous, you’re pathetic, it’s  too late for you, your dreams are way out of your league, look at where you are now – how can you think you’ll ever get to where you want to be….

If you give that spoiler authority you might as well just jump off a cliff.  Personally, I don’t blind myself to the reality of my current situation, but I can’t see into the future and I refuse to believe that where I am right now is an indication of it.   I prefer to acknowledge that there might be a lot that’s already in motion that I can’t see.

Of all my dreams, the two most important to me are to get my book onto the world stage and to get me and my voice onto a stage too.  Even if every person in the world said to me “you can’t do it” I wouldn’t give up.   Because I’d remember that once upon a time every person in the world thought the world was flat.  One man knew it was round.  He was the one who was right.

I don’t want to ever give up and I don’t have to.  Just have to keep on plugging away.  It’s the journey that counts anyway, it’s where all the fun is, all the fulfillment.  Imagine throwing that all away.

Oprah Talks to J.K. Rowling and I’ve Finished Writing A Book

I watched Oprah interview J.K. Rowling the other day – in fact the day before I finished writing the first book I’ve completed that I think is publishable.  I’ve written 5 others, 4 of which are  truly embarrassing – thank God nobody would publish them –  and one which had potential.  So fine, I’ll work on that one.  But this one?  This one I’m very happy with.  My mind is a much more organized animal now than it used to be.  Good thing too.

Well the writing was challenging and fun and rewarding and a pain in the arse sometimes.  But overall, it moved along nicely and I never lost sight of where it was going for longer than a day or two, when my inner critic would kick in and yell at me – you think anybody’s going to want to read this? Why would they?  It’s crap!!!   Yes, those days happened, but somehow I got beyond them.  What the hell, every writer worries about that at some point.  I just decided that even if it was true I might as well finish the book and see for myself.

So the book is done.  I typed that tiny word “END” with a smirk and a whoopedy doo-dah, and felt a rush of energy which kept me awake until 3 in the morning.   Today I started on my quest to find appropriate publishers and possibly agents.  Well, I only want one of each, of course.  I asked in a book shop whether I should send my manuscript to lots of publishers all at once, and the person said no, because the publishing world is a small one and you don’t want everybody to think of you as being desperate.  So send it to a few select publishers.

I thought what a load of bollocks.  As if all the publishers who receive my manuscript are in the habit of calling each other up and finding out if Jennifer Stewart also sent them this damn book she’s written.  So, I’m making my list and my letter of enquiry is going to as many appropriate publishers as I can find.  I think it’s a fine book with a big potential market and will make some lucky publisher a fortune.  Me too.  None of this cap in hand crap for me.

So, I’m on my way with this.  But enough about me, and back to Oprah and J.K. Rowling.  I was so inspired to hear her talk about how she was on the dole, and at one point got so poor she was nearly on the street.  Then she wrote her book.  Oprah asked her if she knew somehow that it would be successful.  J.K. said she knew it might be difficult to find a publisher, but that once she did, her book would take off.  Well, 12 really dumb publishers (who must all be kicking themselves now) turned her down.  Now she’s the wealthiest author in history.

It’s impossible for me to have invested so much energy and brain power and heart stuff into a book without believing it will touch people’s hearts and be successful.  I’m going to let myself have that dream and the enormous pleasure of it while I go about the practical business of getting published, and I won’t let the challenges of that stop me.  I’m going to carry on imagining Oprah phoning me one day and saying “this book – I couldn’t put it down”, and being on the New York Times best seller list.

Passion versus Pleasing People, Wanting to be Authentic and get Recognition

This is the longest I’ve gone without blogging for over a year.  It’s felt strange, as if I’ve been adrift.  But it began to feel as if my blog owned me, and I began to not feel free to express myself authentically.  How did that happen?

It’s easy with the internet.  It offers so much glittering promise – so many people reading, so many people searching.  Millions.  So many “success” stories of writers starting out with a blog, being found somehow by readers who identified with them, and then publishers or film producers.  It sounded easy.

But it was like diving into a very fast-moving, raging, torrent of a river in full flood.  Not knowing how to swim.   However anybody else managed to be found, I didn’t – at least not to that extent and not instantly.  I don’t know why, but people often don’t tell about the challenges they went through before they rose up and became noticeable.  Or we don’t want to know.

What does happen when you begin a journey of any sorts?   You start with big dreams, massive enthusiasm and optimism, and no idea of the challenges that lie ahead.  It has to be that way otherwise you wouldn’t start.   Then you meet yourself and see how much you have to learn.  It’s devastating.  You doubt, you fear, your enthusiasm wanes, you despair.

The more I immersed myself in the culture of blogging and saw how many are doing it now, the more my sense of identity and authenticity – my belief that I have something to say that people could truly relate to – started getting eroded.  Just by the sheer numbers.  I got caught up in the competition of it.  But I didn’t realize what I was sacrificing.  Me.

When you’re writing on the internet, the pressure to conform and “give readers what they want” is immense.  I wanted to be seen and heard, to not drown in that torrent of millions of words  being spewed out into cyberspace every second.   I began to let myself be overtaken by the idea that you rise above when you do “what people want you to do”.

But which people?  How do you determine that?  The masses who are trawling the internet for something to divert them are fickle.  Trends change from minute to minute.  You can never catch up if you’re trying to please because you’re constantly trying to form theories on who’s being pleased by what, but your theories are being disproved the second you form them.

Everybody wants recognition and I suppose most people at heart want to be able to be authentic.  We all wrestle with the tension between the two, we all want to reach people without losing our creative identity.   Of course I want to be read and acclaimed – if I didn’t I’d be writing in my diary.  But can I believe enough in myself and what I have to offer to let myself be authentic?

Will I end up alone and being eaten by Alsations?  I don’t know.  I look at J.K. Rowling, Elvis, The Beatles and the hundreds of thousands of others like them.  Did they reach people by trying to please?  No.  They actually did the opposite.  They followed their passion and it turned out that that passion was what reached people, even when at first the content was rejected.  Passion can’t be formularized.  It’s an organic thing, it’s something you have to take a risk on.

I can’t live the rest of my life trying to find a way to please.  Even if I succeeded I’d get to the end of my life and say “well that was a waste”.  Really don’t want to do that.  So do I have to sacrifice fame and fortune for authenticity and passion?   Being an eternal optimist, I prefer to believe that I won’t have to.  But I do have to take the risk.  It’s a no brainer for me, really.

Be passionate, be real, take risks!

Logic can be so seductive, and seem so sensible – and be so completely wrong, in the long run.  It’s easy to forget that any conclusion is only as good as the information that backs it.

For example, take the “logic” that says if you want success you have to work out what people want, and provide it.  Seems pretty sensible.  Seems statistically supportable.

I’m always reading articles which say that if you’re writing and you want readers or success it’s no use writing what you want to write, you have to figure out what your audience wants.  I can understand how that seems logical and based on common sense.  After all, I read what I want to, and I tend to look for what I’ve been interested in so far. But for writers – and publishers, I guess – to conclude that I only want to read something similar to what I’ve liked so far, and won’t be attracted to a new voice and way of writing, a new perspective, a fresh way of thinking, is just dead wrong.

Publishers, agents, producers, some teachers, even writers, are always making two mistakes.  The first is thinking that the potential audience  won’t respond to the energy, the thrill, the excitement an author conveys when they write on something they’re passionate about.   The second mistake is thinking that the audience doesn’t like what’s new.  It’s ridiculous: marketers and manufacturers are always looking for new perspectives and new products, because they recognise that LIFE CHANGES, that people need newness.  Newness is the lifeblood of the commercial world.   And it is the artists who create the newness which we all crave, yes?

Yet publishers, producers and agents are always telling writers and artists that they must conform to some nebulous idea of what the public wants – which is in fact a formula they the publishers et al have created out of what’s been done.  What is it with these guys?  They’ve got to be the most ignorant bunch of humans ever.  And they don’t seem to change from generation to generation.  Somebody should write a book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Publishers, Producers et al are from Some Other Alien Universe.

Look at anyone who has risen above the masses – haven’t they all been complete individuals?  Haven’t they all been rejected by agents, publishers, producers, you name it?  Haven’t they all been told “nobody will want to listen to you / watch you / read you / buy your art because you’re too different”?  Yet they’ve shot to great heights of fame and fortune – not because they adapted themselves to “what people want” but because they gave free reign to their passion and individuality.  And it always turns out that the audience was utterly starved for something new.  Oh yes.  It’s been proved time and time and time again.  Fred Astaire (can’t act, slightly bald, can kind of dance), Charlie Chaplin (too silly), Sidney Poitier (should get a dishwashing job), Walt Disney (unimaginative), Oprah Winfrey (reputedly fired as a reporter for being “unfit for tv” – boy was that a mistake!), The Beatles (guitar music is outdated), Elvis (probably too sexy) , J.K. Rowling (very big publisher oops), Stephen King (ditto).

Publishers and “authorities” are bullies, that’s all; egotists trying to hold onto their power, trying to control their world.  They can never have enough uniformity, it keeps them safe.  Or that’s what they believe.  But here’s the curious thing.  They could be so much safer if they recognized talent and newness and understood how much it is craved by the multitude.

How misguided can you be?  And really, aren’t there already enough people spewing out formulaic crap that has no life in it, is predictable and utterly dull dull dull?

The funny thing – right, it’s side-splittingly funny – is that the authority bullies never ask anybody real what they like.  They don’t actually speak to anybody and say “excuse me, what do you think of this or that?”   Their bullying isn’t based on anything real at all.  It’s not clever, it’s not perceptive, it’s not street smart.  Ever.  It’s based on their own fear-driven, control-freak-driven narrow-mindedness.  Greed might play a little role in there.  They don’t think they’ll make so much money if they take a risk on an individual.  Well the joke always ends up being on them.  Always.  Think of all the publishers who rejected J.K. Rowling!  They must kicking themselves.  And they deserve all the bruises they self-inflict, that’s what I say!

All of us, artist and audience alike, we’re all human, we’re not sheep or lemmings.  We all have hearts and souls and minds and we all long to be touched by somebody’s passion – and when we are touched by it, we all register it.  I know it’s true, because if it wasn’t the bright individuals would never rise above the mundane, to shine like stars for the rest of us to be inspired by.  There’s real logic for you.

Personally I love to hear somebody say “whatever you do, don’t try to please people.  Be real, be passionate, take risks”.

Robert de Niro said that.  Good on you, Mr. de Niro.