Have you ever watched the movie Dreamer? I really like this movie. In it, Dakota Fanning plays the daughter of a couple down on their luck. The father works for this hateful man training horses and the mother is a waitress at a little diner that serves great pie. Together, they live on a horse farm that, over time, has become less of a farm and more of a place to exist than anything else.
Fate strikes and the family ends up with a horse with an injury. The kind of injury that typically means it would be better to put everyone, including the horse, out of their misery. Because the girl witnesses the horse’s bad fall, the father doesn’t have the heart to put her down on the spot. And on the drive from the horse track to the family barn, something must have shifted deep inside that guy because he gets home and decides to string up the horse into a contraption that just might heal the brokenness of the horse. And in the end, might allow the horse to heal the brokenness of the family as well.
During the course of the movie, the father rides an emotional roller coaster. At times he hopes something good will come of it and other times his hopes get crushed by circumstances out of his control. The daughter though, she never stops believing.
I’ve watched this movie several times and it never ceases to amaze me the dedication to hope this child has. She believes in a horse that no one else does and in the process, teaches others to believe in themselves as well.
What about you? Who believes in you? Are you knee deep in the mire of self-doubt and unbelief? Are you unable to take a step forward because others have told you that you can’t? Or are you someone who doesn’t need others to tell you that you aren’t able, because you’ve got that covered all by yourself?
If the above paragraph describes you and you’re still reading this, let me encourage you on your way to being a dreamer. In fact, there are some simple steps you can take to get on the path of dreaming and growing hope.
1. Give yourself permission to dream. It doesn’t have to be about something magnificent if you aren’t quite ready for that. Dream something small first. Imagine yourself taking the first step toward your goal. Envision it, picture it, re-play it in your mind. Dare yourself to smile as you imagine taking that first step toward something big in your life.
2. Stop listening to the naysayers around you. That’s right; you don’t have to listen to those folks who keep telling you that you can’t do something. Instead, walk away, daydream about taking the leap into your dreams while they talk, put in the headphones and turn up the tunes on something positive. Whatever you do, stop listening to them.
3. Once you’ve allowed yourself to dream of hope in the form that best suits you and you’ve stopped listening to all the Negative Nellies in your life, it’s time for step three. This should be easy or at least easier now that you’ve come this far. This is where you take the step. Writing a book? Put pen to paper or sit in front of the computer and type or take a writing course. Want to go to college? Pick up the phone and register, fill out a FAFSA, or choose a major. Interested in getting healthy? Take a walk, ride your bike, or find a healthy recipe to cook for dinner. Do you have a desire to increase the amount of quality family time? Unplug the television, institute family game night, or plan a trip together. Take the first step.
Being a dreamer doesn’t mean you’re always living in this fantasy world in your head. It means you’re envisioning something bigger, greater, or different than your physical world currently is. It doesn’t have to be a lonely journey or a difficult one. Dreaming is about living and smiling and enjoying life. It’s about growing hope from deep inside of you and daring yourself to go big or go home.
The little girl in Dreamer knew what it meant to dream. She spent a lot of time envisioning the dream she had for her family and she spent a lot of time on step three. The actual doing that dreaming requires in order for the dream to take shape, which reminds me that I forgot a step.
4. Keep at it. Don’t give up on whatever your dream is. Just because it doesn’t happen overnight doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Keep practicing, keep trying, and keep believing. Because you’re worth it in the end.
What are your dreams in life? Have you been harboring a dream that hasn’t yet come to life because you are surrounded by naysayers that insist you can’t make it? Do you struggle to keep focused on the dream and practicing what it takes to get there? Share your story. Get inspired. Inspire someone else.
I’ve just finished reading The Pat Boone Fan Club by Sue Silverman and something on page 120 stood out to me.
“Yet I worry I am beholden. Not so much to the patrons or to this job but to this life. How did I end up working in this library in a town I never knew existed until my husband got a job here –setting the bar so low for myself, I trip over it.”
I was stunned by the words to the point that I had to take a picture of the page (I was reading the book on my phone…nook went dead) so that I would remember this poignant paragraph that spoke volumes to me. “setting the bar so low for myself, I trip over it”.
Do you ever do that? Metaphorically speaking, of course. I have. Sometimes I still do. And it got me to thinking about how I have ended up in those places, at times, living a life that said mediocre is sufficient. As I was thinking, I confess…I got a little angry. At myself.
I thought about this as I went to bed last night and periodically throughout the night when I’d wake up and fumble around in my mind to latch on to the topic that was resonating inside my soul. Why do we set the bar so low?
The answer: white out. Just hear me out for a minute, I promise this makes sense.
Think about it. How many times in your life have you encountered people who have taken that bar, that standard you set for yourself, and with a shake of their head, a tsk of the tongue, those people moved that bar lower than where you’d positioned it for yourself?
I know it hurts, but go there for a minute. Think back. Recall the memories, the words, the bar being moved lower and lower in front of you. Think for a minute about the times when you, after watching that happen, took the already lowered bar and lowered it again; yourself.
Now, imagine how we as writers (and humans in general) erase a mistake. Scribbling it out, using a big fat marker to mark out whatever it is we don’t want to do/remember/think about, hitting backspace on the computer or the delete button. And once upon a time, we used whiteout.
Whiteout. Thick, creamy white paint on the end of that tiny brush dipped in that little plastic bottle. Can you see it? Whiting out your dreams, goals, plans, visions for your future; your life. “Setting the bar so low for myself, I trip over it”.
Words do that to us. Disbelief does that to us.
That’s too hard
You’ll never make it
You can’t do that
Try this –it’s easier
What makes you think you’re so
Much better than the rest of us?
“Setting the bar so low for myself, I trip over it”.
How dare they? How dare I? Being here, on this planet, in this world, making it from one day to the next when sometimes life is just that hard is a feat in and of itself. How dare someone (even me) say I can’t when I already am?
That’s where I believe the power of the pen comes in handy. Because when we whiteout over something and the creamy white paint dries, we can write over it again.
Accomplish the goal
Sing, write, paint, draw, teach, fix things, help others
Not give up
Follow my heart
Raise the bar higher and reach it.
Because when someone (even me) tries to white me out of life, I will use the power of the pen to write myself back into it in the form of a stronger version of myself.
Have you allowed others to set the bar in your life so low that you've tripped over it? Have you done this to yourself? I challenge you to write yourself back into your own life. Raise the bar. Live your life. Find yourself.
Years ago I read a story about a writer who’d printed out one copy of the final version of a manuscript he’d spent ages on. He left it sitting neatly on the desk in his writing studio (separate from his house) and went out for an evening. A few hours later, he returned to see that his writing studio was on fire.
He wrote about the wretched feeling that washed over him as he realized he was about to lose the very thing he’d spent hours creating. Then he wrote about how he ran to the studio and reached through fire to get the manuscript.
The hair on his arms was singed. He smelled like smoke. The fire department came and put out the fire. And he held on to that manuscript as if his life depended on it.
I remember reading it and thinking, why wouldn’t you have more than one copy? Would you really walk through fire to get a manuscript? What did that guy’s wife think when she saw him running toward the fire instead of away from it?
Today I sat down at my computer and pulled out my trusty flash drive where I’ve been daily saving all my words that I’ve been writing for my second novel. All 17,019 of them. Happily, stupidly, I went to my computer having trusted my flash drive to keep all my beautiful words safe and sound until I was ready to write more. And they weren’t there. It was gone. All gone.
All 17,019 words, the blog posts I wrote the day before, the personal essay I’d written and entered into Writer’s Digest contest, travel blogs I’ve written, the state contract screenplay I spent weeks writing. Other writing projects that I couldn’t remember the titles of. Everything. Gone.
I sobbed openly. If you know me, you know that’s not like me. I don’t cry. This was different. This was gut wrenching, hiccupping, snot running down my face, can’t catch my breath kind of crying. I’m pretty sure I scared the kids a little. My youngest, bless her heart, held me and whispered “It’ll be okay” over and over again while I cried on her shoulder.
As I texted my husband and then my brother-in-law to get technological assistance, all I could think about was the loss of these characters, these people that I had nothing left of. And the writer who’d walked through fire to get to his manuscript. Silently I prayed; begging God to please, please find a way to recover these files. To return to me the people weaved into the 17,019 words that I love so much.
I wanted all the files. Even the ones I couldn’t remember the names of, but I needed those 17,019 words back.
When my brother-in-law returned my text, I called him and we started talking computers. He gained remote access to my desktop and surveyed the damage. When nothing happened and I croaked out “is it all gone” covered in tears, I felt sorry for him. For what that must be like on his end of the phone to tell me they were gone.
It was horrible. I couldn’t remember the names of the characters. I had only flashes of scenes in my head; not nearly enough to recreate them. The raw emotion, the secondary characters, the language, all of it was like a mist that had evaporated in sunshine. I felt no joy. Only utter emptiness.
I watched as my brother-in-law worked his magic. Watched him click icons, type words and download programs while I sat in silence. Too afraid to ask if it was the end because I didn’t want to hear him tell me it was. Minutes passed with nothing said on the phone, my heart in my throat.
More than an hour later, I started seeing the screen scroll through files with the word “recovered” matched up beside it. I saw words that I’d written being pulled up on word documents. When the opening scene of the novel I’m working on came into view I sucked in my breath and asked him if I could see if it was there.
Three clicks later and it presented itself. The 17,019 words marched efficiently across the screen. I cried. It was like being reunited with family.
Hours later and I’m still shaken by how close I came to losing my words to a rookie mistake. I understand now why the writer from that story walked through fire to get his manuscript. I can imagine the joy he must have felt when he wrapped his arms around those precious pages and was reunited with the people from his mind.
If you’re not a writer or are unfamiliar with the artistic side of things, you may wonder why I cried over something like this. You may ask yourself why I would be so stupid as to only have one copy of my precious book. You may not understand at all. If you don’t, that’s okay. I wouldn’t wish this kind of situation on anyone else.
My rookie mistake almost cost me a novel I’ve been dreaming up for the last two months. It has also taught me a valuable lesson and helped me to see just how much my writing means to me. I will keep writing. I will continue to craft stories and while I hope the trauma of today fades a little, I don’t believe I’ll ever forget what happened today. I know I won’t forget to make backup files of my work.
To Travis: I love you! Thank you for spending your afternoon recovering my files today. When this one’s written & available to the world, there will be a mention of you in the pages for sure!
Have you ever experienced a rookie mistake like this? How did it turn out? What did you learn from it?
It’s true. I didn’t deserve to win that poetry contest I entered back when I was 22-ish. So it’s a good thing I didn’t win it. You know, since I didn’t deserve it and all.
Oh my writing was stellar. Or as close to it as I could get considering that one poem was the first I’d written in you know, ever. I was dressed to kill. I showed up on time. I paid the entry fee. But I didn’t deserve to win.
I didn’t deserve to win because of my motives. Yeah, they were not kosher to having a love of poetry or a desire to share my writing. I’d share the poem with you now, but I can’t find it. Or remember the title of it. You’ll just have to trust me that it was good. Just undeserving of winning that contest.
Back to my motives. Here goes. This might shock you and I admit it’s the first time I’ve ever shared it with anyone (other than the kids).
Motive #1: I didn’t drive the two hours to the tiny library in the even smaller town where the poetry contest was being held and judges (biased ones I think) were going to ooh and ahh over the entries and allow the winner to read her poetry aloud to the miniscule room of people who had attended. For the record, everyone there was a writer who’d entered the poem with the exception of one guest. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call that guest “motive #1”.
He was (is) HOT! Gorgeous. Single. Funny. Smart. You get the idea. List the incredible adjective of the guy of your dreams and you’ve got motive #1. I didn’t go to the poetry reading to listen to poetry being read or to win the contest. I went because going meant a cozy two hour road trip (I love a good road trip) with this hunk of a man!
Motive #2: See motive #1.
Alright, so I only had one underhanded motive for going to this poetry reading/contest. But even with that, I still didn’t deserve to win. Because while motive #1 and I were sitting in the sparse audience listening to the judges read some of their own poetry and then applauding the winner, something bad happened.
Something bad: In this itty bitty room there were chairs facing the platform. Everyone was sitting in the chairs (with the exception of those on the platform) and there was a “buffet” in the back behind all the chairs. I put “buffet” in quotes because if it was a true buffet there would have been fried chicken and biscuits laid out. There were not. The “buffet” held only raw carrots and celery and some ranch dressing to dip the veggies in. I know, you’re appalled right? Well, if you’re from the Midwest and know what a real buffet is, you would be.
Anyway, motive #1 was totally getting into the evening and put together a little plate with veggies and dip and sat beside me (*swooning at his close proximity*). He dug right in. And then something bad happened. Really bad.
As he took a bite of the offensive celery all covered in ranch dressing, motive #1 went about removing the rest of the piece of celery from his mouth. If you can’t get a visual of this, go to the refrigerator, get a piece of celery, wash it and dip it in ranch and read that last line again. See what happened there? The celery strings get caught in your teeth!
So, motive #1 (what a hunk!) gives the celery a little yank. This next part is so bad; I can’t believe I’m going to write it…and he gets the celery out of his mouth and sprays a little (read: a lot) of ranch dressing all over the back of the innocent and unknowing woman seated in front of him. Did I mention the woman was wearing black?
I was horrified. Until motive #1 started laughing and then I was mortified. I told you it was bad. And then something worse happened.
Something worse: Thankfully the reading, etc. was just about over when the ranch exploded all over that little old lady’s black blazer. The speaker up front was encouraging everyone to hang out and mingle. Motive #1 was still chortling away while I tried to pretend we weren’t together. People got up to mingle…and we didn’t tell the woman in front of us! I know. It’s wrong. We should have. We should have offered to pay her dry cleaning bill. Instead we did something worse.
Motive #1 and I hightailed it out of there. We nearly tore the door of that little library room off the hinges to get the hell out of there. And he just kept laughing. And he had (has) gorgeous little laugh lines around his eyes that I really wanted to kiss. But couldn’t because he was motive #1 and as unsuspecting of my interest in him as the woman was of her ranch covered blazer. Okay, probably not that bad. Motive #1 wasn’t/isn’t dense and I think it was obvious how I’d been fawning all over him for the last two hours –minus the brief period when I tried to disappear into the floor when the ranch was flying.
Didn’t I tell you I didn’t deserve to win? Between motive #1, something bad and the something worse I probably don’t deserve anything good ever again! But it all turned out alright. There was a happy ending to my short lived life as a poet. Motive #1 and I married within a year. He still has those great laugh lines, he’s still a hunk and I’m always wary when celery is on the menu.
Do you have any great writing stories? Something funny or interesting or quirky? I’d love to hear about it!