Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, September 16, 2010

When Dreams Become Expectations

There is a famous psychological study that shows that people who win the lottery and people who are involved in catastrophic accidents return to the same original base level of happiness after two years. People who make more than $75,000 are barely affected by further raises at all.

Success and fortune are normative. When we experience success, no matter how great, we first experience a blip of happiness, then we get used to it and start looking for what's around the bend.

And for writers, as previously chronicled, this leads to the "If-Only Game." If I could only find an agent, then I'll be happy. When you get that agent it becomes: If only I could find a publisher, then I'll be happy. If only I could make the bestseller list, then I'll be happy. If only I could have as many Twitter followers as Neil Gaiman, then I'll be happy. We allow our success to be the new normal and aren't satisfied even when we reach the next milestone because there's always another milestone to be had.

But I think there's another hidden danger for writers that can dampen writerly happiness: using our daydreams to get us through the tough times.

You know how it goes. You face a difficult time while writing, you don't want to do it, you're putting in such incredible hard work, and your mind starts drifting to your book being published and taking off and becoming a bestseller and being the next Harry Potter only more popular (don't worry, we're all J.K. Rowlings before publication) and sitting on Oprah's couch and building A FLOATING CASTLE IN THE SKY TRUST US WE'LL BE RICH ENOUGH. And you use those dreams to power through the difficult stretches and redouble your efforts.

And that's perfectly natural! No judging.

But these dreams are sort of like the dark side of the force. Use them too much and you'll turn into a Sith Lord.

When you allow daydreams to fill that gap to get you through the tough times, or even when you're just letting your imagination get the best of you, the dreams can gradually evolve into the reason you were writing in the first place. They were how you got through the tough times, so now they have to come true for it to be worth it. They start to become a crutch--take that crutch away and you fall over because you were leaning on an endlessly elusive dream.

Those dreams can morph into expectations without the writer even noticing it. You start thinking, if this doesn't happen, what were all those hours for? Why am I dealing with this frustration if it's not going to amount to anything? Why am I doing this?

And after those dreams are eroded by reality, suddenly there's a hollow place where those dreams used to reside. It doesn't feel worth it anymore, even if you've achieved modest success that you should be extremely proud of, and would have made you happy if your expectations were in check.

Careful with those dreams. They seem so bright and shiny and harmless and they can help you out through the tough times and it's so fun to let your imagination run wild for a little while, but let them get the best of you and eventually you'll hollow out and get all wrinkly and pale and lightning will start shooting from your fingertips.






171 comments:

Julie Musil said...

Such a great post! I once heard someone say you can't truly be happy unless you can be happy where you are right now. Not sure if that's the case for everyone, but I think there's some truth to that.

Chuck H. said...

I don't care. I still want my flyin' car. It's 2010, for cryin' out loud. Where is it?

Lindsay said...

LOVE THIS.

Anonymous said...

So, is that how publishing works where first you get an agent, and then you have to find a publisher? doesn't an agent do that? What do you have to do after you signed a deal with an agent?
~Lauren Z.

Natalie Whipple said...

But...but...I always thought being a Sith Lord would be FUN.

Okay not really. You're smart, as usual.

minawitteman said...

Great post!
I dream, too, yes! And I have expectations, but I do my utmost not to mix them up or let them take over.
How?
Through my own reality check: I keep remembering why I write: I write because what I write needs to written. It's an urge that comes from deep inside, an urge that is fed by my brain and soul and not by my wish to be published. It's the mere writing that makes me happiest.

I must admit that it gets easier once you are published (got 3 novels and 30 short stories out so far), but I still need that reality check with every new novel, every new project.

Danielle said...

John Candy in Cool Runnings said:

"A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you aren't enough without it, you'll never be enough with it."

I think this applies here. Great post!

dr. laurie johnson said...

Sometimes we have to let go of a dream.Sometimes we need both hands free to do something else or receive something new. I'm just glad that the right dreams don't let go of us.

Danielle said...

Usually I'm right there with you, Nathan, but I'm not sure I agree on this one. It reminds me of the logic of parents who say that kids who read too much Harry Potter don't know the difference between magic and reality. Can't adult writers be trusted to know the difference between dreams and reality? And doesn't a (small) level of dissatisfaction encourage people to chase goals?

The Writing Muse said...

Get happy first, no matter what is going on in your life, and the rest will follow.

Nathan Bransford said...

Danielle-

I don't think that's inconsistent with the post.

Cory Chandler said...

Great advice. This is indeed a real trap and I've found myself falling into it a time or two ... three ... ten, yeah, a lot. It's certainly a tough balancing act, tempering expectations while at the same time fighting the tendency to become complacent -- I mean, without a little bit of discontent, no one would ever feel the motivation to innovate, create, set out and move mountains. But you're exactly right in that too much daydreaming (as with anything taken to excess) can become a destructive and counterproductive force. Thanks for pointing this out.

Daisy Harris said...

Great post! So true.

I think for writers the "shiny" is so attractive because it's a field where one feels a big need for validation. If you get a job working for, say, Chase Manhattan, no one gives you a hard time even if you're the janitor.

But being a writer comes with something of a stigma... unless you're Stephen King. Same with being an actor, photographer, etc. But the truth is that most writers, actors and photographers who make money at it struggle along with mid-range success. You gotta do these jobs because you love them, and be willing to manufacture your own pride.

I've come to realize that there is no future. There's only now- and how I feel about what I'm doing right at this moment. When I set out to write fiction, I decided to stop caring what anyone else thought, and to set my own (very high) standards for what is good. It's been incredibly freeing.

Smiles, Daisy

robinc said...

Oh, I needed this today. Awesome post!

ryan field said...

I agree for the most part :)

Joseph L. Selby said...

I have to agree with Natalie, when I play a Star Wars game, I'm always a Sith first. Siths are like blondes, they have more fun.

Daryl Sedore said...

Nathan,

I get it. I see what you're saying here. You're right. People can sometimes dream their way to expectations that metamorphosed into completely unrealistic levels of stardom.

Although, I have to say, for the record, whether it is deemed inconsistent with this post or not, if you're going to dream, dream big.

At least that's what I do. I want to be the next bestseller. I dream of world book tours and speeches in front of sold-out auditoriums. I dream of being asked repeatedly, "Where do you get your ideas, Mr. Sedore?"

Yet, I'm aware that the only reality I have is the one I create. I will aspire to fulfill my dreams. I will try to write a better novel each time I attempt such a arduous task.

At the end: I will have dreamed and lived and enjoyed all the passions of life.

But I won't advise others to not dream. Just to be realistic and accept your lot in life with a smile.

Bane of Anubis said...

Yeah, I'm definitely feeling wrinkly, shriveled.... the dual-sided blade of aspiration...

More proof that slackers have more fun.

And Sith Lords get a bad rap... those rebels are probably hippie commies ;)

Caitlyn said...

I'm happy as long as I am writing. I've had a few plays published, and I'd obviously like more, but I wrote when I was unpublished and I would write if it all went away tomorrow.
However, I have to live, and pay bills. And that means I have to earn money. If I don't earn from my writing, I will have to get a job, and that will cut into my writing time, and the very thought of being too tired or too short of time to write makes me feel ill. So my dream, and my goal, is to make enough from my writing that I don't need to work outside of it. I don't want to be rich. Just making a living.

buildingalife said...

My husband and I call this "living in hypothetical land."

I used to have a nice house with a sizable back yard on the lake in hypothetical land. It wasn't long until I bought a modest vacation home as well, and got a puppy or two. But my husband who's feet are firmly planted on the ground (lameo) had me evicted and brought me to reality land. The rent is more expensive, and even a lot of money doesn't buy much. My one view is of a brick wall. But the air is clearer here, and I don't waste all my time getting a tan.

D.G. Hudson said...

If we rely too much on our expectations, are you saying we could become Gollum or the gnarly hunchback of Notre Dame? Not a pleasant thought, but a side effect of the Dark Force.

Reality checks on an ongoing basis help immensely. All one has to do is read a few blogs/sites to understand the competition and realize it's not an easy road.

I've noticed that the expectations seem to vary on a generational basis. The more life experience one has can affect the attitude one takes towards success.

Great advice, Nathan, thanks for keeping us grounded.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm glad I stopped by, just to see Bane say "hippie commies."

LOL

Why am I doing this?

Answer that first (seriously, people, write it down! We're writers, right?), and you can use it as a shield against the dark side, especially when agents start whispering sssend me a paaaartial, precioussss. :)

Remus Shepherd said...

I was hoping for some good advice to come out of this article, Nathan. But your closing advice is 'Don't dream'? Seriously?

I'd rather be a dreamer. Yes, bitterness is an occupational hazard. But it's better by far than being one of the complacent masses.

Lucy said...

@ Susan

I'm thinking that last line should belong to the Shark's Herpet-American assistant. ;-)


@ Lauren Z.

Nathan didn't mean that you go out and find a publisher yourself. It's just a way of saying that the publisher is the next step. You're right, the agent is the one who finds and deals with the publisher, except in rare cases. Your job, once you've signed with an agent, will include things like revisions, building a professional website if you don't already have one, revisions, working on your next book, revisions.... Yeah. There's a lot of this revision thing. :-)

Nathan Bransford said...

remus-

I didn't say don't dream, I said careful with those dreams. Big difference.

folksinmt said...

Interesting thoughts. I've often wondered if writers have a harder time accepting the disappointments in life because we are such dreamers. When we spend so much time using our imaginations, it seems it might be more difficult to accept reality. I would love to see a study done on this subject--just to help me feel a little more normal! :)

Lucy said...

@ Remus

I've never gotten the impression that the masses were all that complacent; if they were, self-improvement books wouldn't have such a corner of the market.

There's nothing wrong with dreaming, either, as long as you own the dream. My reading is that Nathan suggests you shouldn't let your dream own you.

JW said...

Oh, one thing I know I have got is the joy in the journey, no matter where it leads. It's a great way to be! :) Great thoughts, I agree!!

K.L. Brady said...

I agree with you on this one. Had I not self published before I got picked up by a publisher, I believe I would have an entirely different set of expectations of what my writing career should be. Fortunately, I've had heavy doses of reality (being rejected, shunned, etc.) and gained a better understanding of the business side, so I've tempered my expectations accordingly.

It's okay to dream but you've got to put the work in to make them happen. You can't just sit back and wait for success to come knocking on your door. For my part, I'm putting the work in and whatever comes from that work, I'll have earned it. Anything else is a cherry on top.

Lucy said...

Uh, hi, Nathan. :-)

Cross-posting here.

Zee Lemke said...

I have dreams of all sizes, from being Oprah down to getting that first sentence right. I'm happy whenever I achieve any of them (which, I admit, are mostly the small ones). I realized at some point that video games suck me in so well because they give me little doable tasks and reward me every time I finish one, so I started finding little doable dreams and grinning like a food when I finished one. Finding a crit partner at about my level made me about as excited as having a first date I wanted. (That's very happy. I'm a high up, deep down kind of person.)

Josin L. McQuein said...

Those kinds of thresholds are like the end of a movie. The expectation for a specific outcome is there (say obtaining an agent).

You go on your quest(query letter!).

You face opposition (rejection!)

There are "adversaries" (How did that hack get published in less than a week?!)

You persevere (rewrites!)

You are victorious (represented!)

There may even be a love/hate relationship (luv my MS!!! / Piece of trash!!!)

Suicide attempts (Step away from the delete key!)

But in the end... it's not an end. It's the doorway to a new level. Too many people think they're on the quest to destroy the ring (break down the doors of Publishing!) when they're actually in the Neverending Story.

Yes. I am a dork. I've come to terms with it.

Anonymous said...

A very wise person once told me, "cease expectations and you have everything." Those are words I do my best to live by though some days are better than others. But since you mentioned Oprah, I believe I've heard her say on more than one occassion, something to the effect of "your expectations have a way of rising up to meet you." She's pretty smart, right? What's wrong with following her lead? I think the key is knowing whatever obstacle or blessing that comes your way is for your highest good.

Signed,

Yoda
(AKA: Tracy Ward)

M.A.Leslie said...

Wow, thank you Nathan. This made me really think about why I am doing this. Earlier this year I got sick and I started writing because it was always something that I loved to do and I finally had the time to do it. It wasn't until I really got into it that I started thinking about using it to make money. Your absolutely right, keep it in perspective. I think for me if I remember why I am doing this and give myself small goals then it will all work out in the long run.

m. christine weber said...

I heartily agree. And as with most things, I think the balance comes down to knowing why you do what you do.

So why DO we write?

Well...for the love of words, and whimsy, and a kick-ass plot, right?

Right.

Good. Because, at best, those glittery daydreams turn out to be a stimulating motivation. Useful in their limited way. At worst? A cheap emotional infatuation distracting us from our beautiful muse now yawning in the corner.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this - it's a constant battle. I like to remember this quote from Beckett's Godot: "Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today?" One day, one sentence at a time. Also, that writing, like life, is about the process of day to day.

Shelby, The Script Activist said...

On a similar note, I used my dreams as a way to placate myself. I'd say "Someday when I write my book I'll feel better about myself. I'll be able to buy a little cottage nestled in the trees. I'll put my shoulders back when I walk. I'll have a twinkle in my eye. People will look at me like I matter...etc." But because I had painted my dream so large, and because my dream was so important to me I was afraid to write. To work towards my dream might prove that I'm not good enough. When they were just dreams they made me feel better. But working towards it is super scary. No one wants to watch their ultimate fantasy fizzle down the drain like that little water tornado making that ugly sucking sound. So, I agree with you. Don't write because of the dream; write because that's what you love to do. Write because you're passionate about it. You can always get a new dream!

Claudia said...

Hi Nathan,

Thanks for this post. I think it is extremely perceptive, and I think it applies to more than just writing. Marriage. Raising children. To name just two.

ilana said...

I loved this post Nathan. Have you ever thought about going into motivational, inspirational speaking? Because this post motivated me to want to writer, rather than dream about being the next J.K. Rowling. And I loved that line about how we are all J.K. Rowling while we are writing. :-)

Rick Daley said...

Sage advice. I can't stop dreaming, the creative monster inside me won't let me. When I stop channeling that creative energy into stories and let it evolve into an alternate reality...that's when I get in trouble.

Wow, that sounds schizo. I don't mean it that way, honest. I'm well grounded. And to prove it:

WORD VERIFICATION: weezierp. The sound of George Jefferson burping while speaking to his wife.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Hey, I know that picture - it's the Karabasan, a demon who visits you in your sleep.(I wrote a post about that btw.) Sleep paralysis is the scintific term for it.

I think the whole writing process can be likened to a nightmare if you don't remember to want what you've got.

Gary Ploski said...

Well said Nathan.

This relates to filmmakers, actors, etc. as well.

Do what you do, love what you do and let the cards fall where they may.

Stephanie Barr said...

Something else I've noticed.

They can be an excuse. I'll take care of that when that happens. I'll make something of myself once this happens.

It becomes an excuse for inaction. Life is made to be living even when outside forces aren't doing what you'd dreamed.

Laurel said...

Wow. I need to start dreaming bigger. My aspirational daydreams are very dowdy.

Ulysses said...

"Those who define themselves by their achievements will never achieve enough. Those who are content just to be will take joy in everything, including their achievements."

I don't know how relevant that is, but I know that the cookie it came out of was slightly stale.

I worry about this sometimes. I want "success" so much, but I haven't given much thought either to what constitutes success or what I would do after I had achieved it.

However... lightning from my fingers? Well, there goes ANOTHER keyboard.

Dana Rose Bailey said...

Nathan,
I see your point and think a lot of people can fall into the trap of dreaming themselves out of their troubles and then once the dream is over they find themselves right smack back in the middle of them.

However, I caution people to give up dreaming. In many situations it is that dream that keeps us going. It is the dream that helps us make it to the finish line.

I myself am a big dreamer, always have been. If I can't 'picture' myself doing something I often don't strive to do it. It's not that I lose the ambition, it's just that if I can't see it, then it doesn't feel right, and vice versa. I dream something up and find the path to make it happen.

I think the key here is not to watch what you dream. The key is to find an inner happiness.

Here's an analogy a friend once used in a different situation, but I think it still applies. She was a girl who always had a boyfriend, and felt that she needed a man to be happy. She finally realized the problem with that no one can make you happy. She said it's like this "I want a new toaster. I'd be happy with a new toaster. But my current one still works so I'm satisfied."

I want and would be very happy to be a New York Times bestseller. I dream of being published and all that. But even if I never make it, I'm happy with what I have accomplished so far.

You see the key to true happiness is the knowledge that it's not something given to you or something that happens to you. It's quite simply a choice. As long as you realize that and can balance life and dream, I say dream as big as you can.

Bryan Thompson said...

Great actions begin with great dreams. If you can't imagine it, you can't achieve it - and if you do happen to achieve it, you won't have any idea what it looks like because you didn't imagine it!

Dreams work, but only if they turn into goals - those workable, measurable, and action-oriented task lists. Goals help you measure your achievement and figure out what will get you closer to that dream.

And if I were a sith lord, I'd be Darth Maul. I don't think he was given a fair shot.

Christian yorke said...

Nathan,

The number of comments suggests you've touched a nerve with this post.

People will relate to your post in different ways but you really have identified a psychological truth. Ironically, however, it is that nagging sense of dissatisfaction with whatever stage we reach that fuels ambition.

Complex issues indeed!

CY

abc said...

First you're my coach and now you're my therapist! Nathan, next you'll be my mother. And I couldn't be more ok with that.

I left dreaming behind after I entered my 30s. Now I just want to have a job where I can spend a lot of time with my kid, my dog, and I guess my husband, as well. That's all. And maybe a fun trip now and then. And I don't put all my eggs in the writing basket. Yes, I want to be able to call myself an author, but I am also more than happy to call myself a therapist, too. Balance. Reality. Reason. Life. (Student loan debt).

The Danish are supposed to be the happiest country because they have lower expectations. They want success, but that doesn't necessarily coincide with game and great wealth. I think they are onto something.

jb@mentalmanifestation.com said...

I wholeheartedly disagree. When you dream small, you get small. True, one must be happy in the NOW, with what they currently have, in order to be in the right energetic state to attract more of that good, happy energetic state.

AND one must also dream bigger than they can imagine achieving, in order to land where they really want to land.

Manifestation is akin to riding a hunter/jumper horse. When riding to the jump, you don't look at the jump--you'll run into it. You don't look at your horse--he'll stumble and you'll fall off. You don't look at the space above the jump--you might clear it but you'll have a faulty landing.

To sail over that jump cleanly and land firmly on the path to continuation, you must focus way out beyond the jump to a landing spot far away from the jump itself. Then, you keep your focus and let your horse negotiate how to get over the obstacle.

That's how the manifestation of dreams works, too. You set your focus, and let your energy (the horse) carry you over the jump into the landing spot (the dream). It's up to you whether you choose a six-inch jump or a six-foot jump. Dream as big as you dare; I say, go bigger.

abc said...

and by game I mean fame. poo.

Nathan Bransford said...

A liiiiiiiiiiitle surprised that people are taking from this that I'm saying it's not okay to dream.

DREAM! DREAM BIG! As I said, it's perfectly natural. No judging. If we didn't dream we wouldn't write.

I'm just saying that it's dangerous to depend on those dreams. When you use them as crutches to keep you going, well, I don't personally think people should be gambling with their happiness.

Dream responsibly.

Ermo said...

My favorite part of the comments are the people that say something about chasing a dream and how it will never be satisfying and then throw in, "unless you're Stephen King" or "unless you're Rowling." I think the point of Nate's post is that even King and Rowling probably have an "if-only" scenario and I'm sure it has something to do with critical success.

Nathan Bransford said...

ermo-

That too!

Juice in LA said...

I am a weirdo I guess, once I achieve (or colossally fail at) one goal, I just start dreaming up the next...

but for some reason this post reminds me of a awesome quote from Bob Mould (during his Husker Du years): "Expectations only mean you really think you know, what's coming next and you don't."

Krista V. said...

I don't think Nathan's saying don't dream, or even don't dream big. He's just saying you have to be content with where you're at, no matter where that is, because, ultimately, realizing our dreams will not make us happy. Happiness comes from who we are on the inside, not what happens to us on the out.

Jabez said...

I think the key is to dream as big as you want, but don't rely -- emotionally or financially -- on dreams whose outcomes depend on something outside your control (e.g., being traditionally published, finding commercial success). That way lies the dark side of un's, in's, and dis's: unfulfillment, insolvency, disillusionment, dissatisfaction. Not to mention unfriendliness, intoxication, and dyspepsia.

Enjoy the big dreams, but don't forget the smaller ones: crafting the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next page, and revising them 'til they shine. Write something you're proud of. That's on no one but you.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nina said...

12 years it took me, for my daydream to turn in to the beginning of a book. I've always said that with me ADD I'd be proud just to finish it. Now I've put it on halt because if I ever want it published, then I need to learn how to write proper English. I didn't realize until now, that my expectations have grown, without me consciously acknowledging it.

I'll still be proud to finish a book, but will I be disappointed is nothing becomes of it than a mere file on my computer? Yeah, I guess I will!

Anonymous said...

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Henry David Thoreau

ed miracle said...

Assuming my current project achieves publication, my idea of success is to have someone I respect to take it seriously enough to Want to Talk About It.

Nathan Bransford said...

mira-

I probably do need a vacation, but again, I'm not criticizing daydreams, just when those daydreams cross over into expectations. It really does happen to just about everyone - we start dreaming, which is great because if we don't dream big what are we doing. But then gradually and imperceptibly those daydreams start becoming our standard for happiness. Maybe this doesn't happen for everyone, but I've seen it a lot.

As Ermo said, I think you can see it by the idea that people think Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have it made. To us they probably do. But to them, they can very easily play the "if only" game themselves. If only people recognized me for being more than a megabestseller, if only I had sold still more books. That's just human nature. There's no level of success that will get someone to a level of happiness if they continue to try and chase their wildest dreams. It really is like chasing a rainbow.

Don't forget also, that whenever the time I'm lending advice on staying sane during the writing process it's to remind myself as much as anyone else.

lotusgirl said...

Lightening shooting from my fingertips sounds pretty cool though.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post.

I especially like your point about how reality can never meet a daydream's expectations, how daydreams can actually tarnish the reality of a success.

That's why I reserve my daydreams to thinking about my WIP (character scenes and such). And I only daydream of shooting lightning bolts from my fingertips when I'm in a public bathroom (it really does work!)

Marjorie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bryan Thompson said...

Also, I think the danger of this "if only" game grows the earlier a writer "makes it." We've all seen people who get what they've dreamed of, then realize there's nothing else they really want, and grow miserable and unhappy. One of our biggest human needs is growth. We have to continually be expanding our reach. I think this may be a large part of Nathan's original post.

Sorry, Nathan, I think a bunch of us misread your point. :-/

reader said...

If daydreams didn't cross over into expectations, there'd be no reason to write at all, you could just THINK about writing.

Writing with expectations is very important. The expectation you'll finish the book. The expectation that you will rewrite it. The expectation that a certain number of researched agents will be interested. And on and on...

Any sort of an accomplishment started as a dream, otherwise why would you do it?

I really don't think very many writers out there think they are going to be Stephen King or Rowling -- hell, Stephen King and Rowling didn't know they'd be them. Without their dreams, King would still be a janitor living in a trailor and substitute teaching and Rowling would be on the dole.

Natasha Fondren said...

A-freakin'-men! I cut my expenses and luxuries and lifestyle drastically to focus full-time on writing, and honestly, things and money have nothing to do with happiness.

It pays to cultivate the love of the process of writing and to learn to motivate yourself through the desire to improve your writing. (Plenty of studies that prove this, if you're inclined to research it.) No matter what you get paid or what level of fame or publication you meet, if you don't have that love of process and motivation to improve, then you will burn out--and worse, you just might find you hate the job you've created for yourself.

I indulge in a fantasy now and then, but my real fantasy is to write, write, write and read, read, read and watch movies. I love story. I didn't have to rely on any "if-then" fantasy to get there: I just made it happen.

Marjorie said...

Is That All There Is?

Maggie Secara said...

I think Nathan's point isn't about dreams but about happiness. It isn't dreaming, or even achieving the dream that makes you happy. Happiness can only come from inside, not from external stuff. That's all.

Mira said...

Nathan, I re-read my post, and if you hadn't responded, I would have deleted it.

It was too personal - I'm sorry - I shouldn't have said that part about needing a vacation. That wasn't meant to devalue what you were saying at all. Between yesterday's post and today, I just felt....well, supportive, actually. It didn't come out that way, though. I'm really sorry.

I feel as though I need time to gather my thoughts, because you are making an extremely valid point. People can seriously hurt themselves chasing daydreams. I don't exactly know why I'm struggling with it. Maybe I could let this simmer awhile and come back later tonight.

Actually, I am going to delete my post. I don't like the (unintentionally) devaluing tone. I'll try again later tonight.

Nathan Bransford said...

mira-

I knew what you meant, no worries.

RyanFortney said...

I could not agree more, well blogged, sir!

Remilda Graystone said...

You have perfect timing, Nathan. I so needed this post. I've been having a difficult time with my writing, and I'm only now realizing how bad it is to play the If-only game and depend on that unrealistic crutch. Thanks for the reality check.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

I'm fortunate to have someone in my life who can keep me grounded even when the dreamer in me takes flights of fancy. Right now I'm finding myself settling for smaller bits of happiness, like when someone asks to read something I wrote, or receiving a comment from someone I've never met before regarding the same.

These small bits of success and happiness do add up overtime.

J. T. Shea said...

They say success and money may not make you happy, but they do get you a much better class of misery!

I am very much a dreamer. And I know the dangers. But I consider negative daydreams much worse. Sour grapes. Bitterness. Cynicism. Limiting ourselves and others to our lowest expectations.

Whoever has a dream gives a hostage to fortune. It may not come true. But any plan, however prosaic, is a daydream. Even a laundry list implies a hope we will live long enough to complete it. Beware of the Statistical Wisdom of the World, according to which we are all dead anyway.

Chuck H., me too! Who Killed The Flying Car? THEM, of course! But who are they?

Claudia, yes! Whoever has children gives the biggest of all hostages to fortune. It is not a 'sensible' course of action.

I don't want to be J. K. Rowling. Sex changes are painful, and expensive...

But my inevitable triumph will not be enough. Everyone else must fail! But first I have to get this damn monkey off my chest, and that horse out of my bedroom...

Benny Gunns said...

Whoa! I was thinking about building a flying building yesterday!

Great post! I've learned to look back throughout the year and say "I finished another screenplay! Good Job!" "I finished XYZ! Good Job!"

It will help, when you do hit those low days, to recall all of the accomplishments you've had in the year.

Jen Sadler said...

Um, excuse me Mr. Bransfors, but did you reach into my soul or are us crazy writers who dream of something big all alike? All I can say now is, at least the Oprah dream is dying on its own. This is her last season, after all!

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to have a dream, it's another thing to chase it. But beware the wish. I agree with Nathan that hanging all your hopes on one old busted-out hat tree is a very bad idea. Be who you are, do what you love, write because you just can't help it. Success, if it comes, is a bonus.

T. Anne said...

I don't necessarily believe you need to be happy where you are in life right now, but hopefully you feel content. I'm very content with my life, but yes, I await the happy blip of representation, the publisher, and on and on.

We're hardwired to desire something other than what we have, it propels us forward, and many times distracts us from what we already have. If some of us feel as though we've been given the passion to write in this life, that's great. However, we can't let that passion consume us.

Whirlochre said...

Last dream I had, I got so rich and famous I was murdered.

Then I woke up and wrote a Waking Up scene that won me $5.

Problem was, I had in fact been murdered, so the $5 was effectively worthless.

Still not sure about the value of the dream, whether I was alive at the time I dreamt it, or dead.

swampfox said...

To live is to dream.
At least that's how I see it.
Or was that a dream?

adam.purple said...

"eventually you'll hollow out and get all wrinkly and pale and lightning will start shooting from your fingertips"

On the other hand, being that evil might make it easier to get an agent.

To which I say, something something something dark side. Something something something complete.

Anonymous said...

"Dream responsibly."

Does this mean I'll never be Mrs. Brad Pitt?

You simply cannot take that away from me...lol

Anonymous said...

Nathan: Regarding this blog entry, I understand why you're surprised (and perhaps frustrated) that some people are coming away with the idea that it's not okay to dream. You're point seems pretty clear to me. Dreaming is connected to imagination, which is always the first and most important act of creating anything. Without dreaming/ imagination, we'd have nothing. However, expectations are when dreams develop into something confining... something 'will' or 'must' happen versus 'might' happen. Expectations are the craw that gets stuck in people's throats. An example: This novel will be chosen by Oprah for her book club within the year is an expectation, not a dream. However, I will hone my talent without giving up and eventually create a wonderful novel is a dream. Within that dream is infinite possibilities. However,when you engage in expectations, you're not expanding on your dreams but constricting them. And therefore you end up opposing yourself. God knows there are other exciting doors out there to open than just Oprah's (though she can be quite helpful. I get your blog and loved it and applaud you for creating it.
Alicia

Marlan said...

This was a good post for me to read today.

Thanks Nathan.

J. T. Shea said...

An interesting meditation on publishing dreams and disillusionment and bargaining with reality is Tim Clare's memoir WE CAN'T ALL BE ASTRONAUTS, published by Ebury Press in 2009.

Parisa said...

I really enjoyed this post, and it rings true to me. I think (at least in my case) writing must be internally motivated to be enjoyable. If I'm writing because of external motivators (approval, success, etc), and not because I desperately need to get the words out, then it usually isn't good writing and I don't like doing it.

clp3333 said...

You had me until the Sith Lord thing. If I could get a double sided light saber I would totally be down.

Actually your blog post depressed me. I'm going to go cope with it by signing lit groupie bra straps in my mind.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

So you're saying lightning out of the fingertips is a bad sign?

Robert A Meacham said...

Dreams are like the race horse finishing the race before the rider mounts it.

Kourtnie said...

I needed this. Thank you for defining that ground we call reality. :)

The Red Angel said...

Wow, thanks for the wake-up call and warning, Nathan. :) It's definitely very true. Well-written and honest. Great post!

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Cathi said...

I have no expectations...only a lot of determination, so I think I'll be okay...

Gretchen said...

As always, you have incredibly astute observations. Perhaps some readers are struggling with this post because it rings so true? I know for myself, it's an issue that reaches far beyond just my writing life. I try to remind myself that getting that "next thing," whatever it is, is not what's going to make me happy. Only I can make me happy. It's a tough one to remember though. Thanks for this post, Nathan.

Adam Heine said...

Sorry, I was daydreaming a little during this post. So you're saying the only milestone worth achieving is the destruction of the Jedi Order, right?

M Clement Hall said...

This is a bit like the poor man who was told riches wouldn't make him happy and said he would prefer rich and unhappy to poor and unhappy.
Marriage brings its set of problems, but if no one wants to marry you, that must surely be worse.

Getting published I'm happy to attest brings its own problems, but I prefer them to rejection.

M Clement Hall said...

This is a bit like the poor man who was told riches wouldn't make him happy and said he would prefer rich and unhappy to poor and unhappy.
Marriage brings its set of problems, but if no one wants to marry you, that must surely be worse.

Getting published I'm happy to attest brings its own problems, but I prefer them to rejection.

Erin said...

So would the Sith Lord thing be an example of analogy? Or fact?

Lisa said...

Thanks for this post Nathan.
I couldn't agree more. Hillary Mantel recently wrote an article about the nervous tension of the weeks prior to finding out if you've won the Booker, and at the end of the article she said she badly missed the days before publication when she could write what she wanted to, and she had the luxury of clinging to the lost pleasurable hours of writing what you want to write.
So many great writers have said this.
Thanks again for an interesting read.

Anonymous said...

An old psychology professor of mine taught us (our class) something that I truly connected to. He said: "Think about your car. Is having the car what makes you happy? Or is it the feeling you get of being in the car, the way you feel as it cruises you to your destination, the sensation you get from driving it while the wind blows through your hair and the radio plays your favorite song?" I paraphrased that, but the point's the same.

Basically, the former places the happiness on the object itself, stimulated by the idea of having something the person wants or thinks he wants; the latter places the happiness within the person, stimulated by the internal responses that occur through the whole "car experience."

I think the same applies here. If a person experiences happiness through his writing, then everything else will be somewhat secondary (the agent, the publisher - the objects) even if at some point he sets his sights on attaining those objects/goals; and in some way, even if unable to attain those objects/goals, he will still experience the happiness that comes from within through his writing. If, however, the person thinks the objects (getting published, getting the agent) will make him happy, then the happiness is surely not to last.

wry wryter said...

Father Nathan,
So...where do I show up for the sermon, really.

When I go to bed tonight, just before I fall asleep I'm setting Oprah aside. No more on the road to talk about my book, no more autographs, all the money and movie rights gone because of your post. Maybe tonight I'll actually fall asleep before I give my Oscar speech for the screenplay of my bestseller.

Jeez Nathan whats left if I can't dream...reality, that sucks.
Actually father, my reality is pretty damn good.
Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

That was seriously depressing, Nathan, and not something I particularly needed to hear. Sorry.

L.C. Gant said...

You've really outdone yourself this time, Nathan. I can tell because this post stings my pride. A lot.

I'm not sure why so many of the writers commenting here think you're trying to kill their dreams. To me, you're doing the exact opposite---validating our dreams while warning us not to let them carry us away.

By all means, keep your heads in the clouds, fellow writers. Just be sure to keep two feet firmly planted on the ground at the same time so you don't lose touch with reality. That's what I take from this post, anyway.

Jess said...

I can't wait until Nathan Bransford is my agent. Then I'll be happy. This dream is the only thing keeping me sane through these revisions. It's totes gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

I beg to disagree. Failure is easy to take - success is harder. The example you quoted of winning a lottery - is the person who got all he dreamt of - he couldn't handle it.

You aim for something - don't get it; well happens all through your life. I think people adjust to reality all the time.

But you dreamt a dream - it is all coming true - that is more scary. Success will bring a new set of problems to your life. Preparing for failure is easier - we are all pessimists. But it is also important to prepare for success - what if it is all going to come true. Are you prepared for it?

Yes we should never continue living in our dreams (and you have to be capable of handling disappointments) but if you don't dream, you will write mediocre stuff.

just my thoughts. V nice post.

Anonymous said...

I beg to disagree. Failure is easy to take - success is harder. The example you quoted of winning a lottery - is the person who got all he dreamt of - he couldn't handle it.

You aim for something - don't get it; well happens all through your life. I think people adjust to reality all the time.

But you dreamt a dream - it is all coming true - that is more scary. Success will bring a new set of problems to your life. Preparing for failure is easier - we are all pessimists. But it is also important to prepare for success - what if it is all going to come true. Are you prepared for it?

Yes we should never continue living in our dreams (and you have to be capable of handling disappointments) but if you don't dream, you will write mediocre stuff.

just my thoughts. V nice post.

m. christine weber said...

Oh! I forgot to add that I'm looking forward to hearing you speak at the Central Coast Writers' Conference this weekend! I even considered wearing my bright orange "Nathan Bransford for President" t-shirt but my husband cautioned I might come across a little "rabid fan-girl-ish." Sheesh. So maybe I'll just wear the hot pink one...

;-D

Lindsay B said...

I'm surprised there's dissent in the comments. ;)

Winning is something that's born out of confidence rather than hope. Successful people are usually successful in multiple facets of their lives, and I suspect most would tell you they have goals (which they achieve) rather than dreams.

Nathan Bransford said...

Looking back I definitely think I could have been clearer in the post that really it's the transition of dreams to expectations to be wary of rather than the dreams themselves. Dreams = great/natural/awesome/the reason we're doing this. It's when they crystallize, as Alicia articulated, that they can constrict you. That seems to be the source of misunderstanding.

Ah well, next time!

Janet Fox said...

Sadly (or happily, depending) there's only one solution: BIC. And mind on the craft.

Those success daydreams - I use them to get through my insomnia.

Thanks for another great post.

Anthony DeRouen said...

A very insightful post, thank you Nathan.

Dave Malone said...

This is an amazing post.

I think about this all the time.

There's a great line in Field of Dreams, where Shoeless Joe says, "Ty Cobb wanted to play, but none of us could stand the son-of-a-bitch when we were alive, so we told him to stick it!"

I'm so glad my first novel wasn't published. Or my second. I would have been a real son-of-a-bitch.

Now,I no longer have a dream. Now, I have thrown out the old-school publishing model. Now, I have no expectations. I am not a writer, nor an artist, yet I am both of those. I have a niche audience for my work, and I'm digging it and embracing it. Because of technology/emedia, I connect in ways that Henry Miller would have been jealous of.

Thanks for this reminder, Nathan.

Anne R. Allen said...

I'll see you there, Christine. And Nathan!!! Just realized I've got NOTHING ORANGE in my closet. Maybe I'll just have to bring my monkey.

It will be awesome.

I think Nathan's saying we all dream those impossible dreams, but we also need to be grateful for the gifts along the way--which are the real rewards. And keep the dream software updated.

Eleven Eleven said...

Brilliant. The clearest and best reasoning for watching your motives I've read in a long time.

Banking on outcomes is the credit card of time you may not be able to pay off in the end. Psychological bankruptcy makes for a great villain in a story, but not for a happier you.

A.S. Boudreau said...

Great reminder that I greatly needed today of all days. Thanks to Colleen Lindsay for tweeting it for me to find.. and read. It was something I especially needed to read today.

Robert said...

Nathan -

Your post today makes it sound like it would be a BAD thing to be a Sith Lord...

Silly agent! The Sith are awesome, and not just for kids nowadays.

Matthew Rush said...

The problem for me is that if I'm daydreaming about success that's time I could have spent writing. I can't decide if that's more Darth Sidious or more Count Dooku though.

Jami Gold said...

Yes, there's a big difference between dreaming big and thinking that achieving that dream is the only thing that will make you happy. I think that's the point Nathan's trying to make.

So I agree completely. You need to consciously think about what will make you happy - and it shouldn't be dependent on things you can't control, like Oprah. :) (I actually did a blog post about this several weeks ago, so maybe that's why it made more sense to me.)

CB ICE said...

The new Goo Goo Dolls song, "Nothing is Real" seems like an appropriate song for this post!! Check it out. I love it, my fave on their new album, but I love "As I am too."

MichelleE said...

Wow! Thanks for posting this. Talk about a wake-up call.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mira said...

Wait a minute. I just read your post above. Maybe I'm still misunderstanding and I should delete my post again. Arrrggghhh.

So, you're saying: be careful. Don't take your dream and make it into something you 'expect' to happen and then feel like life is worthless if that particular manifestation of your dream doesn't happen. That would be a bad thing.

Yeah, okay. Good point, Nathan.

Darn it. I'm going to have to delete my post again. Shoot. I really like that song. :)

Good topic. Lots of food for thought for me today. Thanks. :)

Megan Sayer said...

Oh God, and I thought it was just me!

Thanks for this Nathan. Love your work.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Great post! And great comments - I particularly like Josin's interpretation. Yes, this is The Neverending Story. LOL.

I agree that dreams are great, as long as we remain grounded in the reality of "what is". And while some ambition is great, it is important to be happy with where you are. I think the people who struggle with that will always be playing the "if only" game.

My version of the "if only" game goes, "If only I can get an agent, then I won't have to spend half my writing time doing publisher and agent research!" So I guess I'mnot completely immune, although I think it's a pretty realistic expectation. :-)

Chuck H. said...

Nice, Mira, but I still want that friggin' flyin' car.

Chuck H. said...

By the way, that "Nice, Mira" was aimed at the comment you deleted. Just so you know.

Ann M said...

I think I get your post, Nathan, and I think it's a good reminder.

At the end of the day, I have to be okay with the time I spent writing. Even if that's all it ever is. If that book never becomes a mega-hit, if it never gets published, even if it never gets an agent, at least it got written. And I have to be happy with writing process, and the writing process alone.

Thankfully, as of now, I am. I love all my characters and worlds too much to ever resent them if they never get printed. I like the time I spent with them, and I'll never regret having created their stories.

Jan Markley said...

Great post Nathan! there are so many ups and downs in writing and publishing that you have to love what you do. You are right, if you let your dreams become your expectations you will be disappointed because the reality will rarely live up to your dreams.

Mira said...

Thanks, Chuck. :) I learned alot today writing and deleting posts. I took my post down, though, because it was sort of all over the place, and I thought Nathan's point was good and deserved focus.

I'll say the other stuff the next time Nathan posts on this topic. :)

As for a flying car, you might be dreaming too small. What about wings? We can flap them and zoom around.

April Wendy Hollands said...

Nathan, how did you know about my floating castle? There will also be an anti-gravity room and a hovering bed, and I will dress like a princess while my partner dresses as a robot (his choice, not mine unfortunately). *clings to realistic richness dream.*

Anna L. Walls said...

I have learned so much since discovering this blog. I have passed along to you, The One Lovely Blog award. You can check out and pick up the award at: http://AnnaLWalls.blogspot.com

Elie said...

I think the post is quite clearly written, but needs to be read slowly and digested!
I think expectations are the dreaded things to beware of, in every area of life.
They're very often unconscious or not articulated too - so when they're not met it's even more difficult to deal with.
And they do have a very close relationship with dreams.

Martha said...

A Sith Lord! Ha ha, brilliant. I love this piece; it's very true.
Although I have to say... if Chuck H (a few comments away) gets a flying car, then I want one too.

Em-Musing said...

Happiness I have now. Success will be to get published. I don't think I'll want to go back to being unpub'd. I'm sure my view of success will change though, as does life.

wry wryter said...

But who do I talk to on the way to work today alone in my car?
Ms O is over this year, Larry is out and Barbara, well Babs is getting up there...OMG I'll have to talk to myself or God.
Where is George Burns when you need him?

Kathryn Magendie said...

This is a beautifully written piece of prose; wow.

You've said what I've said to writers who feel they aren't successful "Because" . . . (and have to say to myself, too): Enjoy all the moments, what's right there in front of you, every "little" success should be celebrated - even "modest" success in the Bigger Realm of the Publishing World (or whatever world you are in) is really not modest at all when you consider the percentages.

It's so easy to compare ourselves: are we as beautiful as that model and why aren't we? they're that way; so why aren't we? What are we doing wrong? Are we as successful/rich/well-known as so and so--and why not? They did it; what is their magic? How come we're lacking and they are not?

I think it's time we all take our right hand, put it behind our back, and give ourselves a little pat that says "Hey, good job," but then Get Back To Work doing what we do.

(I am laughing at Chuck H's comment though - I can see it in my peripheral vision *laugh*)

Sheila Cull said...

If only I could sleep less so I could read/write more. Thank goodness I love the process.

Nathan, what's a Silth Lord?

Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy said...

Informative and insightful post - for those who need to hear it. That many would-be and working writers do need to hear it amazes me because I've been well grounded in reality for most of my life. That "if only" mentality doesn't apply just to writers but to people across every tier of society. It's really a sad statement on our culture and our collective thought as Americans that the idea that the grass is always greener and that happiness is an elusive fleeting prize that soon fades is so prevelent.

Thank God I put aside those rose colored glasses about the same time I packed the Barbie dolls away and left childhood behind me.

Buffy Andrews said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Nathan: I think you were clear enough, definitely. But sometimes communication is like Rorschach: you hear or get meaning from what's being said (or being written) based on where you're at inside. Your blogs are a great service to the writing community. I dare say non-writers might enjoy them just as much. As Arnold says: "I'll be back!" Alicia

Porter Anderson said...

What turns out to be the MOST instructive part of this column and the responses, Nathan, is how many respondents have taken your original commentary to mean they shouldn't dream. That, of course, isn't what you wrote. You were perfectly clear. And yet even your post-post efforts to set this straight in comments don't seem to reach some people.

Isn't there something to learn in all this about how readers tend to interpret what we write in subjective ways? Many seem to labor under the influence of pop-culture sentiment, which aggressively promotes success dreams as the prerequisite to fulfillment. And I say that with all respect to the late Lena Horne, who so melodiously belieeeeeved in herself that she could have instilled self-esteem in anyone, even Canadians.

There's something cautionary here for all of us Writers Who Would Be Read. It's about subtle distinctions vs. kneejerk filters among the eyeballs of the world.

Here's to healthy dreaming that doesn't warp into neurotic expectations. And to readers comfortable in the gray areas (and Bransford Orange) of reality. :-)

terryd said...

Fine post, Nathan.

The joy must remain in the striving, lest the true dream die.

Carol Piasente said...

An amazingly perceptive piece. Thank you, Nathan.

Christine Macdonald said...

Nail. Head.

Thanks N.

Magdalena Munro said...

Wonderful post Nathan and I completely agree with you; in my previous marriage we had gobs of money and the fancy house/cars. I grew used to it. In my current marriage we have the normal house and the Jetta and I'm used to it as well. It's all fine and dandy. I've never aspired to make money from writing, thus, I don't really fall into the daydreaming about success category. HOWEVER, since my book uncovers a load of secrets about the corporate HR recruiting function and about all the liest that take place, I do at times daydream about how great it would be for millions of people to read it and to have them exposed. This post helped me as it's just as dangerous to daydream in this fashion. Thank you-

Shelli said...

I guess my writing and I are still in the honeymoon stage. I am happy just because I'm writing. Oh, the dreams are still there, and quite frankly, I expect every one of them to come true... eventually. But I don't hang my happiness on my dreams coming true.

Michael G-G said...

I'm already pale and wrinkly, so where can I sign up for the lightning-shooting-from-fingertips gig?

Rebecca said...

I have to reiterate with what some people have said. I do agree with your post, however, if I don't ever make enough to write FT than I do conceivably see myself stopping. Working 2 jobs which in reality are both FT one can only do for so long while not seeing rewards for that work.

Mark Terry said...

I can actually attest to the truth of this post, because I lived it. It's a very dangerous thing to get into your head that "if only I get published I'll be happy" or "if only I hit a bestseller list I'll be happy" or... anything along those lines. For a very (very) long time I was a struggling writer who jumped every time the phone rang hoping it was my agent calling with a book deal (and I mean for freakin' years) and I got mired in a tremendous amount of depressive thinking.

Luckily, I got off into a different direction where I was able to change my life circumstances by becoming a full-time freelance writer. The novels I get published are part of that, but I still struggle with the fiction expectations part of things, whereas I'm overall very happy with my life.

I understand your post 100%.

Mae said...

Great post! I think it applies to life in general. Sometimes we get so caught up in the dream that we forget to enjoy the ride.

vnrieker said...

See what happens when your dreams become expectations? Nobody liked Ratcliffe.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P99grcBer30

Leslie said...

This time I have to disagree. Sorry. Those dreams that get you through should be treated as little prayers, hopes for the future. Write with the intent that you will be famous or on Oprah's couch(best hurry though). That intent acts as a goal you aspire to reach.

I'm a big believer in "shoot for the stars, if you hit the moon it's still way farther than the couch in a suburb surrounded by Stepford wives."

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like you're asking for people to settle: "You've got your little crumbs; how dare you--how GREEDY of you--to want an actual piece of the pie." The great achievers never settle. I'd never have you as my agent!

Anonymous said...

Huh?

What have The Sith got to do with getting published?

First you told us that on Survivor, the contestants who always say they aren't there to make friends, never win. Now you're telling us that if we dream too much then we'll turn into Lord Vader?

I'm still trying to work out what Survivor has to do with becoming a novelist - now I've got this Sith thing to unravel.

I swear to god, this blog, when it's not downright cryptic, is more depressing than informative or inspirational. Every time I visit this place I end up feeling a deep sense of despair or confusion.

I haven't got anything to add to the discussion, because, quite frankly, I have no idea what's going on, but here's something that Lawrence of Arabia wrote in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."

So what does that mean?

I have absolutely no idea, but it makes at least as much sense as bringing Star Wars and Survivor into all this.

Pam Torres said...

This hits the nail right on the head. I just quit my day job (I'm in a position to do so) to see if I am truly a writer. Sure, I have all the little daydreams just like a new bride who dreams of the white picket fence and two cars in the driveway, handsome husband, two kids. The reality is if you live your life this way (most people get this) you will never be happy. Happy is a state of being. Writing is a state of being. You are either a writer or not. I believe I am a writer. If other people like my writing and are moved by it that is like the whip cream and cherry on top of an ice cream Sunday. However, I still love ice cream just by itself. :) Thanks for succinctly stating what every writer needs to remember.

myimaginaryblog said...

If you're going to mention Oprah's couch and lightning coming out of fingertips in one post, you definitely should have linked to this famous video. But maybe you meant to allude to it.

Gidon said...

'.....
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
.....'

Excerpt from 'If' by Rudyard Kipling.

Anonymous said...

That was one of best Star Wars-fused explanations I've ever heard.

The Force is with you, young Bransforder.

Euforilla said...

Thank you so much, this comes, for me, in a perfect timing!

Plus it was a fun reading ;)

Hyla Molander said...

Think I may need a month to process this post. Your insightful words speak directly to that fear I think most of us experience that we are not enough. Aren't we all--at some level--simply little children wanting to be accepted?

Thanks, Nathan.

Anonymous said...

Dude, you kinda screwed up with that last line, cuz fingertip-lightning sounds fun.

Word ver.: cursasol: an obscene method of sunburn prevention

NickB

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with your analysis at all. Dreams are the cornerstones of this country. It's what America is founded on and what makes America great (think post-it notes and other inventions). For me, dreams are what keeps me going and, yes, dreams are what get me through the tough times. When you're losing everything, when you've just left the bankruptcy attorney's office, the dream of one day being a best-selling writer is really all you've got. It's the one thing that always remains constant in this inconstant world. And yes I do have great expectations (thank you, Dickens). If I didn't expect to get published, why would I keep writing? If I didn't expect to make millions, why would I put in countless hours editing? Or querying for that matter? Dreams and expectations are one in the same. Otherwise, you might as well crawl in a hole somewhere and give up on life.

nona said...

"it's so fun to let your imagination run wild for a little while, but let them get the best of you and eventually you'll hollow out and get all wrinkly and pale and lightning will start shooting from your fingertips" . . . kind of like lady gaga

Leigh D'Ansey said...

Thanks for this great post. It's very timely for me.

Tess Cox said...

Nathan,
I appreciate you so much! Your insights are so grounded and rational, and yet they speak to the internal (and somewhat spiritual) process we all deal with. How does a young man have all this wisdom?
thank you for sharing this peace. There is an ancient scripture that says, "learn to be content in whatever circumstance you find yourself." (my paraphrase), and I think making the distinction between dreams and expectations is a timely one for me. Thank you again. Your insights are valuable to me.

Kerrie T. said...

This is so me...in every aspect of my life. I often find myself thinking, "Why can't I just be happy with what I've got? Why can't I just live in the moment? Why do I need to do more? What am I trying to prove?" Unfortunately, I have not found the answers to these questions...

Claude Nougat said...

Great post, Nathan, as usual. And this time it's very thoughtful: should help a lot of people. Yes, happiness is only in the present moment and that's where you have to go look for it...

But if one never thinks about the future, why bother to write?

Mmmm, a conundrum if I ever saw one!

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I know you mean well but I urge you not to underestimate the power of positive thoughts, or unwittingly cause your readers to do so. Over and over again it has been proven that positive thoughts (including day dreaming) when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire for their translation into reality can become manifest. Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune or temporary defeat, that’s why so many of us fail to recognize it. Your mental condition manifests itself in the results of your thought-inspired actions.

Muhammed Ali was a typical example of this. Long before the world began hailing him as the world’s greatest boxer, he used his daydreams to get him through the tough times, whether they be efforts by racists to keep him ‘in his place’ or the negative attitudes, words and actions of people who didn’t believe he could ever make it. He understood how important it was to psyche himself and continually convince himself that he’s the greatest and would scale the heights of boxing success; that his thoughts would lead to him doing what he needed to do to achieve his goals. He understood the mechanics of manifestation, as evidenced by what he manifested in his own life by becoming the greatest boxer of all time.

I say never stop day dreaming – just try and marry your thoughts with the appropriate actions. Let us learn to use the power of thinking positive, adopting positive attitudes and affirmations to gain important life benefits. Moreover, let’s always remember the words of Arthur Conan Doyle. “Two men looked out through prison bars … One saw mud, the other stars.”

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, Nathan. Very insightful. Thanks :-)

John

Jo Eberhardt said...

I realise I'm 8 months late in commenting on this, but I just read it and can't resist. I think you're absolutely spot-on.

Dreams lead to expectations,
Expectations lead to Entitlement,
Entitlement leads to the Dark Side.

No, dreaming isn't going to lead you inexorably to the Dark Side. Just like being afraid of heights, or afraid of your Tie Fighter exploding, isn't going to lead you inexorably to the Dark Side. But when you can no longer separate yourself from your dreams... well, that's when you may want to start looking at a costume change.

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