Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for Dreams

I have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season (for my international readers, it's American Thanksgiving tomorrow, the day we set aside to count our blessings).

I was just thinking about that this morning. It has been less than one year since my debut novel has been out...that's...that's just mind-boggling! It's so strange for me to be working on Book 3, when the first book's only been out a little more than 10 months. My life is completely different now from a year ago--my world's been turned upside down.

And that's something I'm grateful for--this mad, chaotic career, and the fact that I can make it a career.

And of course, I'm also grateful for my agent, who found for me the very best people I could work with--the entire team at Penguin/Razorbill. I want to send them heart-shaped cookies every day.

And none of it would mean anything without the people who picked up the book, who read it, who told their friend about it, who requested it at their library...there aren't enough heart-shaped cookies in the world to express that kind of gratitude.

But as I was thinking about this post, I realized something that came before all this, something I have always taken for granted.

I am thankful for the dream.


I have wanted to be a writer since elementary school. I remember when Mrs. Oliver taught me about dialog tags, and Mrs. Pearson read my unicorn story aloud to the class, and Mrs. Thompson gave me a purple pen to write my stories with. I read my first book aloud to Tina on the schoolbus. The dream grew in high school--I think I snagged my boyfriend-who-became-my-husband in part by writing a story where he was the knight in shining armor.

The dream of being a writer drove me like no other. I studied literature and scribbled stories and stayed up late at night and tried and tried and tried.

Stories became novels. Novels became submissions to agents. And submissions became rejections.

And that was a point where I started to hate the dream.

It sucks when what you want most in the world requires someone else to say yes. Because when the someone you need--an agent, a publisher, readers--say no a part of your soul, the part where you keep your dream, bleeds.

It took a long frexing time for my dream to come true. And somewhere between year five and ten, I seriously started to hate my dream. I had given up so much: time, money, thought, opportunities, peace of mind. And I had nothing to show for it but a broken dream. I almost gave up on it then.

But the dream was stronger than me. And I wrote what I thought might be my last book. And that was the book that made the dream come true.

There's a chance that, right now, you hate the dream, too. A few years ago, I would have erased that part of me from myself if I could have--I wanted to not care so much that it hurt. But I'm telling you now: be thankful for the dream.

Because some people don't have one.


When I was teaching, I saw many sad things. This is not a post about that. But I will say this: one of the very saddest things I saw when teaching was how many kids had no dream. My dream was such a huge part of my life from such an early age that it was nearly incomprehensible for me to understand what it was like for someone to not have one.

You could see the difference between a kid with a dream and one without one. The kid with a dream was focused. Maybe not focused on my class or the book I put in front of her face, but focused on something. It might be distant, it might be unreachable, but there was desire and drive behind those eyes.

And then there were some kids who had no dream. Ask them what they wanted, and they would say "to graduate." Or--and this happened, too--"to turn 16 so I can drop out." And sometimes: "nothing."

I--and all the other teachers--would try to entice them with new studies or interests. Try to suss out a dream. But a dream is not something one can just give to someone else. It has to fill you up and come from within. If your body is a ship, then the dream is the wind in the sails. No one can hold the wind, let alone make it. It's something that just is. Or...isn't.

Looking back, now, it's easy for me to say I'm thankful for my dream. But a few years ago, after ten years of trying and ten years of failing, after hundreds of rejections, I would have given anything to erase the dream. To just be normal and not care.

And how empty my life would be without it.

So let me tell you: if you have a dream--even one that might hurt now--be thankful for it. Steer your ship into that gale.


32 comments:

Rachel Searles said...

Excellent post :) Happy Thanksgiving!

Bethany Hudson said...

This was a FANTASTIC post, Beth. I know that your story and drive has inspired a lot of people, and we all thank you for continuing to share it with us. Happy early Thanksgiving!

Amanda Olivieri said...

Wow, WONDERFUL post! I'm very grateful for my dream, even though it's a tough, tough dream to follow! Your success story (and the long road to get there) is inspiring. Happy Thanksgiving!

Lisa Schroeder said...

Love this, Beth. I have many dreams left, and it's a wonderful way to look at it - to be thankful for them because it'd be such a boring life without them. :)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tere Kirkland said...

What a great reminder to be thankful we even have dreams. It's true, I know plenty of people who think my dream, my passion, is a waste of time, a hobby at best. At least I have a hobby, something to be passionate about. It's what gets me through the tough times.

Happy Thanksgiving, Beth!

Kat Zhang said...

Really, really beautiful post, Beth. Thank you for it :)

R.L. LaFevers said...

Great post! It takes a surprising amount of courage to dream, and even more courage to hang on to it through the ups and downs.

Congratulations on having yours turn out so wonderfully!

Claire Legrand said...

Beautiful post, Beth! "Steer your ship into that gale" is my favorite. <3

Cyndi Tefft said...

Amen! What a beautifully written post. I know exactly what you mean. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

And kudos for following the wind even when the boat was falling apart. <33

Cyndi

Anonymous said...

Wow, such a great post. Thanks for the personal touch. Happy Thanksgiving!

Leigh Ann said...

Just beautiful. I agree that The Dream gives a "something-beyondness" to the tedium of the everyday, and that right there is enough to make it worth holding on to - even when our arms and hearts ache from its heaviness.

Katherine said...

Beautiful post. I'm grateful for having my dream. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Natalie said...

What a great post. Thanks for being so honest and being an inspiration because of that.

And as a reader, thanks for not giving up on that dream, if only for my sake.

Kathleen said...

What a beautiful post! Thank YOU for sharing your wonderful voice with the world. Your dream helped you to be heard and so many people have been positively affected by you through your writing and blog. Keep dreaming=)

Anonymous said...

Beth, thank you so much for not giving up on your dream—Across the Universe is one of my favorites of the books I read this year, up there with Ship Breaker, Fire, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I can't wait to read A Million Suns.

Keep on keeping on, because authors like you are what makes YA great.

Anita Saxena said...

I'm thankful for you writing this post. I'm in year seven of my dream, and even though it's difficult i love every minute of it. I hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving!

Kristine Asselin said...

Lovely post, Beth. Thank YOU for being you. Happy Thanksgiving.

Jessica said...

Brilliant! I love this post. Thanks for writing it. We all need to hear it sometimes.

Rena said...

Sometimes we really do take the dream for granted. A beautiful post.

Jenny said...

Thank you so much for this Beth! I just sent out my manuscript and in the first week alone I have gotten many rejections, but your post reminded me that amazing authors even have these struggles. Do you have any advice for better querying? I noticed you are now reading Miss peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I just finished it yesterday and it was one of the best books ever (next to AtU of course). What are you thinking about it? Happy Thanksgiving!

Julianna Helms said...

*tips hat*

And that, Beth, is why I am so completely inappropriately creepily stalkerish-ly in love with you.

M. Dunham said...

A very appropriate Thanksgiving post. Thank you, Beth, for sharing about your dream with us.

Jillian said...

I also encountered kids without a dream while I was teaching, and you're right -- I'd much rather be struggling for a dream than drifting without one. Thanks so much for this post and for being a constant inspiration.

Kat Bender said...

Wow. All I can say is, thank you for this post. I needed to hear it right now, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I'm so glad I have your book on my shelves. Now every time I see it, I'll think of your journey as a writer and remember to keep trying, no matter what.

Again, thank you for this. I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Miriam Forster said...

A-freakin-men. You have to have a dream. I've known so many people who didn't have any kind of direction or something to work for. When they finally found it, it was amazing how it lit them up. Just the dream made them happy.

Thanks for the post, and that's an awesome gif for it too. :)

Bee said...

Amen. Amen. Amen.

This is the best post I've read on dreams. I have to be honest, its only my dreams that spur me on to keep going with life. I cannot imagine what a life without having dreams to fall back on, to clench your very being, is like. And I wouldn't want to imagine one either.

I'm thankful for this post :)

Alyson Greene said...

Thank you for this post! I am so grateful for my dream. I think sometimes we turn ambition into a dirty word because we associate it with a greed and ruthlessness. But I think pure ambition, the pursuit of a dream, is one of the most attractive qualities in another human being and something I cannot imagine living without.

Dalya Moon said...

Such an inspiring post! Sometimes I worry about dreams not coming true, but I guess that isn't the point. The point is to dream and try. I'm going to dream a little harder today. :-)

Christina Farley said...

Lovely. It is so important to dream and also to not give up on those dreams. I'm so happy for you that this year has brought you so many blessings. It's been exciting to see it all unfold.

Julie Musil said...

Wow, wow, wow. I loved this. It was just what I needed this morning. Thanks.

Leslie Rose said...

What is that called when you read the perfect words that you need to hear at the perfect time you need to hear them? Oh, it's called this post. I think you just pulled my dream out of the gutter. Thank you from the bottom of my renewed heart.

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