March 6, 2014

Are You Living Your Dream?

Sunrays emerging from cloud with text: Are You Living Your Dream?

I needed to write the last couple of posts about finding a good editor and what it takes to be a good editor because I’ve seen and heard too many horror stories from authors who were misled by unqualified editors. I believe if an editor is going to take our money, they should be “good” at their job. Crazy idea, I know. *smile*

As I pointed out in the comments, if I’m going to pay an editor, I want them to do a better job at finding all the opportunities for improvement than a free beta reader could do. However…

Those posts also made me feel like a ranty-pants, so I needed to switch gears today. And luckily (or unluckily), I’ve had the perfect song stuck in my head (for days!) to cure me of the ranting and remind me that Everything Is Awesome!!!

(Raise your hand if you’ve had this song from The LEGO Movie stuck in your head for an obscene amount of time. And if not, here you go. You’re welcome, or I’m sorry, or something. *snicker*)

(YouTube link to “Everything Is AWESOME!!!” from The LEGO® Movie)

The lyrics to this song are—er, interesting. (“Rocks, clocks, and socks. They’re awesome!”)

But it’s the insanely catchy chorus that keeps playing in my head (over and over). The latter part of the chorus includes the line: Everything is awesome, when we’re living our dream.

And honestly, although the song is a subversive parody of the uber-teamwork attitude in the LEGO society, that part is true. Mostly.

(Not everything is awesome in a real-life dream. Taxes are still due, and that’s never awesome.)

My point is that if we’re living our passions, life is pretty darn good, especially compared to the alternative of a life devoid of passions. On the other hand, if we’re not living our passions, that might be because we don’t even know what they are.

Do You Know What Your Passions Are?

Most people reading this post are probably writers. For many of us, we know writing is our passion and figure we can skip this part. Or can we?

Even if we know writing is our passion, maybe we don’t know what kind of writer we want to be. Non-fiction or fiction? Short stories or long? What age category? What genre? What mood and tone? What voice?

I know many writers who struggle to find a genre that fits them. Sometimes the stories they love to read don’t fit them (like not having a Young Adult voice) and they wander adrift, wondering what they should do.

Worse, every month, I come across dead links or missing blogs for writer friends who gave up on their dream. Was it not really their passion? Did circumstances force them to move on to something else? Or did something make them fear they weren’t cut out for writing?

Kristen Lamb blogged yesterday about the danger of fear. Combined with the self-doubt that runs rampant in most writers, fear can turn our dreams into nightmares.

Reality vs. Dream: The Eternal Struggle

If writing is our passion and we’re able to write some amount, life should be good, maybe even awesome. Yet many of us struggle with self-doubt, and the day-to-day realities of our lives can quickly crush the sense of living our dream.

We might have day jobs that make it difficult to fit in writing time. We might not have supportive family or friends. We might struggle with limited funds to pursue our writing goals.

Everything in life requires sacrifice. Even if we have enough time, a supportive team, and plenty of money to spend on our writing (Ha!), we’ve probably had to give up something.

Maybe we’ve decided against watching that popular new TV show that would eat up the writing time we’ve so carefully carved out of our schedule. Or maybe we’ve decided against taking a family vacation that would steal our “publishing dream” savings.

Life is choices. And many times those choices bring us stress.

Should we do A or B? Which will make us happier? More fulfilled? Bring us closer to our goals?

I don’t know about you, but my birth certificate didn’t come with a crystal ball to see the future. So the uncertainties of which path to take add another layer of self-doubt. Sometimes we fear making the “wrong” decision so much that we do nothing.

How Can We Reclaim the Dream?

Maybe one way we can bring the dream back is to tie in more of our passions with our writing. If we discover our non-writing passions, we might be able to combine what brings us joy with writing and create a stronger, more meaningful dream.

Try answering these questions by thinking not only of your memories but also of your daydreams:

  • What do we love to do in addition to writing?
    Hobbies, family time, sports, travel, other dream careers, etc.
  • What things do we love to create?
    Arts/crafts, inventions, home and garden plans, etc.
  • How do we most enjoy time with other people?
    Teaching, listening, laughing, confiding, exploring, etc.
  • When have we enjoyed solving problems?
    Logical or human nature problems, our own problems or those of others, fixing things or filling a need, etc.
  • Where do we like to spend our time?
    Big events, small towns, cultural locations, deep in nature, etc.
  • Why do those things appeal to us?
    What is it about them that makes us happy? Is it the activity/place itself or the meaning behind the activity, etc.

Some authors write novels about knitting clubs or always include their favorite dog breed in their stories. Other authors set all their books in a special location.

When I was a child, I loved creating places and imagining the people who would live there, from my LEGO spaceships to my pencil-and-paper castle floor plans. That childhood passion fits my genre. Paranormal romance and urban fantasy allow me to write and bring in the other creative aspects of my personality.

Any answers that stand out to us might indicate that our passions lie along that path as well. Maybe the answers will help us find a genre that’s a better fit. Or if we incorporate that aspect in our writing, maybe our writing will feel more connected to our dreams.

At the very least, our answers might help us figure out our priorities. I know writers who dream of being a bestselling author simply because that’s what every other writer’s dream is. Yet talking to them reveals that they actually prioritize other passions above the sacrifices it would take to achieve that goal.

Questions like the above can help us find those mismatches between what we think we want and what we really want. And with each step we come closer to the priorities of our heart, the better the chances that we will feel like we’re living our dream—and yes, that everything is awesome. *smile*

Do you feel like you’re living out your dreams? Do you know your passions? How does writing compare to your other passions? Have you already combined those passions into writing, and if not, can you think of ways to combine them? Have you had that LEGO movie song stuck in your head like I have?

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Robyn LaRue

I just posted on a parallel issue yesterday. 🙂 It’s been on my mind lately. Having a plan and keeping that plan up to date helps a ton when choosing between A and B, and I’m a huge fan of having a life because that makes our writing much richer. I think about these things because I’m prone to “tunnel vision” with projects and forget to balance the work of writing with the life of writing. 🙂


I have an ingrained fear of success. I have reason to believe that it stems from a mix of how I was raised + my personality. My parents are outright, um, dismissive if not outright discouraging, and as far as they’re concerned, disagreement = disrespect. I know that ending up a case in point that proves them wrong will result in them assuming that I sought to be that case in point out of disrespect, with the intention of proving them wrong, and they’ll accuse me of the same. (They’ve done that sort of thing before.) So as much as I want to succeed, I also don’t want to, due to the emotional baggage I know that even moderate success will bring. (Note that, for me, “moderate success” is actually in the low five figures. I’ve grown up on the “poor” end of things, so the prospect of making six figures feels completely unbelievable to me…but I’ve made sure to plan what I’d do in a windfall situation, just in case.) Ultimately, I quite often find my subconscious self-sabotaging me. I’ll think outright, “This should work if I do it any way but X” and then later realize I did X. When there are multiple tactics to achieve something, I often find myself doing the least likely to succeed. Case in point: I have a 3rd novel in a series almost done—just needs the prologue—and am writing #4. Working on both of those is a struggle, because that’s the point…  — Read More »

Robyn LaRue

Carradee 🙁 I totally get it. Though my parents only told me repeatedly that I was nothing special and not the worse messages you received, I empathize. I was also raised by a generation that believed modesty equaled humble. Because I tend to always expect failure on some level, success is a scary thing.

Motherwort for estrogen? Interesting. I should try that!


In my parents’ case, they’re naturally so pessimistic and negative that I’ve been asked how I put up with it for 26 years. They think me naïve for believing that I may someday find a significant other with a different attitude.

Actually, the pills were progesterone. I started getting hot flashes at age 20, and my endocrine system’s screwed up. (Genetic condition.) Soy is actually plant estrogen, though.


Stepped in mud? Got new brown shoes!!

Serena Yung
Serena Yung

Reading posts like this always makes me feel very grateful that I DO have passions in life. (Especially as many of my friends unfortunately don’t seem to have (a) passion(s). 🙁 ) Writing is obviously my greatest passion, but I also really love drawing, and science, and casual philosophy, and obviously PSYCHOLOGY! 😀 About writing in my passions into my stories, yes, from my obsession with psychology, I am CONSTANTLY exploring different people’s (characters’) personalities and relationships with each other. Yeah, personality, interpersonal relationships, and motivation (which for me is sort of in between personality and social psychology) are my favorite topics in psychology, so my stories are always centered on developing these. I don’t always explicitly talk about my characters’ personalities or relationships in my stories, but I do enjoy observing my characters’ actions and interactions so that I can analyze their psychologies, haha. Apart from psychology, I find that my story characters are often artists (drawing), writers, poets, or art/ literature connoisseurs. Some are very interested in science too. So that’s weaving my passions into it. Many characters are bookworms as well, though I do have some protagonists who barely read at all, lol. As for genres of stories I most like to write in, I’ve become very clear on this recently. They are: fantasy, sci-fi, action, and adventure. Or rather some combination of these. But recently I realized that the vast majority of my MAIN stories are adventure stories! Many with action as well. So it seems…  — Read More »

Gary Kriss

Lovely piece, as usual, Jami and filled with your characteristic insightful advice. Very much akin to write about what you know.

Given this there’s also something to be said for writers living their nightmares, venturing off in unexplored directions that are often terrifying, at least at first. Obviously this is very much akin to writing about what you don’t know. Cloaking your writing with the comfort of things you like/enjoy can run the risk of ruining the pleasure they impart on a non-writing level. Or it could reduce your writing endeavors to one more of these purely pleasure providing things, a solitary satisfaction.

Leaving your comfort zone, while daunting, can lead to a deepening of intellect and a sharpening of technique. Frightening can be enlightening.

So, yes, live your dreams but, if you are to grow, also your nightmares. The eventual synthesis could well be a more unique style and a truly resonant voice.

Christina Hawthorne

The bad news is that my dream is in the City of Oz. The good news is that I just crash landed in Munchkin Land. 🙂

Nicole Grabner

Hi Jami,
I know we talked about this yesterday, but I thought I would mention again…the timing of these posts is unreal and perfect. I’m at this stage in my life when I’m considering some major changes and what is really important to me. Part of this discovery practice also includes things that I can or need to live without to achieve what matters most. But the fear of giving these things up is almost overwhelming. It’s great to have friends like you and Kristen, who write posts like this – it gives strength and support to those that need it. Thanks!

Taurean Watkins

All I’ve heard are the bits in the ads for the movie mentioned above and they alone make me never want to say the word “Awesome” again, as much as I appreciate the upbeat nature the song means to give. I understand you had to do those posts about editors and the concerns you expressed were real ,especially if I HAD the money to hire editors, you outline what we, but at the same time, it did make me feel apprehensive about continuing to beta-read as someone who doesn’t know even a quarter of what you outline This has less to do with what you wrote and more to do with asking myself “What do I offer as a beta-reader that helps even if it’s not what a pro editor can do?” and I still think a post on that is nessecary to compliment your counterstance on what constittues a great editor worth paying for. I can’t write that post because I don’t have experience hiring editors myself and I’ve only had one editor (At my publisher) I’ve worked with so far, who is good and worth the 9 YEARS it took to sell my debut novel. Just something to think about. Unlike those above who fear success for their legit reasons, I frankly fear failure far more, and not just the usual “What if I don’t get an agent?” or “Will my book get reviewed?” stuff. As far as injecting my other passions into my writing, I do that,…  — Read More »

Angela D'Onofrio

Thank you for this – reading this article and all the comments was such a great boost … and a reminder that I’m not the only one who, at the moment, is writing just to write because it’s such a part of who I am. I’ve been working on reclaiming the dream after having put it down for over a year now, and getting it back has felt SO GOOD that I know I was crazy for even stopping.

I’m slowly learning … while family have been pushing me to get published since I said I wanted to write, that’s not what I personally want or need right now … I just need to get it OUT, to create, to do this … publishing can and will happen in its own time, and just the simple act of being able to get my creations out of my head and into the world is enough to make everything awesome. Thanks to you and everyone else here who’ve helped me see I’m not the only one who feels this way: that the writing is its own reward and I don’t need a publisher or an editor for validation.

Kathryn McKade

Great post, Jami, and very timely too. The ideas of ways to bring other passions into writing is wonderful, and will undoubtedly prove very useful down the line. Thank you! I’ve linked to this on my blog, too:

Gloria Oliver

Everything is AWESOME!
Glad to see someone else plagued by that song. lol. Have ordered the CD so we can have the same song plaguing us in different music genres. Oh my! (Hubby is partial to the Robotic Version.) 🙂

Fun post about finding our passions, by the way. 🙂 (As long as they – thum thum thum – don’t become obsessions.) Heh heh

Shelly Chalmers

Hi Jami,
Great post, and fun website (I was poking around). 😉
In some ways, I wonder sometimes if knowing our passion is writing can be a mixed blessing. While it does make me sad to see friends living out relatively happy lives without ever identifying what their passion is, passions can also become so all consuming – never mind all the neuroses (ie: lack of confidence, self-doubt, self-sabotage, etc) that seem especially endemic among writers. Still, don’t suppose I’d rather lack that passion and keep finding new ones to keep define and redefine myself.
Thanks for the great post, have a great week, and happy writing to you. 🙂


[…] as some of my readers pointed out in the comments of one of my posts last week, it’s easy to become so passionate about something that we veer into obsession. Or […]

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