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by Phyllis Campbell
Dreams, we all have them. What would life be without them to add hope and joy to lives which could all too often seem meaningless and lacking in purpose without them. Sometimes these elusive things called dreams seem to be beckoning us to the pentacle of joy, while at other times they drop us to the very depths of despair. Each dream is unique to the dreamer, although many others may cherish the same dream. Each of us cherishes it in our own special way, clinging to it desperately, perhaps for a lifetime.
Of course I'm not talking about that fleeting image brought up from the subconscious where we may be walking down the hall in dread, on our way to a test in a subject we've never even taken or where we're talking to a friend about something that happened that day. The dreams to which I refer are those secret desires of the heart, often held close for ourselves alone. We've all had them, the deep desire to fly a plane, win a Nobel Prize, perhaps be the first blind person in space--they are as unique as we are.
Many of our dreams mature as we mature, and the really worthwhile ones live on deep in our being in one form or another. Sometimes they may hide themselves for months or even years, and suddenly, like a landscape emerging from the mist, they rise to the surface of our longing, seeming to overwhelm us with their strength.
We're told to follow our dreams, secure in the knowledge that if we hope long enough, dream long enough, they will come true. Oh, if this were only true.
Dreams like most things can deceive us. Analyze your dream. If it is solid it will withstand the analysis. Do you really want to go through the rigors of training to go into space? Do you want to hang in there through the years of hard work in your chosen field which will lead to the Nobel Prize? Be honest with yourself. Examine your dream carefully, do research and ask yourself, "Is this really for me? Can I really do it? Have I dreamed about this since I was a kid to the exclusion of all other dreams?" Only you can count the cost of your dream. Only you can answer these questions. Many dreams do pass the self-analysis of the dreamer, and these are the dreams which come true, not through the process of dreaming alone, but through hard work and sacrifice.
"I'm going to school," I told Sly, the patient old hound stretched beside me in the December sunshine. "I'm going to school next month, cause I'm 6 years old today. I'm going to learn to read and write braille."
My beloved sister, Inez, called Nez, had already started teaching me the magic of those little dots, which told of wonderful things, stories of places I'd never been and people I would never meet. She patiently explained they lived only on paper, visiting us through those wonderful little dots.
Did I know then, feeling the sun on my face and smelling the warm smell of a dog, that I wanted to be a writer? I don't think so, but I knew the love of words, of ideas, the joy of making things happen in my own special way. Nez and I often made up stories and acted them out, something which almost came to an abrupt end the day I almost knocked her out with my toy gun. Mama was furious, I was contrite, and Nez wasn't exactly thrilled.
As I grew, however, the desire to put those stories into words on paper grew. It wasn't until the fourth grade that I actually thought about becoming a writer. My fourth grade teacher proclaimed loudly and confidently to my mother, "Phyllis is going to be a writer." I said I thought she was "out of her tree," but the idea was there, and it wouldn't go away.
Although I had won several contests, it wasn't until the '60s that I began to think seriously of becoming a professional writer. Someone asked Stephen King how one knew if she was a writer. His answer, "If somebody has paid you for something you've written, you're a writer." I don't really go along with that, but I understand what he was getting at. Many fine writers never sell what they write for various reasons. Are they writers? I think they are, but to me, one of the reasons for writing is to share my ideas with others. For me, then, I had to sell before considering myself a writer. I could, and do give my work freely to publications such as newsletters, but nothing equals that first check, no matter how small it is.
Beginning in the mid-'60s, I sold short stories and articles to a variety of publications, including our very own DIALOGUE, and with each sale, each rejection, I learned something, most importantly patience. Only a few writers achieve their goal overnight. It takes faith, patience and work, work and more work.
Study your craft through reading and perfecting your grammar and spelling. Grammar and spelling are dull things, but they are essential. Don't expect the editor to correct your errors because it won't happen. Be willing to examine your ideas carefully, asking yourself if it is really something an editor would be interested in, even if you're sure readers will "just love it!" Remember, the reader will never see it if the editor doesn't like it.
I worked patiently through the '70s and made my first book sale in the '80s. Am I rich? I wish! Will I win the Nobel Prize for literature? Maybe the day a blizzard hits Virginia in August. Will I ever stop striving to be a better writer? Not until I embark on that last great adventure we call death, and maybe not then.
Maybe your dream has nothing to do with writing, but these principles hold true no matter what it is. Hold fast to your dream, be willing to work and accept disappointment. Remember that a dream can become a reality, but only you can make it happen.
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