Monday, December 7, 2009

The Importance of Protecting Your Dreams

As any writer will appreciate, writing can be a grueling, solitary and thankless endeavor.

While most people fantasize about writing a book, few posses the determination to actually complete one.

There are many voices telling the author to never put pen to paper.

First there are the logical, sensible voices in your head that remind you your masterpiece is unlikely to ever get published by a big publisher, and even if you were lucky enough to earn that badge of honor, you're unlikely to ever earn enough to make the tax man care (see this anonymous post this morning that links to a 2003 story in, written by an anonymous 'Jane Austen Doe' titled, "Confessions of a Semi-Successful Author" that reveals the ugly truth about writer compensation).

If the common sense voices in your head aren't enough to discourage you, you must also contend with the soul sucking voices of naysayers. They're the snarky or even well-intentioned unbelievers who kindly remind you: you're nuts to dream of writing a book, others already do it better than you, and hey, why don't you get a real job instead?

The prompt for my post today came indirectly from a question I was asked for a Q&A interview I did at

Debbie Jenkins of AuthorShock asked me to name the single most important thing I wished I knew before I started out in business. To answer the question, I thought back to 20 years ago when I first cut my teeth working for my dad's software startup, and it reminded me of one of my all-time favorite lyrics:

"They say that life's a carousel, spinning fast you've got to ride it well. The world is full of kings and queens, who blind your eyes and steal your dreams..."
-Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell
My short answer was that the entrepreneur (writers are entrepreneurs too!) must protect their dreams. No, I'm not talking about people stealing your ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's the execution that matters.

Don't let people stop you from dreaming your dreams, and don't let the skeptics derail you from executing on your dreams. Often, those naysayers are criticizing you because they're scared, or they can't see what you see.

Noone will understand your vision until you get out there and show them.

If all writers were fully equipped with a full contingent of common sense genes, most books would never get written and the world would be a poorer place for it.

What's my dream? To build an ebook publishing and distribution platform that helps any author, anywhere in the world, realize their dream of publishing. You can read the full interview at Authorshock.

What's your dream?

P.S. Don't forget to enter the free Editor Unleashed/Smashwords "Why I Write" essay contest. Win $500. Top 50 will be published in an anthology at Smashwords.


  1. I read the story on your link "The confessions of a semi-successful author" and it was a total downer.

    I was going to link to it on my own blog, but I think it's probably better to just be positive. I've had a very good year, and I don't know how long it will last, but if it continues this way, I'll make 100K per year for the rest of my life. If it doesn't work out, I could always go back to full-time tax accounting.

    But I don't think I will. I think I've made it self-publishing. I think that anyone can do it-- if they're smart and treat it like a real job. And by that, I mean, you should avoid trying to write your questionable love poetry and concentrate on stuff that is going to sell.

    It's not that hard-- writers do it every day for magazines and newspapers. Just do the research-- find something that people want to read about, and write for that market.

  2. I don't know. I read that and it just sounds like many articles that are available today from various writers. There are plenty of stories about what authors have been through trying to "make it" and many match that story (only most authors started out with a 5k advance and tried to grow it. In the end, they were lucky to make 5k a year for a WHOLE LOT OF WORK.)

    The rumor that authors make a lot of money has been killed a thousand times over. The data is there for anyone interested.

    The key to success in anything is to educate yourself, set attainable goals--and have a few backup plans.

    Hope for wild success, plan for the worst.

  3. "Noone will understand your vision until you get out there and show them."


    And sooooo....let the fun and games began!

    Seriously...doing it differently is a wild and beautiful ride.

    Also, I think it all depends on how you define success.

    I love that you choose to create new roads.

    Prayers and good thoughts your way!


  4. To quote a bit of Han Solo:

    "NEVER tell me the odds!"

  5. Some write for money, others write because they are driven to do so. I work to pay the bills and write when I can to shed light on a topic that until now has been unexplored. Sometimes we must do both -- work and write -- to achieve our dreams.

  6. Way to quote Black Sabbath!

    Here's a Metallica lyric that often keeps me going:

    "Those people who tell you not to take chances
    They are all missing on what life's about
    You only live once so take hold of the chance
    Don't end up like others, the same song and dance"

    from the song Motorbreath

    Pursuing my dreams as writer comes to down to one thing: It's harder NOT to do it than do it. I would be far more unhappy not trying to succeed than accepting I can't succeed.

  7. Enjoyed this article and the Black Sabbath ref!

    I remember an Ozzy lyric,

    "Today is Tomorrow, Yesterday" which sometimes help remind me there is only now so if something needs to be done (e.g. write) it needs to be done when inspiration strikes followed with a massive batch of persistence.

    Great point - must always keep our dreams in focus no matter what.

  8. Hey everyone, thanks for the great comments and quotes! Who would have ever thought heavy metal poetry could contain such wisdom? Keep the dream alive and remember success comes in many forms.

  9. As a person that is still putting together the first book - soon, so soon - I am also going to do my own self-publication.

    People say write to a market. Write what you know. Write that which is funny and close to your heart.

    It's combos of it all.

    whether I sell a single copy, I know I put the time into the work to make it as good as possible. Someone in another lifetime may find it, and love it. That's reward too.

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  11. Outstanding story and comments!

    It is interesting that most of the experiences in the story took place in the 90's, when, arguably the Publishers were the sole masters of the domain of novel writing.
    The e-book phenomenon is becoming increasingly better positioned to affect that control dominance.

    The reality is that today the independent author has a much better chance (though it remains slim) of becoming self sustaining. The major publishers have seen this and have already decided to absorb as much of the ebook market as they can in forging strategic relationships with the previously independent e-book purveyors (like Smashwords). But unlike previous years, the independent author can do a great deal to market their own work as well as have it available on the websites of the majors.

    I can envision that some authors will become successful and simply create their own marketing engines to drive a persistent interest in their work.

    You can also bet your ass that the major film studios are looking at the ebook offerings for the jewels that we all know are sitting there for a very small percentage of the cost of dealing with the major print publishers and agents. Hell, if I was a film studio looking for fresh ideas, this nascent inventory source would be high on my list.

    Keep on keepin on, people!
    Be yourself, everyone else is taken.