Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Days of Dreams: The Mystery of Success

Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.

--John Updike

Dreams. I've always believed that dreams come true. John Updike did, too--the above quote came from his memoirs.

In my own case, I can honestly say that every serious dream I've had in my life has come true, in one way or another. Maybe it's because my dreams were realistic in the first place, although some of them I'd never expected to become reality. Or maybe it's because I'd worked hard to make things happen, although some things were indeed beyond my control. Or maybe it's just serendipity, plain ole good luck. But whatever the cause of a dream fulfilled, dreams do come true. I think we all know this, but sometimes it helps to remind ourselves.

I'm often struck by the idea of the before and the after of a dream come true. We don't know what's just around the corner--we can't know the future. The second before something great happens to us, however strong our suspicions that what we long for might come about, we can't ever know we're on the threshold. We can't know that our wish is about to drift down from its star and take concrete shape in our world.

What if we'd given up on our dream in that second before? Stopped striving, stopped working so hard? Stopped caring?

Published authors say that the name of the game is persistence. That once we have a manuscript, we'll never sell it if we don't submit. That if we never get past the first, or second, or hundredth rejection, but allow those no's to stop us from submitting, we'll certainly never make a sale. Published authors say we must persist, that we have to keep submitting, which means we have to keep taking risks.

With every submission, there is risk of rejection. This risk is universal, experienced by every writer who submits work with the goal of publication. I've had best-selling authors tell me that even they get rejected!

Before, we don't know.

But then, an infinitesimal instant takes us from before to after--and the yearned-for milestone occurs. In a writer's case, that yearned-for event more often than not is publication of our work.

After, we respond, we feel--joy, satisfaction, a variety pack of emotion, because our reality has changed. Our dream, or a step toward that dream, has actually come true. What a mystery this seems, the mystery of success.

The other day, when I made my first sale (of a short story entitled "Chateau"), I happened to be be traveling from Tokyo to San Jose, California, winding up a family vacation in Japan. That morning, and all that day, for that matter--in other words, during the entire before--I had much on my mind: forcing my jammed suitcase closed and hoping its weight didn't result in excess baggage charges, getting to the airport on time, trying to sleep during the long, red-eye flight, and upon arrival home, dealing with unpacking and laundry while severely jet-lagged, striving to renew my normal schedule ASAP. With all this going on, I certainly wasn't thinking of what might be happening with a recent submission to a magazine publisher.

Then, it happened: I found in my in-box an e-mail saying that my story had been chosen for publication, with a contract to sign and return to the publisher. Before time snapped its finger, I had no idea that in less than a second my dream would come true.

Now, I'm in the after. I walk on the other side of the door that leads from unpubbed writer to published author (pending the appearance of the issue, of course.) I've sold my writing.

Though a modest success, this milestone feels like a great success to me, a big step on the way to my fulfilling my writerly dreams. Which just reinforces my faith in the mystery that every day is a day of dreams come true.

I'd love to see your comments on this mystery of dream come true, or of modest steps toward your dreams of success. For example, I'd love to hear about the time you received "the call" when an editor wanted to buy your book, or the time an agent offered representation, or the day you placed in a writing contest, or the time you finally got to type THE END in a hard-wrought manuscript. And your non-writing successes, too, dreams unrelated to writing that have come true. For example, the day you got that promotion you worked so hard for, the time your tyke learned to tie his or her own shoe after your patient teaching, the moment that special someone first declared his or her love. What was happening just before that milestone? How did you respond in the after?

Dreams big and little, the mystery of before and after. Thinking of this inspires me, makes me hang on, helps me keep the faith--which means I keep trying, keep going for the gold. Maybe someday there will be that second just before I find out an editor wants to buy and publish my novel.

Does thinking of this mystery help you, too? If so, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear your musings.



P.S. Here's a link to another writer who sold to the magazine the same time I did.

For further inspiration, go there and read what she has to say.

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Blogger Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Hi, Rita! Love the header of your website. And what a wonderful post! Congratulations on your sale. The first is always to be celebrated. :)

What you wrote about typing The End made me smile. I've writen 5 full length manuscripts and six other stories of varying lengths, and I always type those words. Being published now, I know the editor doesn't want The End at the end, but I can't seem to keep from putting them there. Just doesn't seem like it's quite finished without them. :)

6:57 PM  
Blogger Wendi said...

Rita, what a lovely post. Congratulations on your contract. How exciting!

Accomplishing something you've worked so hard for is one of the best feelings in the world. I hope this is only the beginning for you and your dreams all continue to come true. :)

Wendi Darlin

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Sandy said...

This is a great post. Before I went to contract, I had been talking with my mentors on the phone, and they were telling me, you're holding yourself back. Do you really want to get published? For days, I'd been thinking of that question and to be honest I was afraid to be published because I knew there would be more work, and I was getting old and tired. At last, in my mind I said, Yes, I want my work to be read by the public, and it wasn't long after that decision that I signed a contract. Our dreams are scary stuff, and before we follow them we need to be sure we want them.


6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on your sale, Rita! :)
I enjoyed your inspirational blog, it's on I'll refer to again and again, I'm sure, especially on days when I feel like I can't even write one word.

Please let me know where I can get my copy of the magazine, I'd love get your autograph.


PS: My apologies if this comment gets posted twice...

6:23 AM  
Blogger Chiron O'Keefe said...

Hi Rita!

Oh, my, how I love dreams. Waking and sleeping. *smile*

I remember an old quote (though I've forgotten the source), "If you don't dream, how can you have a dream come true?"

Years ago, I remember when I submitted a piece to a magazine. The editor wrote back telling me what I'd written was too short to be an article, but they'd love to post it in a "Bits and Pieces" column they had.

I was so thrilled!! Paid or not, I was about to be published!! They also sent me the writer's guidelines for articles. The next month I submitted my first article, which was accepted. What a lovely, lovely feeling.

Fiction is still my dream, and I hope to make that one come true soon.

Congrats to YOU on your magnificent win!! You're on your way now, Rita!!



10:32 AM  
Blogger Dixie Belle said...

Just stopping by on Sunday night. I hope you have a great week!

7:51 PM  
Blogger Rita Horiguchi, writing as Rita St. Claire said...

Stacey, thanks for your post and your congratulations! How interesting about "THE END." I didn't know it wasn't needed, however, I can see by your post that it doesn't hurt.

BTW, I'm looking forward to reading your book, the bid for which I won in Brenda Novak's auction.


10:31 AM  
Blogger Rita Horiguchi, writing as Rita St. Claire said...


Thanks for stopping by, and for reading my little inspirational ditty. I know your dreams are coming true, too, with your fiction being published, too!


10:33 AM  
Blogger Rita Horiguchi, writing as Rita St. Claire said...


Thanks for stopping by and reading my reflections on striving and success. What an interesting story you tell--how our mindset can affect outcomes.

As for me, I have a little of what you said in the modest success I've described here. I'd been working on two books--one for four years, perfecting it--and not submitting much at all. Then, I just got inspired one day and wrote a short story. My critique partner thought it was terrible, and I made a lot of changes to it, then submitted it without having anyone read it. I thought to myself, "who cares, it's just a short story that I banged out in a few hours." I planned for a rejection, figuring that even the rejection proved I was submitting, and that would be fodder for proving to the IRS that I'm running my writing as a business (not a hobby.)

Lo and behold! This little short story which I submitted mainly to "satisfy the IRS" turned out to give me my first contract.

The sum and substance seems twofold to me:

1) as you point out, Sandy, what is in our minds does influence outcomes,


2) you never, never know...!



10:40 AM  
Blogger Rita Horiguchi, writing as Rita St. Claire said...


Thanks for your congratulations! You've been so supportive of me, and I appreciate it.

I love to think that my little musings might help to inspire you in your writing. Keep in touch via this blog, and any other way, too!


10:42 AM  
Blogger Rita Horiguchi, writing as Rita St. Claire said...

Hi, Chiron,

Thanks for stopping by, and especially for the High Five.

You know I love your motivational blog. I'll be there later today!

What a neat story you tell about your publication experiences. They show that you definitely have the writing ability in you--and that's also very apparent from your blog.

Please keep us posted on your dreams and successes, via this blog and otherwise. I'll see you soon on your blog!


10:44 AM  
Blogger Rita Horiguchi, writing as Rita St. Claire said...

Hi, Dixie Belle,

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you have a great week, too!

I'll stop by your place soon. I've had a family emergency--more of that on the blog in a day or two--and had to fly to Reno to help a family member, so I've been out of commission until today. Anyway, thanks for your visit, and I'll "see" you soon.


10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Aunt Rita!!

I am home now and was able to read your blog posting. Congratulations on the contract and upcoming publication. It is so nice to see someone who has worked so hard realize their dream. I'm very excited for you. I look forward to purchasing the magazine and reading your story. I can tell all my friends I'm related to a published author and have the proof to back up the claim. ;)


2:21 PM  
Anonymous Rita St. Claire said...

Hi, Keith,

Glad you're home, and thanks for stopping by. Glad you were able to read the blog entry.

Even my doctor is excited--I just had my physical yesterday, and he always asks me about my writing. He tells me he's waiting with bated breath until the magazine comes out, lol. The publisher will inform me which issue my story will appear in a month before that issue comes out, which is when I'll also be paid.

You must be glad to be home. You're a good guy for helping out with your mom!

Aunt Rita

11:29 PM  
Blogger jothiek said...

Congrats on the sale, Rita!!
I've never had a taste of success so far as my writing is concerned, and for that matter, I've never submitted any book or story either. But I've dreamt of it a thousand times. I'm currently working on my first novel. Often do I imagine myself being published and in my mind, there would appear all the good things that would happen to me.
Talking of success, I personally think the 'before' is even more beautiful than the 'after'. You're tensed, there is a possibility that you might not win, but somehow you have the hope, somehow it occurs to you that you'd win, but you're not confident really...that mix feeling is just so beautiful. Of course though, in the 'after' too, to look back and know that you're the winner, to actually feel that taste of success is beautiful in its own way too.

4:14 AM  
Anonymous Rita St. Claire said...

Hi, Jothiek/Joyful,

It's great to hear from you, all the way from India, a place I've long wanted to go to.

If it's taken me a while to reply, it's because I've been out of town for huge amounts of time lately. Long, long story.

I'm happy to hear you're working on your first novel, and on your writing in general. Do you feel writing changes your life?

I feel writing has changed mine in many ways, but perhaps the most important is how it helps me see more of the poetry of life. When I see something beautiful in nature, or experience something beautiful--the loving act of a friend, a fabulous poem, the laughter of a child, I often write about it. Once I've written about the experience, it's painted in my memory forever, which means the beauty lasts and lasts.

I've also learned that to be published one has to SUBMIT! :-) I know you'll be submitting when you're ready. I wish you the best of luck in your writing.

I've checked your profile, and I enjoy the fact that you and my daughter are the same age, nineteen. (She turns twenty in a few days.)

The pictures of her on the site are a few years old and I have to change them. Since she does my website and she's working hard in college (she's a very good student) she doesn't have a lot of time to make massive changes.

And yes, I do agree with you. There seems to be so much poignancy in the "before," when we are striving and we don't yet know what's going to happen. The "after" is wonderful, too. It's great to know we've eked out some success, but somehow, to me, the "before" feels more poetic.

Please keep in touch, Joyful. It's great to hear from you!



5:41 PM  
Anonymous Tiffany Holmes said...

Thanks, Rita! Thanks for writing about dreams: it made me think about my own -- specifically about what to tell yourself when one doesn't come true. To avoid getting bitter, I tell myself that I'm being kept free for a better fulfilment God has in mind for me. Better than anything I can think up. That was the case with my wonderful husband. (The W. H.)
Looking forward to more of your posts.



5:58 PM  
Anonymous Tiffany Holmes said...

Thanks, Rita! Thanks for writing about dreams: it made me think about my own -- specifically about what to tell yourself when one doesn't come true. To avoid getting bitter, I tell myself that I'm being kept free for a better fulfilment God has in mind for me. Better than anything I can think up. That was the case with my wonderful husband. (The W. H.)
Looking forward to more of your posts.



5:58 PM  
Anonymous Rita said...

Thanks for your comment, Tiffany, and sorry that my acknowledgement is so late. I know your writing and the books and articles and stories you've published, and I know you're on your way to the continuation of making your dreams come true. That, for me, is a certainty.

I love what you say about God having something better in store! I do think that's true, as long as we pursue our true callings. And we never know what's right around the corner!

2:48 PM  

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