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Don’t be a dream killer

Several years ago when I was a manufacturing engineer in a semiconductor plant, I worked with a guy I’ll call Frodo. He was a maintenance tech who took care of the giant machines.

Frodo spent every spare minute of his day—breaks, lunch, and downtime waiting for a process to finish—typing on his laptop. Turns out he was writing a book. A series, actually. Some kind of fantasy with elves and otherworldly creatures.

I was both fascinated and skeptical. As someone who’d always wanted to write a book myself—in that vague, “wouldn’t that be cool?” kind of way—I wanted to know more. But I wondered what made him think he might actually get published. I mean, delusional, right?

My thoughts were probably something along the lines of (cue sarcasm) “Yeah, good luck with that, buddy.”

I’m happy to report that I didn’t say that out loud. Hopefully, all he saw was the part of me that marveled at his audacity and creativity.

Now that I’m on the other side of the “what are you working on?” conversation fairly often, I think Frodo probably wouldn’t have been surprised by my doubt. And if he was surrounded by supportive writers, many of whom have gotten “the call”, as I am, he probably wouldn’t have cared much.

But the experience has made me more careful. Especially with my kids. If my son tells me he wants to be a professional athlete or astronaut or President, I might feel the need to point out the statistics and requirements (I’m still practical by nature), but who am I to say he can’t be one of those who makes it?

Someone has to.

Why would I kill his dreams when my own are just as far-fetched?

Photo credit: By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Reply

    Hmm. Another problem posting a response. I think I know what might have caused it though. I’ll check it out. In the meantime, apologies if this is a duplicate reply 🙂


    We always tried to encourage our kids to try to be any and everything they wanted to be. It’s turned out pretty well. Some of the kids went off on side trips, doing this thing or that, but it gave them the opportunity to try and pursue their dreams, whatever they might be. In the end, we’ve got a doctor (who wanted to be a film director), a lawyer (who wanted to be a gymnast and an actor), a structural engineer (well, he always knew wanted he wanted to be), and three who aren’t quite sure where they’ll end up 🙂 In fact, just today, I was talking with our youngest son about some business opportunity where he can create his own drums. While it’s not likely to end up a huge success, we’ve encouraged him, while he’s young, to take the chance and see how it goes.

    I think you’re right about how you want to handle your kids and their dreams. The truth is, you just never know what will happen.

    • Reply

      Dave: Wow, six kids?? 😉 I think if you give kids room to explore, the dreams that aren’t doable–or serious–fall by the wayside on their own. And hopefully they discover what they really wanted in the end.

      I love the book WISHCRAFT by Barbara Sher. She talks about how even if you can’t make your dream a reality, you can probably get what that dream provided in another way. For example, if you wanted to be a fighter pilot but didn’t have the eyesight, you might find that what you really crave is speed. So you race cars or motorcycles instead. And if what you really craved was flight, you could be a private pilot, or a skydiver.

      Anyway, it sounds like you’re doing great with your kids too!

      Hope you figured out your computer issue. 🙂

      • Reply

        I think you’re right about kids eventually discovering what it is they really want. After all, I started out as a teenager hoping to become a rock star way back in the seventies. My folks let me give it a try and it didn’t take very long for me to realize that it probably would never happen. Like you said, it’s statistics. But they let me try, I figured it out, and I ended up just fine. Now here it is all these years later and I’m finally doing what I think I was supposed to be doing all along: writing 🙂

        Book sounds fascinating. I’d like to read that one sometime. I’ll put it on my (lengthy 🙂 list of books to read.

        Yeah, I feel pretty good about all our kids. I feel blessed.

        I’ll know if I was right about the computer issue if when I hit “post” it actually posts this time … keep your fingers crossed.

        • Reply

          Looks like it worked! I wanted to be a singer for the longest time, and even took lessons outside of school, but in the end I went for a business degree instead. 😉

  2. Reply

    So, did Frodo ever get published?
    I don’t have children but a friend in California (in fact she was one of my husband’s students) adopts special needs kids, and lets them know they can do ANYTHING. And they do!

    • Reply

      Mona: I wish I knew. We didn’t keep in touch after I left, but I have to believe with his level of enthusiasm and perseverance that he will make it eventually.

      Your friend sounds amazing!

  3. Curtis


    My Mom and Dad solved the problem this way. ” You can be anything you want to be. Just be the best.” To this day, it never occurs to me if I start down a road that I wont show up where I want to go. I infected my kids with the same idea. Like Dr. Seuss says, ” Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

  4. Reply

    What a great post, Gwen. Someone dear in my life expressed, just today, whether my dream is worth the time it takes away from my family. That hurt. I’m working so hard to realize this dream while not affecting my family or day job. I wonder if your Frodo ever published? Did someone eventually squash his dream directly or did he give up after experiencing rejections? I wonder, too, if he did quit whether he regrets not following his dream.

    I tell both my children to work toward whatever they dream to be, and part of why I began writing was to model it for them.

    How could I tell my daughter to pursue the hard road to becoming a surgeon when I wasn’t willing to do what I needed to do to fulfill my dream as a published writer? I’m still unpublished after two-and-a-half years of honing my craft, but I’ve completed one manuscript, have written half of another before stopping that one to work on a high concept I couldn’t resist. The WIP for this new series is half-done after two months.Am I getting closer? I think so. Did it inspire my daughter to tough it through some difficult science courses and persevere with studies for the MCAT, taking it a second time after she fell short the first time and then aced it (giving up an entire summer for the sake of her dream)?

    I’d like to think so.

    My son has special needs. I believe he can be whatever he wants to be, with hard work and effort. And again, I hope to have served as an example.

    Follow your dreams, don’t be afraid to fail, and keep at it until you are successful. And, as you’ve learned through experience, your dream may evolve or take you on paths you hadn’t anticipated. That’s okay too. 🙂

    • Reply

      Jolyse: Yes, exactly! Kids pick up more from their parents than we or they realize. Congratulations to your daughter. That’s such an important lesson to learn because so many people sacrifice long-term gain for short term satisfaction. You’re a fabulous role model, Jolyse. Your kids are lucky!

      I know it hurts when others question what we’re doing or make us feel guilty. The thing to remember is that it’s usually an insecurity on their part, not something wrong on yours. Don’t drop the dream.

  5. Reply

    Thank you, for nurturing the dream. BTW, I took your advice. NaNoWriMo is the hardest (keeping up, so far) and most rewarding thing (outside of launching 5 amazing children into the World) I’ve ever set out to do. I’m having the time of my life, too. I gave you a shout out (humble audience, but sincere thanks) on my blog, in appreciation of your continual encouragement and dedication to fellow writers and the craft.

    Now back to counting words and creating new worlds. Cheers!

    • Reply

      Yay, Debbie! I’m glad you’re enjoying the NaNo experience. I always wonder what I was thinking when I start, but by the end I’m always happy that I stuck with it. Thanks for the mention, and good luck with your 50K!

  6. Reply

    Great post, Gwen. And good for you on encouraging your children’s dreams. I believe that is so important. My mother tended to be more focused on the practical side, and while that wasn’t all bad, it did more or less mold me into thinking that careers like the ones you mentioned above were out of my reach. And it’s why, until recently, writing as a career was always just a pipe dream to me. Who knows how my path might have been different if I’d decided to pursue this sooner? Maybe I still wouldn’t be published yet, but maybe I would. Oh well, I can’t undo any of that, so onward I must go! 🙂

    • Reply

      Thanks, Maura! I definitely picked up the practical career advice along the way too. I want my kids to make enough money to support themselves, but not pick a career based solely on that. They’ll be better off doing something they want to wake up for every day. A good salary can’t guarantee that. So glad we both eventually came around to what we really wanted to do! 😀

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