Yesterday was Derby Day, and here in Kentucky that’s almost like a national holiday. I’ve heard it said that every Kentuckian should attend at least one Derby, but I know a lot of us that haven’t and probably never will except via television. They do some great coverage on t.v. which is fine by me. I can’t imagine being out in the crazy infield (too old) or in the clubhouse (too poor). And if truth be known, now too lazy to fight crowds, etc. for a look at a horse race I can see much better on t.v. That is really a sign you’re getting old, isn’t it? Oh well. Sigh. Sometimes the truth reaches out and smacks us right in the face.
Anyway I usually watch the Derby if I can and I always pick my favorite. Good thing I’m not a bettor because I hardly ever pick a winner. Yesterday I was pulling for one of the sentimental favorites, General Quarters, owned and trained by Tom McCarthy, a retired school principal. General Quarters won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, so the horse and owner got a lot of ink in the local papers. McCarthy has always wanted to be involved in horse racing, but life got in the way and he decided he’d best find a way to make a living for his family. So he became a teacher. But when he retired, he went out and got himself a horse. One of the stories I heard yesterday on the Derby coverage was that somebody had offered to buy General Quarters at a price that no doubt would have given McCarthy a good profit, but he told the prospective buyer, “You don’t sell a dream.”
And you don’t. Or you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t ever sell a dream. You shouldn’t abandon it along the road of life. You shouldn’t bury it forever under reasons the dream could never be possible. You should cherish your dream and live it if you can. You don’t sell a dream.
I can understand where McCarthy was coming from. From the age of ten, I have wanted to write. I wanted to write stories people wanted to read. I had that dream. I still have that dream. And I know a lot of other people have the same dream. There are many aspiring writers out there. Some will hold onto their dream and persevere until that dream becomes a reality. Others will be beat down by rejections and the often soul draining process of writing and will not.
I held onto my dream. I often tell people my best attribute as a writer is perseverance. I don’t give up easily and I never gave up on my dream of being published. The dream began to look possible when I saw my first piece in a magazine in 1971. Then when I held my first novel in my hand in 1978, the dream seemed a reality at last. But you know that didn’t make the dream of writing a good story and seeing it out there for readers go away. I think it just made the want to stronger. I wanted (yearned) to hold more newly published books in my hand. I once went almost ten years without that happening, but I didn’t “sell” the dream. I didn’t totally give up and get a job. I did get a part time job that made the writing harder but the bills easier to pay. Still, I didn’t abandon my dream. I’d work a while, then quit and write a while. Even when the stories weren’t selling. I couldn’t give up the dream. Writing is part of me and I’m living my dream now with a book or two in the stores and a couple waiting in the wings. The Believer will be released August 1, 2009. Not so long from now.
Meanwhile back here on the farm, I’m ready to dream up a new story. A better story. One even more readers will want to read. So the dream lives on.
I hope if you have a dream that you will find a way to live that dream. If it’s to write, you might be interested in going to www.noveljourney.blogspot.com and reading an interview with agent, Donald Maas, who has written several respected books on how to write a better book. I haven’t read any of them, but those who have say they are very helpful. Novel Journey did an interview with me in February 2008 if you want to go back and poke through their archives.
So keep dreaming. And while you’re at it, think about all the things that might never have happened if somebody hadn’t had a dream. The Wright Brothers dreamed of a machine that could fly. Michelangelo dreamed of painting the ceiling of Sistine Chapel. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream of equality. John F. Kennedy spoke our nation’s dream of landing a man on the moon. And Tom McCarthy had a dream of owning a horse that went to the Kentucky Derby. His horse may not have worn the blanket of roses, but Tom McCarthy still ended the day a winner. He is living his dream.