Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.-Henry David Thoreau.
That’s easy for Thoreau to say. Writers are good at two things. One is observation, looking into the abyss as Thomas Mann once said, and writing of the human condition based on those observations. The other is giving advice, based on the writers observations coupled with experience. Readers based on their observations and experience can agree or disagree.
The quote by Thoreau above, though well-meaning, I am sure, does a century and a half later, sound like pop psychology, something Thoreau would have no knowledge of tucked away in Walden Pond. But much of pop psychology is built around follow your dreams.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. We all have dreams, some pursue them relentlessly, some fruitlessly, others, however, prefer the dream to reality, for many personal and psychological reasons. The dream is always easy, the chase always hard.
But Thoreau does not promise success. He merely says to go in the direction, to follow your dreams down the yellow brick road. Pursuing a writing career is like pursuing an acting career. One always hears about movie stars and the money they make. But the Screen Actors Guild will tell you the truth, that being that the vast majority of actors make a yearly income below the poverty level. The same is true of writers. For every Stephen King, there are one million struggling writers, none of whom can achieve his success. Most writers are poor, have real jobs, only going confidently in their spare time. But all struggling actors and writers either continue to pursue their dream, or decide to get off the yellow brick road, returning to a Kansas reality.
Live the life you imagined. Sounds again like pop psychology and something I have often heard before under the guise of ‘if you act the part, soon you will be the part.’ If you act like a writer for instance, in other words, writing every day, whether you want to or not, accepting rejection everyday, whether you like it or not, then by positive thinking and believing you will become what you imagine.
Live the life you imagined worked for director Steven Spielberg and it also worked for Ed Wood (Plan 9 From Outer Space). They both achieved fame. Wood’s came from making the best ‘worst movie of all time,’ but I admire Wood more because he truly lived the life, and did so doggedly, in the Thoreau way.
Better for writers not to dream of Stephen King type success, just write as you imagine and hope you don’t write the best ‘worst book of all time,’ unless of course that is the life you imagined.