Posts Tagged ‘dreams’

Pen Pal Project

Enjoy the ride

March 22, 2016


Dear Reva,

Between your travels and mine, it has been a month since you had a letter from me. It reminds me that the weekly back and forth is better, because there is too much to cover!

I loved your glam photos from Washington. Actually, I love everything about this new Canadian government. Watching the US political scene only intensifies my love of country. It is trite to say it, but entirely true: we are lucky here.

Speaking of the US, I’ve been travelling to promote my book, and was in NYC at the end of February. I was racing to catch a train to Greenwich from Grand Central Station, on my way to give a lecture at the Greenwich YWCA on the topic of midlife creativity, and it occurred to me that I was doing exactly what I had always dreamed of doing.

This gave me pause. I don’t make a lot of money, and I still have all kinds of day to day stress, and there aren’t enough hours in the day, and my editor doesn’t always give me a gold star, and I have more domestic responsibilities than I ever did, but I’m doing exactly what I’ve always dreamed of doing.

Do you remember your letter about celebrating our achievements instead of moving the goalposts with every success? I am a chronic goalpost-mover. Every new skill I master, in every period of growth, makes me hungry for a fresh adventure. I get restless. When it’s time to celebrate, I’m usually too busy working on my next project.

I often think of Tennyson’s wonderful poem Ulysses. I learned it as a teenager, and these lines still resonate for me:

I am part of all that I have met; 

Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough 

Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades 

Forever and forever when I move. 

That day in New York I was worried – worried about the lecture I was about to give and for which I felt unprepared, worried about the next day’s meeting with my American editor, worried about making the train. I was worried about everything that lay out on the horizon in front of me.

And then I remembered a convocation address by Neil Gaiman, in which he describes the best advice he ever received and never took. It was from Stephen King, who said: “This is really great. You should enjoy it.”

But he couldn’t. He ignored the advice.

Instead, he says, he worried about it: “I worried about the next deadline, the next idea, the next story. There wasn’t a moment for the next fourteen or fifteen years that I wasn’t writing something in my head, or wondering about it. And I didn’t stop and look around and go, this is really fun. I wish I’d enjoyed it more. It’s been an amazing ride. But there were parts of the ride I missed, because I was too worried about things going wrong, about what came next, to enjoy the bit I was on. That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places.”

I’m not Neil Gaiman, of course. Not even close. But that’s the point, really. You just never know. And the horizon will keep moving as you do. And you have to figure out how to enjoy the ride.



Follow the Pen Pal Project here.

Read Reva’s last letter here.


Pen Pal Project

A Dream Worth Failing For

January 17, 2016

Dear Reva,

I loved your letter last week about your intention to make 2016 a Year of Deliberate Living.  In fact, re-reading it made me smile a second time, because (obviously) my response is late. At some point last week, I realized that I simply wouldn’t get it done on time. I rarely miss deadlines, and never without a good reason.

But I didn’t have a good reason. So much for Deliberate Living!  Sure, my book had just launched in the US, and I was fielding a lot of unexpected email traffic (I’m talking hours of email). A volunteer project got out of hand. My ex was away, and I was doing a huge amount of driving (we normally split the school drop off and pick up, an hour each way). My mom was also away, and she usually fills in for me if life gets particularly chaotic.

But really, I got overwhelmed. And eventually, I surrendered. And I’ve decided that I’m going to forgive myself for missing a deadline, because life is short, and my failure to meet a Pen Pal Project deadline isn’t the end of the world.

And life is so short! Two hugely influential artists (David Bowie and Alan Rickman) died last week, both of cancer, and both at the shockingly young age of 69. My friends were all talking about it. They were all doing the math: sixty-nine minus forty-something equals…way too soon. And these were men who, by anyone’s estimation, achieved great things with the time they had on this Earth. What about the rest of us?

Well, the rest of us need to learn how to take a few risks, and I’m not talking about the occasional missed deadline. We need to be willing to put ourselves out there, to step into the arena, and to court non-catastrophic failure. We need to do it in art, in work, in parenting, in friendship, and in love.

Yes, you heard me correctly. There is such a thing as non-catastrophic failure. In fact, most failure is not catastrophic. Most failure will neither ruin our lives nor kill us with shame. It won’t feel nice, but it will teach us things that success can’t. Believe me.

falling on face

One of the lovely parts of my new career as a writer is that it connects me with all kinds of people I wouldn’t otherwise meet. Many of them want to ask me a question, and it is almost always the same one: What’s your secret?

I’m fortunate enough to have the kind of career that many people dream about. I feel grateful every day to be able to do the work I do. And I’m happy to share my secret, such as it is. Are you ready?  Because this is going to come in handy as you rocket towards that big birthday in a few months.


That’s it, really. I want to be a writer so much that I’m willing to fail at it.

When people ask me this question, I can see how reluctant they are to step into the void. There must be a safer path, they think. After all, what dream could be worth the risk of total, abject, humiliating failure?

And I would answer: Any dream worth having.



Follow the Pen Pal Project here.




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