Living on the Sidelines of a Dream

Frustrated Man


We all have dreams. The problem is we don’t always achieve them. Or maybe they are unachievable. Then what?

As an author, I’ve had plenty of dreams. Publish an article. Write a novel. Pen a bestseller. Write to make a difference. Influence a life. Leave a legacy. Change the world—one reader at a time.

Early in my writing career, when manuscripts were submitted via snail mail, I received rejection letters via SASE (Self-addressed stamped envelope). When I had enough rejections to wallpaper a room, I was ready to pack it in—dismiss my ambition as misguided, and call it what it was—a dream. So, what do we do when we have unachievable dreams?

Ernest Hemingway, one of the most celebrated writers of our time, said,


“Work every day. No matter what has happened

the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.”


I took his advice—and almost chipped my teeth. After all, we only have three choices: chase the dream, redefine it, or surrender it. 

I chose to “write through rejection” by starting another article on the heels of the one rejected. No surrender. And something happened in the process. I “felt” like a writer again. My perspective was renewed. My confidence restored. My focus sharpened—on what laid before me, not behind me. And soon, I put another article in the mail to replace the rejected one.

Steve Prefontaine, the Olympic runner of the three-mile race, once said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” In my case, he was right. Every day, I must dig deeper, work harder, write more, edit ruthlessly. Then, rinse and repeat.

But what if your dream is unrelated to personal effort? What if you have no control over accomplishing your dreams? What if you’ll never achieve that promotion? Overcome that disability? Survive that illness? What then?

Lately, I’ve been watching athletes, artists, musicians, and writers use their skills. I’ve noted their successes and failures and how ambition and an iron will drive them to achieve their dreams. 

I’ve watched my younger brother, Bob, wrestle every day with something we all may take for granted—taking a single step. Since he was fifteen, he’s struggled to walk after contracting Acute Transverse Myelitis—a disease that affects the spinal cord. It paralyzed him from the waist down for a month. I remember one day when he was in the hospital; he was reading the sports page of our local newspaper. It mentioned his name as a potential up-and-coming track star at our high school. As he read about what he now knew would never be, I realized he was “living on the sidelines of his dream.” What do you do with that?

Eventually, he learned how to walk again, but not without extreme difficulty. Yet, he gets up—every day—and bites on the nail. For decades, he has been an inspiration to me of what it means to face life with raw courage and unbending faith. He has no hope of walking normally again. Nevertheless, he’s not defeated—because he never surrendered.

How has he adjusted his dream of running? By redefining it. The goal is not to run again—but to be happy—to win over circumstances. I’ve seen no one so content, funny, courageous, mentally tough, and victorious.

Bob is an example of the old saying, “You don’t make character in a crisis, you exhibit it.”

I don’t have the answer to what you should do if you’re living on the sidelines of your dream—except to get up every day and bite on the nail—or, if possible, redefine your dream. But don’t surrender.

After I wrote my first novel, The Glimpse, I contacted forty-one literary agents. They all rejected my manuscript—one by one. So, I had forty-one opportunities to give up. What do you do with forty-one rejections--but you still believe in the project--and yourself? Keep going. Keep fighting. Find a way.

I later had it professionally edited and self-published it. Today, it’s available on websites around the world. People have emailed me about how it encouraged them and the reviews are positive. It has been a semi-finalist in two consecutive writing contests.

My second novel is currently being seriously considered by the first traditional publisher I submitted it to a few weeks ago--and a literary agent is interested in representing me.

Funny thing about dreams. They can only be achieved if we never stop fighting for them. Winston Churchill was right. “Never, never, never give up.”


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