I had gotten into one or two law schools, was wait listed at another, and hadn’t heard from my dream school, The University of Texas at Austin. I was at home with my parents, as it must have been Christmas break, and was probably whining about not having heard from UT.

My dad was having none of it. I had gotten into law school, and for him, that was the end of the discussion.

“Do you want to go to law school, or do you want to be a lawyer?” he asked me.

“I want to be a lawyer,” I said.

“Well, then, there you go. If that’s your goal, then you’re on your way.”

The irony, of course, is that I spent exactly zero minutes actually being a lawyer after graduating from my dream school, The University of Texas at Austin, to which I ended up getting accepted. As it turns out, even though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I did need to attend a large, nationally-recognized legal program and not a regionally-based law school (here’s an interesting conversation on the distinction, by the way) to be my best professional self after obtaining my J.D. So all’s well that ends well.

But I come back to the point my dad was trying to hammer home to me over and over again and that is one of actually defining my dreams and working to achieve that specific dream, instead of chasing my tail over something that looks like a version of my dream, but is really more what other people think my dream “should” be.

Whew – that was a long-winded sentence. Let me try to illustrate what I mean.

I love writing fiction. Love it. I get lost in it. I weave stories in my head all day long and, as you know, that passion developed into a novel, [amazon_link id=”B00GEKA0X2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Myth of Jake[/amazon_link]which I self-published in November 2013.

When my husband first suggested I self-publish my novel, I balked. I wouldn’t be a “real” author if I did that, would I? If I didn’t have someone’s stamp of approval, i.e., an agent’s and a publisher’s, then how could I call myself a writer?

He wore me down with his very rational, reasonable, business-minded arguments:

  • The publishing industry, like all traditional media, is aimed at generating blockbusters. Blockbusters operate on a formula and if your book falls outside of that you will never, ever get a look.
  • But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a niche for your work. Eliminate the massive overhead that the publishing houses would expend on your book, and you can target that niche and make money off your work.
  • You have a marketable commodity just sitting on the shelf from which you are not generating any revenue.
  • Spend your time writing your next book instead of slogging away trying to convince an agent to read your manuscript.

All of his arguments were solid. I understood and agreed with him. But it wasn’t until I asked myself one final question that I decided to take the self-publishing plunge:

  • What do you want here? Do you want to be a best-selling author, or do you just want to write?

When I looked into my heart and sat with that question, the answer for me was crystal-clear. All I wanted was for just one person – just one person – to think or feel something she hadn’t before because of the words I had written.

Turns out, I didn’t need an agent for that. I didn’t need a publishing house for that. That dream, the one that was in my heart, was one I could accomplish all on my own.

So I did it and I have not for one single second regretted that choice. And every time a friend texts me with a reaction to the book:

“She’d better not marry Tom,”

my heart expands a little bit, because I captured my dream. I did what my heart wanted to do and didn’t get distracted by all the “shoulds” and “you need to” voices in the world.

It’s important, I think, to have goals and dreams, but it’s also important to carefully define them. Otherwise, we spend lots of time most of us don’t have working towards something that will end up unsatisfying.

So go ahead, dreamers, shoot for the stars. Unless, of course, you’d rather go to the moon. In which case you should aim your rocket ship there.

And, incidentally, if your dream somehow offers the opportunity to live in Austin, Texas for three years, well, don’t pass that one up. That could never be a bad choice.

Find other posts like this at Nourishing Joy’s Thank Goodness It’s Monday #58 here.

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