• Bella Mahaya Carter
  • [Body, Mind & Spirit] Don’t Take “No” for An Answer: Start Living Your Dreams Today!
This blog was featured on 07/27/2016
[Body, Mind & Spirit] Don’t Take “No” for An Answer: Start Living Your Dreams Today!


Huge numbers of people show at jobs every day that they’re less than thrilled to be working. Some of us may be in that camp. Some not. But most creative writers, regardless of other jobs they have or work they do, are lucky to engage in work they love. Writing is a passion. We may not always love what we do, but writing is something we have to do. The late Scott Dinsmore, creator of Live Your Legend, asked, “What’s the work you cannot not do?” What’s the work that even when you’re not doing it you think you should be? What’s the work that when you put it off it keeps nudging you? What’s the work that really matters to you? Most writers would respond to these questions with a single word: “writing!”

So we’re doing what we love, which is a big first step toward living your dreams, and yet the writing life is rough. There’s much we can’t control. Last week, a student emailed me this quote on persistence by novelist Denise Pattiz Bogard:

“I’ve been getting lots of congrats on my book. And yes, I am proud of The Middle Step. But I believe I’m most proud of my persistence. Since age 20 I’ve dreamed of being a novelist. In my 40s I went back to school and got a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I wrote a novel, After Elise, obtained an agent, got some interest but no contract offer. The book went into the desk drawer and I wrote another book, got a new agent, rewrote the book, rewrote the book, rewrote the book. It had four titles, two agents, multiple passes. The main character had three names. New characters appeared in subsequent drafts. Middle chapters were dropped or added.  I never gave up. And that’s what I’m most proud of. So now I can tell all my writer friends and writer students: believe in your work, be willing to go back to it and improve, and don’t give up on your dreams.”

This was Dinsmore’s message too. Not only shouldn’t you give up on your dreams, the world needs people actively making their dreams come true. Imagine what the world might look and feel like if the majority of people loved their work? Think how that would change the overall energy of people everywhere. Dinsmore said it would be revolutionary. And the revolution has begun! More and more people are refusing to settle for autopilot lives and are instead seeking authenticity. There are clear-cut ways to go about living a unique and meaningful life. Proven techniques, which improve the quality of your life and your writing. Here are several that I’ve experimented with myself:

  1. Become a Self-Expert. Know yourself. What do you value? Make a list. Focus on what’s most important to you in life. Then make sure you’re living your values, acting in accordance with what matters to you. Self-expression and creativity are among my top values, so when a few days go by and I’m not engaged in creative work, like writing, I know there’s room for course correction, and I do whatever’s necessary to get back on track.
  2. Do The Impossible. We tend to focus on our limitations instead of possibilities. I once applied for a residency at Scripps College, thinking there wasn’t any way I’d get it. I told myself I was writing the application for myself. I asked myself, If I could do anything I wanted to do here, what would it be? I let myself dream, making things up as I went along. I didn’t think my plan was really possible, but I acted as if it was. I felt like I was pretending—again, making things up—and I kept asking myself, If this was possible, what would I do? My willingness to lean into the possibility actually created it—I got the residency!
  3. Take Leaps of Faith. This is exactly what I did while I crafted my residency proposal. When I received the call telling me my proposal had been selected, I thought, Holy shit, now I actually have to do this, which required an even bigger leap of faith. It was one thing to craft a dream on paper, and another to execute it. Great things happen when we step to the edge of our comfort zone and jump. The need for perfection prevents us from doing this; it shrinks our world. Let me just get in there and play in this mess is a more helpful thought than I have to do this really well. And it makes sense that when we push our boundaries—in life and with our writing—we enlarge our world.
  4. Surround Yourself with People Who Are Doing What You Want To Do. It’s a huge advantage to be around people who support and believe in you. But the next step is seeking out people who are doing what you aspire to do. Writers can’t afford to be loners. Those days are long gone. Reach out. Cultivate friendships with birds that sport the color feathers you’d like to don. Learn from them. Share your knowledge. Help each other grow.
  5. Give Yourself an Automatic “A” in Life. You’re beyond good enough. You’ve received the coveted “A.” Now relax. You don’t need to prove anything to anybody, not even to yourself. When you’re called to write, it’s your Soul talking. You can’t go wrong saying “yes” to your Soul. Say it. Again and again. Every day. Every hour if you must. Just keep saying “yes.” Fling yourself into what you love. This is your path, your lesson, and your sacred opportunity. It’s also what makes dreams come true.

Have you experimented with any of these strategies or others? What’s helped you to stay focused and move forward in the direction of your dreams? I’d love to hear from you.

Note: This post was inspired by a presentation given by Maya Higgins, Scripps College 2016 Lois Langland Alumna-in-Residence, on February 7, 2016, in Pasadena, California.

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  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    Ladies, thanks for reading and commenting. I've been away from my desk enjoying my birthday season!

    Rachele Baker, DVM: I'm happy my post inpsire you, and I appreciate your comment.

    Cindy Eastman: I love that quote. It's so true. Congratulations on taking that leap!

    Sherrey Meyer: Glad this came at a good time. I enjoy seeing your smiling face on my blog post comments! Thank you for reading and chiming in!

    Charlene Diane Jones: I know what you mean. I write, but I also love to dance, teach, hike, sing, meditate—and the list goes on! I love, "For me this means much flinging in many directions!" Such a great image! Thank you.

    Karen Szklany Gault: That's so cool. Did you make your sign? Is it helping?

    Irene Allison: You inspire me, too! When will your book be available? I can't wait to read it.

    Mardith Louisell:  Send your email address to [email protected] and I will see if I can dig up the proposal and send it to you. I'm pretty sure I've got an electronic copy. Thanks for asking. It was pretty cool.

  • Mardith Louisell

    Great post, Belva. Would love to see the application for Scripps. I'm not an alumna so it wouldn't apply to me but seeing what someone dreamed up, the specifics, would be interesting.

  • Irene Allison

    Bella, your post is so inspiring! Thank you! All your points speak to me in a powerful way. How true it is that we tend to live our lives "small". When in fact, there is so much potential and creativity and possibility available to us, if we simply shake those self-imposed boundaries and step into the unknown. Scary, thrilling, and utterly life-affirming.

  • Thank you for this post, Bella.  I need it right now!  I am making a sign for my work area with the phrase headings in your list to remind me of them every day!

  • I love the phrase "Fling yourself into what you love." I live an energized, vital life as a meditation teacher, spiritual guide with an emphasis on Dreams, and a radio show host, producer and editor for my program Off the Top. When I wrote my first book, a novel, I saw that somewhere deep down I had always believed once I wrote a book, I would not want to do anything else. 

    Imagine my surprise to discover I don't want to give up clients, or teaching meditation, or hosting the show. I write, have written a non fiction book and now am at work on the final, structuring draft of my memoirs and I love writing. If I call myself a writer, I also call myself Meditation Teacher, Life Coach, Radio Show Host. We are many identities. I love the phrase, "Fling yourself into what you love." For me that means much flinging in many directions. 

    Thanks Bella!

  • Sherrey Meyer

    Very inspiring post. Most needed in my writing life right now.

  • Cindy Eastman Writing

    I loved this, it's exactly what I needed to hear. Just this week, I committed to taking a leap and living an authentic writer's life. I wrote about it out loud, to keep me accountable. As has happened before, I've begun coming across pertinent and supportive people, opportunities and readings...like this one. One of my favorite quotes, which I pull out from time to time when I need motivation is this: "Concerning all acts of initiative and creation there is one elementary truth — that the moment one definitely commits oneself then divine providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred and which no man could have dreamed would have come their way." (WH Murray) Now I have some additional motivation, too! Thanks!

  • Rachele Baker, DVM

    Love this post, Bella! Very inspiring!