Best writing competition for children in a long time – Dream a Big Dream. It combines encouraging children to think big with practising their English skills by describing their aspirations and writing down how they might achieve their goals. How fantastic is that? Official recognition that reaching for the skies is the way to go.
When I was eleven, I wanted to be a gymnast. My teacher told me: ‘You’ll never be Olga Korbut.’ And that was that. My happy delusion of pirouetting gracefully on the beam or backflipping across the mat to Beethoven’s Fifth was splatted into smithereens by one careless sentence. Never mind that I had the flexibility of an ironing board and the co-ordination of someone venturing out on roller skates for the first time. Everyone but me knew I’d never do a one-handed cartwheel. Which is why big dreams are so fabulous…they can evolve as you mature.
|From gymnast to novelist,|
still dreaming big
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
But not every castle in the air has to be swept to the ground with a broom and smashed to pieces until it lies wheezing and gasping at the ridiculousness of having dared hope in the first place. Some daydreams – like being a world champion gymnast – need a modicum of natural talent. But often enough, fantasies can be turned into reality by hard work, persistence, determination and a little bit of luck.
Luckily, I had a Plan B dream up my sleeve – I wanted to be a novelist. I started writing my first novel when I was thirty-two. I didn’t finish that one. Not enough belief in my vision. Or maybe not enough belief in myself. Whatever, I decided that novel-writing was for other, more talented people. But that dream wasn’t going away anytime soon. It sat there, pecking away for the next decade, until it was easier to confront it than ignore it. So little by little, I made my goal achievable, in workable, writable chunks. I took online classes. I wrote ten pages a week. Then five hundred words a day. Then a thousand words a day. Then a novel a year. Finally – three novels, a ton of agent rejections and a huge, confidence-sucking amount of ‘Aren’t you published yet?’ later – my ambitions were looking pretty battered round the edges, if not stiff on their back with their feet in the air.
With a huge black crow of doubt twitching away on my shoulder, I forced the big dream out into the sunlight. I self-published The Class Ceiling on Amazon Kindle. The second I committed to that, I met an agent who signed up my latest novel within a week.
So – to all those children out there, wondering whether they can achieve that whopper of a goal, that immense aspiration that burns away, that people ridicule and dismiss – I say go and watch Cool Runnings, the film about the Jamaican bobsleigh team making it to the 1988 Winter Olympics. That was an enormous, impossible, outlandish dream. But it did come true.
Final thought comes from Harriet Tubman, anti-slavery activist and humanitarian:
‘Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.'