I have to handle it carefully now, because the cup has been dropped a couple of times and banged around over the years. Its rim is cracked and the handle has been clued back together. The picture and the words on its side have faded with time, but when my own words refuse to come, or when I begin to doubt my ability, I have only to look at it for inspiration.
In the 1980s, while struggling to become a published writer, I had a few successes, enough to make me say “I am a writer.” Then came the periods of drought, when nothing I wrote seemed good enough to attract the attention of an editor. The ideas that I thought were so excellent and so well written often received the ever-impersonal note of “Thanks, but no thanks” from every publisher that I contacted.
During one of those times, a close friend asked me, “How’s the writing going?” I had to admit that it was not going well. I felt discouraged, ready to give up, and was beginning to believe that the writing life wasn’t for me. What made me think that a few sales gave me the right to call myself a real writer?
A few days after that conversation, she presented this coffee mug to me. On its side, below the now-faded picture of a unicorn (an image of things impossible) it says, “Believe in the beauty of your dreams.”
I’ve had that cup for more than thirty-five years, and there have been many times when I have been at my computer and wondered if I was fighting a losing battle; beating my head against the wall; trying to break into yet another market.
Whenever that happened and I was within minutes of throwing up my hands and giving up, I’d see that cup and I would pause, read the message again, and take the words to heart.
I don’t know if my friend had an inkling of what her simple gift would do for me over the years, but it is the words on that cup that helped me remember my dream and follow it, and best of all, to see it come true.
Writers who attend the local freelance writing workshops and seminars that I’ve presented are always looking for advice, encouragement and the secrets of success. I can advise and encourage, but I don’t have any magical secret to being successful. I only know that writing takes knowledge, intelligence, creativity, determination, and often a huge portion of luck in presenting the right manuscript to the right editor at precisely the right time.
I can give encouragement and tell them that it takes a love of the craft and dedication to be a writer. And I always share the best advice I ever received…believe in yourself…believe in the beauty of your dreams.