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The Hard Work of Making Dreams Come True

My daughter sat at the piano and plunked at the keys. “Mom, I already know all my songs. Can I stop practicing today?”

I looked at her timer. “You still have ten minutes left.”

“But I don’t have anything else to practice.”

I cocked my head at her and gave her my you-know-what-I’m-going-to-say look.

She sighed. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

“Exactly.” I smiled. “Practice ahead. Take initiative. Surprise your piano teacher by learning a new song she didn’t assign you.”

In the last post, we talked about reaching for our dreams. To start, we have to believe in ourselves. But it’s not enough just to want something and have confidence that we can attain it. We also have to work for it. Really hard.

My daughter may never become a concert pianist, but when I teach her to work hard in her piano practicing, I’m equipping her with the lifelong philosophy that if she wants to accomplish something, then she has to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

In the wake of the Winter Olympics, I talked with my children about this very philosophy. I asked them how hard they thought each Olympic athlete had to train to even make it into the Olympics, the hours, months, and even years, most of those athletes devoted to become as good as they are.

We need to dream big and believe in ourselves. But if we have Olympic-size dreams, then we have to give it Olympic-size effort. Here are three characteristics that have helped me:

1. Diligence: I made a diligence poster for my children that outlines the definition: Work that is done hard, thoroughly, steadily, and carefully. In our modern culture, diligence is often a forgotten word. But if we can learn to cultivate daily habits of approaching our writing time with diligence, we'll have a much easier time reaching our dreams.

2. Determination: The dictionary defines determination as "the act of deciding definitely and firmly." I think of it as making up our minds to stick to the task and see it through to completion. Maybe that means we'll finish the book instead of stopping halfway. Perhaps it means we keep querying even after rejection. We decide what we're going to do, and we don't stop until it's done.

3. Drive: Not everyone has a Type A personality, but we can all still strive to excel. Instead of letting the competition scare us, we let it sharpen us. Instead of being satisfied with status quo, we shove ourselves to the next level. We sweat, cry, and ache with the pain of reaching high, always attempting to pour more into each story we write.

No Olympic athlete ever won a gold medal without putting forth incredible effort. As writers, we shouldn’t expect to reach the ultimate gold of publication without the same kind of dedication to our craft and stories.

I spent years fiercely chasing my writing dreams. And today, even with publication in my grasp, I still work long hours and push myself to be diligent, determined, and driven.

Believe in ourselves, but also expect much from ourselves.

Dream big, but work fiercely.

Are you doing the hard work necessary to make your dreams come true? If so, I'd love to hear what's helped you. And if not, what else can you do to push yourself harder?

Next post: When Dreams Come Crashing Down

52 comments:

  1. Another awesome post, Jody. I love your attitude! And I love the fact you are intentionally teaching these values to your kids. Hard work is so underrated these days. I heard something recently about how in this modern world we live in, whenever we send kids off to school we usually say, 'Have fun.' A century ago it was just, 'Work hard.' What we really should be saying is, 'Work hard and have fun.'

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  2. Jody...this post brought to mind a quote by William Carey, a missionary to India in the 1700-1800's. He used to say, "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God!" I believe Mr. Carey practiced your 3-D's!:-)

    ~ Betsy

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  3. I love these 3 D's, and yes, I practice them.

    I get up at 4 in the morning so I can have my quiet time with God and writing time all before I get to work at 7:30. I read craft books like they're chocolate and I'm PMSing. I do everything I can to grow, learn, and step closer to my dreams.I believe God's given me a gift. A gift He wants me to delight in. But also a gift he wants me to sharpen and hone...so that He can receive much glory.

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  4. I love your examples--your kids are blessed with you as their mom.
    I have set Sats aside to really push myself to write alot and won't give up that precious time. If I can get more in Sun afternoon then I do that too--I'm too close to give up.

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  5. What an awesome mom you are!!! I am sure at times your kids do not see it, but in time they will realize what a tremendous help you are!!

    I love your bullet points and they are all great! Determination is key, and it's funny that you mention the Olympics because this year it hit me how much hard work each and everyone of them put into their goal, and for the first time I did relate it to my writing. The more hard work you put in, the more reward you see.

    I am currently hard at work on my new WIP and I have 40,000 words down and I'm ready to continue the pace, the story is one that I'm in love with and when discouraged I turn to my husband for support, a good book or a good movie, helps me move out of my funk!

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  6. Jody, how crazy that we both posted on dreams today from totally different slants!!!

    God is so cool!

    I LOVE reading your piano practice story! You're a great writer, you know it?

    It struck a middle C chord as my mother and I fought the piano battle, then my daughter and I fought it in the opposite way. Oh, those generational "issues"!!!

    You have a great place here.

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  7. Jody, awesome post! I'm currently spending my time line editing my novel and sometimes, it hard as heck, but every time I see anything that's not 100% to my liking, I rethink and rewrite because the competition is tough and I want to be just as tough.

    As writers we need to live by the 3D's if we really want to pursue a career in publishing.

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  8. It always comes down to "how badly do you want this?" Those who succeed don't make excuses, keep working even when they're tired, and don't use other people/situations as reasons not to succeed. They take responsibility, and they DO it.

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  9. Wonderful! Jody, you could be a life coach! And yeah, I'm working hard to make my dreams come true!

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  10. Yes!Practice ,practice on that piano. I have played piano since I was 4. It's good discipline and Oh what a joy to make music. I just wish i could get the hang of the guitar I bought.Leave that for my son. The one factor that has given me strength in all my endeavors is the Good Lord above. And yes, working allitle too hard...I almost fell asleep at the computer last night.Too many irons in the fire but I love it. Good post as usual.Thanks.Kay

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  11. Wonderful post! I made our children all read it this morning, too. I told them it was an assignment for school and they were required to read it! Sometimes a teaching at home mom needs to use every resourse available. Thanks!

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  12. Your children are very lucky to have you as a mom. I wasn't taught these kinds of lessons growing up. But I became a person who has tenacity to go over what I want anyway. It does take your 3 D's. It also takes an attitude, if not this, than something better, when the dream doesn't come true in quite the way we dreamed it.
    Karen

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  13. Jody, you could easily write a book on writing. You could easily be a motivationa speaker. Be prepared...God is going to use you!!!!! :)

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  16. Jody,
    Thanks for today's post. Excellent advice and so well written. I do believe I will print it and post it in my writing corner!!
    And I so appreciate you taking us on your journey, sharing such insight along the way.
    Susan

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  17. Jody, we share this philosophy both in writing and parenting. But I've never before connected this with my entreating my son each day before he leaves for school to "have a fun day." Thanks for making me rethink those words, and for giving me my blog topic for tomorrow!

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  18. Your discipline, determination and drive are super-inspiring to me!

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  19. I LOVE your post. Olympic sized dreams require Olympic sized efforts. Too true! And I agree about the lost quality of diligence. It's much needed.

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  20. Well-put, Jody!

    One of the reasons I homeschool is to preserve my daughter's work ethic. As a former teacher, I'm aware of how low the standards for effort can be in many of our schools. If you have a capable child, she may grow lazy simply because there isn't sufficient challenge, especially at the elementary level.

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  21. Jody,
    Your blog post is very encouraging and inspirational! Thank you!

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  22. "No Olympic athelete never won gold..." After I read that sentence, I thought about your entire post. The athlete won't win without the effort but the major thing that also ties in here that you touched upon is that the athlete didn't win without strong support from their families. You've shown that it is necessary to instill the dedication and work ethic into our children as well. Teaching the, also teaches us.

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  23. My mother always said, "I never finished anything." What drives me? That. I don't want to be the one who never finished anything.

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  24. As always, this is brilliant advice, Jody. I printed it and am going to share some of your wisdom with my students. :-)

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  25. I'm with Nikole. My mother always said the same thing. Good motivator. :)

    Awesome post!

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  26. I like this post muchly. I can only add "Amen!"

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  27. Jody,

    You are equipping your kids with wisdom and powerful tools for their futures. WHAT a mom!

    Thank you for the powerful inspiration today. It's just the kick in the pants I needed. I've printed out a few of the things you wrote and am posting them over my desk.

    P.S. I agree with Sherrinda...except that I think you already ARE a motivational speaker. :)

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  28. I love how you are teaching your kids about diligence! You are establishing in them a drive they will need to carry them through:)
    You have worked very hard at your writing and deserve everything wonderful that is happening to you!

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  29. You're fabulous. Thank you for always setting the bar so high and then showing us you're working hard, too.

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  30. Ditto to all that has been said. Thank you for reminding us to keep at it. :)

    Your last few posts have been just what I need to here. I'm posting the prolific blog award this afternoon and you are on the list, even though you already have it.

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  31. Dude, I think this is the post I meant to write today. But mine came out wrong. I did blog about working hard to get your desired results, but you said it so much better!

    I love your 3 D's.

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  32. All well and good but luck sometimes plays a part as well. Or maybe call it fate. Being in the right place and the right time, even if you didn't know it at that time, just happens. It did for me. Do we make our own luck? maybe.

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  33. Thank you for giving me that extra push I needed today! I really do have Olympic sized dreams, I pray I have the stamina to remain in the race and the tenacity to race past the finish line. I'm in this for the long haul. I just didn't realize how long the road was or how heavy the haul. With His strength I'm capable of both.

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  34. Whenever I set a goal, I work diligently to meet that goal. Over the years I have learn that I can reset a goal – I‘ve also learn how to set realistic goals.

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  35. Another great post, Jody. You're a wonderful example of the three Ds at work. In your case, they've added up to a fourth D: Debut Novel.

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  36. Hi Jody -

    Not putting effort into our dreams reduces them to wishful thinking. If we don't sit down and write, we'll never be writers.

    I'm once again building momentum. I didn't put the "pedal to the metal" and almost stopped at one point.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  37. Fantastic post and it demonstrates how important it is to not only to keep dreaming, but to work hard towards that dream. It is applicable to everything, not just writing.

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  38. Sheer will, a lot of hard work, and sometimes little sleep *laugh* but I've always said - everyone must practice their craft - pianists, athletes, singers, and yes, writers. yes, one can be born with gifts and talents, but that isn't enough - it takes discipline, hard work, and practice to push to those dreams.

    Nice post :)

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  39. I love this post. You have an impressive attitude and it's very easy to see why you've made it! :) I already know I can dream big, but I still need to put in more effort! I know there's always room to push a little harder, but it gets easier when I remind myself how much I want this to come true.

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  40. You know my mom, don't you? LOL. I might be twitching over here, feeling for your daughter. But you know what? I persevered through years of music lessons and learned discipline, if nothing else. It's helped in so many areas of life.

    Thanks for the pep talk, Jody! God bless.

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  41. My father had an extremely strong work ethic. He was a contractor, and I can't count how many times I heard him say to one of his crew, "If you don't have anything to do, don't do it in my sight." He didn't like to pay men for leaning on their shovels while he was working hard himself. In his view there was always something more that could be done. I guess I've grown up believing that doing your best and then trying harder is the only way to excel. You're doing your children a wonderful favour by helping them develop that attitude.

    Maybe we can't make agents accept our manuscripts or publishers publish our books, but we can do our part by writing the very best we can and persevering with querying and submissions. There's always something more we can do. Goals aren't reached by sitting back and wishing.

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  42. I did this with homeschooling, for sure.

    Am I doing it with my writing? I do write every day. I'm very disciplined about that. But I don't know if I push as hard as possible.

    It's something to ponder.

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  43. Wow, you just reminded me of something I had forgotten. Might turn into my own blog post. I SO look forward to spending time with you here.

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  44. I know that you wrote this post in regards to publishing, but what a great idea to make posters reflecting your ideals for your kids. Teachers do this all the time in the classroom as a way to subconsciously instill things in their students - I don't know why it has never occurred to me to make some for the house. Thanks! :)

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  45. My French teacher in high school always told us that success was 25% talent and 75% hard work. I remember not believing her and thinking her words were a lame attempt to get us interested in working hard. I believe her now, and sadly, it's a little late for enlightenment, though hopefully not too late. Isn't this the paradox of youth? So much potential, so many gifts, but no head to do anything with them . . . .

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  46. It's gratifying to read all the comments and discover so many are at different stages of the same journey. Thank you, Jody, for the motivational reminder that it's the doing (another D!) that moves us forward, in addition to diligence, determination and drive.

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  47. Great post! I love what you said "But if we have Olympic-size dreams, then we have to give it Olympic-size effort." That really made me think. I want to write but always just wanted to sit and write a best seller. I was always scared of the work that you had to put into it such as researching and such. But you are so right! I am determined now to give it an Olympic effort!
    God Bless
    Heather

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  48. I'm 15 years old and I've been debating a lot lately on my work... I've been reading some of your articles and they have helped inspire me to keep going. For the longest time I've been thinking I would never be able to write well enough to be published and the thought overwhelmed me, so I was losing hope. Any time I have a doubt I come here and read your words and I do hope I can believe what you say is true. I still have many years for improvement and thanks to you, I might still be writing to see it.
    Thank you
    Callie

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    1. Hi Callie,

      Bless you, my dear! I'm so glad that my blog posts have rejuvenated and re-inspired you to keep writing! That's so awesome to hear! Keep at it! Never give up! And you'll be all that much further ahead for all your hard work and perseverance!

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