If you can dream-and not make dreams your master,

If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;”

This is the beginning of the second stanza and I just think there’s so much to it that bears scrutiny.

Have you ever watched one of those Oprah or Dr. Phil shows where they’re featuring stage moms and people going to outrageous lengths to have their dreams come true?

I think they are people who have made their dreams their master.

I think there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, in and of itself. But a lot of whether it’s right or wrong for you, depends on the why.

I used to attend a chatroom where one of the people who claimed to be a household name told me that most likely, at the most, I’d do well in Canada.

I was ‘devastated’ when he said that.

Actually devastation is a truly horrible condition. Think Haiti after the earthquake, Banda Aceh after the tsunami–THAT’S real devastation! People tend to use hyperbole when describing simple disappointments.

But at the time, that’s the word I would have used, ‘devastated’.

It seems so silly now. He was an anonymous poster. He only claimed he was a household name. He could very well have been a fraud, and yet I was allowing his assessment of my chances for my dreams to come true to ‘devastate’ me.

This is because even when I first started out on my journey towards becoming an author, I was somehow so convinced I was destined for greatness (geez, I cringe just writing that!) that I’d lapse into imaginary interviews with the host of 60 minutes while brushing my teeth.

I can’t remember if it was Ed Bradley or Diane Sawyer who was interviewing me, but I do remember looking up, after answering a question on how I became world famous, to see my face in my bathroom mirror and toothpaste foam all over my mouth.

I’ve since learned some humility.

And in the process of learning it, I think it’s fascinating that the second line of this stanza is about thinking and not letting thoughts be your aim.

This applies especially to creativity.

I’m only in the ‘zone’ when I am NOT conscious of my ego. When I’m sincerely trying to absorb the story. When I’m writing to find out what’s going to happen.

That’s when I’m thinking and not trying to be profound.

My art has led me to explore so many issues tangentially, it’s made me understand the world and myself in a better way, and this creative magic only seems to happen when I think, but don’t make thoughts my aim.

As for Triumph and Disaster, I’ve met the two impostors many times.

Sometimes they come in the form of reviews. Sometimes they come in the form of awards.

Reviews are just a person’s opinion. Nothing more, nothing less, and no matter how great a book you write, not everyone on the face of the earth is going to like it.

It’s impossible.

In fact I heard somewhere that there’s a ten percent rule. That no matter how popular something is, at least ten percent of people will feel the opposite.

What if one of those ten percent writes your review?

I’ve seen far too many authors pull out their hair about bad reviews. Moan and groan and kvetch and sigh, when really, any review is better than no review, because no review means you’re being ignored.

My very first review was a total and utter pan.


I’ll never forget how embarrassed I felt.

I didn’t want to leave the house for three weeks.

It was so bad that other authors came up to me at a meeting and offered condolences, very smug condolences.

But Disaster was an impostor. It’s like one of those frilled lizards that puffs up its collar to appear bigger than he really is.

Disaster wasn’t the end, it was only the beginning.

And I survived.

Eleven years later, I’m still writing, better than ever, I might say (by the Grace of God).

As for Triumph, yup, I’ve met him too.

Awards, starred reviews, being featured at international conferences, but he’s just as much an impostor.

Do those things make me write better?


Because I still get doubts. I still have to reach in and find new neural pathways and sequences of synapse firings that lead to creativity (see yesterday’s post:  I saw Real Bravery Tonight).

I still need to challenge myself, reach in and think deeper so that I can plumb the depths of my soul and issues of society that confound me, just as surely as Sir Isaac Newton plumbed the depths of the world around him and discovered scientific formulations.

And such introspection cannot occur with thoughts of an audience in the background.

You have to check your ego at the door.