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  • Writer's picturejamesbriankerr

To Dream the Impossible Dream—and Go After It

“This is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far.” – Man of La Mancha

The subconscious mind is a strange thing. Mine is, at least.

If I want to know what my subconscious mind is trying to tell me, I listen to the songs I’m humming as I go about my day. These days, I’ve been going about singing the lyrics of “To Dream the Impossible Dream” from the musical Man of La Mancha.

To dream the impossible dream

To fight the unbeatable foe …

You know the story of Man of La Mancha. It’s a play-within-a-play about an idealistic knight by the name of Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho who go off on a mad quest to bring back the days of chivalry, battle evil, and right all the wrongs of the world.

I memorized the words of the lead song forty-some years ago when our high school put on the play. Apparently I’ve never forgotten them because ever since I made the decision to leave my corporate job to pursue my lifelong dream of being an author, suddenly I’m singing the song morning, noon and night.

To bear with unbearable sorrow

And to run where the brave dare not go.

Rather dramatic, I’d say to my subconscious. It’s not like I’m traveling into some far-off land to slay dragons. I’m going on my own so I can focus on the creative side of me that has gone untapped while I’ve been running the corporate treadmill.

But I guess my subconscious mind sees this as a big deal. And I suppose it is, really.

I mean, I’ve harbored this mad dream since I was a kid. From the time I was a teenager, I felt a calling to publish books and stories that move and inspire people, just as well-told stories have always moved me.

I’ve played around with the dream over the years, writing and submitting stories in my spare time while working a demanding full-time job, and I’ve had a few successes along the way amidst all the rejection letters.

Now I’m going after it full time. All my eggs are in one basket, so to speak. And I’m going to find out if I truly have what it takes.

That’s kind of scary.

It’s scarier even than the fact that I no longer have a steady paycheck and must find a way to pay for my own medical coverage and all the other benefits you get from a corporate job.

I mean, the odds for success are aligned against me. Everyone knows how cutthroat the publishing industry is these days. The bookshelves (physical and virtual) are dominated by famous celebrities and newly minted graduates of MFA programs. I’m neither of those.

But isn’t that true for any dream, really—particularly those involving creative interests? Whether writing a novel or launching a new business, the odds are always stacked against the dream and the dreamer.

But what’s the alternative? To get to the end of your life and admit that you’ve never given your dream a fair shot? That’s even scarier to me than the idea of failing.

And I know if I’ll only be true

To this glorious quest

That my heart will lie peaceful and calm

When I’m laid to my rest ...

No, I have to give it a shot. And that’s going to require a lot of hard work.

That’s the thing about dreams. If you want to make that dream real, you have to do something about it. Intention must be accompanied by action.

The problem comes in between intention and action. That’s where all the other stuff tends to creep in: distractions, diversions, interruptions, to-do lists. The potential field of distractions is endless, and they’ve only become more pervasive in our modern, media-saturated age where our human attentions are constantly being vied for by ubiquitous screens and noisy newsfeeds.

So I’m being disciplined about this new, creative phase of my career. I’m treating it as a job. I get up at the same early hour to do my workout at the gym, and by eight o’clock in the morning, I’m working on my stories.

And here’s the good news—I’m making great progress.

I just finished reviewing the final galleys for my debut book The Long Walk Home, about a life-changing twenty-mile walk home I made a number of years ago after getting the devastating news that I was losing my job at a technology company where I’d worked for nearly twenty-eight years. The book will be coming out early next year from independent publisher Blydyn Square Books.

Meanwhile, the writing’s flowing like an unplugged spring. I’m three hundred pages into the first draft of my novel Unto the Mountain, which follows five generations of a Scottish immigrant lumbering family in northern Pennsylvania as they unearth a long-buried secret that changes the way they think about themselves, the family business, and the mountain they live on.

Will this novel find a publisher?

Who knows?

Will it make me any money?


But I’m doing it anyway, and loving it. I wake up in the morning charged up and ready to go.

I’m going on faith. Tilting at windmills. Spinning pinwheels. Chasing the impossible dream.

It’s raw, it’s unnerving, it’s scary as hell. And it’s wonderful. What good is having a dream if it’s easy?

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