When Did We Become Too Scared to Dream?

Where did that fear come from — that worry that the bigger the dream, the more impossible?

I don’t spend much time talking about my aspirations.

You might see me post a lot about my goals on social media — mostly because I can’t stand disappointing people, and telling the void I’m going to write a novel makes it much more likely that I will actually finish writing that novel. Hey, whatever works, right?

But honestly? I would much rather spend all the time I could be talking about writing … you know. Actually writing.

So because I don’t dwell much on what I want to do with my life (there are many things … I guess I’m one of “those” people), when people do ask me about my dream career, I hesitate.

And then I start to doubt myself.

And then I find myself wondering: Is this actually what I want to do? Or am I just saying what other people want to hear?

I’m not ashamed of the fact that I have big dreams. If asked, I’ll usually talk freely about them. But sometimes I question my own desires, as if simply dreaming up some giant possibility for my unpredictable future is enough to convince me it could never happen.

Where did that fear come from — that worry that the bigger the dream, the more impossible?

It’s a cliché at this point, really. Person A timidly mentions they want to be a bestselling novelist. They’re not really shy about it, they just don’t want Person B to think they’re bragging. Person B nods enthusiastically, maybe says something encouraging or asks a semi-engaging question. It’s not that they don’t think Person A can actually become a bestselling novelist. It’s just that … well. Doesn’t everyone want to do that?

And so Person A tries not to talk too much about their dream, knowing Person B doesn’t think their ambition is unique or plausible. Person B tries not to be TOO encouraging in case it makes it obvious they’re trying very hard to encourage a questionable dream.

I’ve been both Person A and Person B more times than I can count. And every single time I walk away from one of those conversations, I wonder why that same exchange happens the exact same way over and over again.

How did we get here?

How did we get to a point where dreaming big seems foolish, talking about it sounds conceited, and acknowledging it feels ingenuine?

Maybe we’re just afraid to seem too confident. My fellow females probably understand this struggle all too well. Walk into a room full of men with your head held high and most of them probably aren’t going to like that.

But it’s not just confidence, or a lack thereof. Even as grown adults we’re afraid of standing out in the wrong kinds of ways sometimes. The Full-Time Writer has almost become a joke in some circles, where it’s normal to poke fun at creators who — gasp! — want to actually make money doing something they’re good at and enjoy.

Also? We know that with any creative endeavor comes the possibility that we might fail. And no one likes to fail. No one likes to look at all the work they put into something and feel like it was all for nothing.

But fear isn’t something to shy away from. It’s something to embrace.

It’s when we face our fears head-on that we learn how to succeed alongside them.

These days, when people ask me about my writing ambitions, I try to speak more confidently about my plans while also being the one to acknowledge their magnitude.

I might say something like: “I’d love to publish a novel someday. It might never happen, but I love telling stories, and I love having a goal like that to reach for.”

Well, maybe not exactly like that. Writing dialogue is my absolute greatest weakness. :)

Back to my point, though. Don’t feel like you have to keep quiet about your dreams. If you’re not comfortable talking about them (or are a doer not a dreamer like myself and just prefer not to), that’s OK. But don’t hold back because of what someone else might think.

Don’t be afraid of what might not happen; be excited about what could. Sure, there are a lot of writers out here who dream of becoming bestselling authors. That doesn’t make that dream any less valid. It just means you have to go all in, dive in headfirst, create even when you’re scared, and keep going even when it stops feeling easy.

Believe you can do it, even when no one else does.

Dream big, even if everyone else thinks it’s too big.

It’s your dream. You’re allowed to make it as big as you want.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.


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One thought on “When Did We Become Too Scared to Dream?

  1. “Don’t be afraid of what might not happen; be excited about what could.”

    After a year of quitting my job to write novels (I know), I really needed to hear that. I loved this piece, and thanks for sharing, Meg!

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