Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dream big 2010 - written by Jo Knowles

When people tell me to “dream big” I admit to cringing. I can’t help it. I am a wimp. Oh, I’m not talking about being afraid to have big dreams for healing our planet or world peace. I don’t fear those dreams. But when someone tells us specifically to dream big, we know they’re really saying, “Don’t be afraid to succeed.” Not only that, “Don’t be afraid to succeed in a big way.”

Last year on New Years Day I was hanging out with three author friends when one of them instructed us to write down our dreams for the coming year. “No dream is too big!” she said. All three were New York Times best-selling authors. They’ve sold movie rights to their books. They’re my heroes in very different but significant ways, and not because of their books’ success. Sitting there, feeling kind of small, I realized I’d never dared to even entertain dreaming about achieving the things they already had. I’d never really even imagined the possibilities.

Timidly, I wrote down my first dream. It was to finish a project I’d been working on for two years. I knew it wasn’t really a dream. It was a goal. I peeked over at my friend’s list. She was dreaming big, oh yes. But her reality was already bigger than any dream I would dare to have. She elbowed me. “Dreams, not goals. Don’t be afraid.”

I nodded and stole one of her dreams. “Get a starred review.” She smiled. I kept going. Sell foreign rights! Earn out my advance! The more I wrote, the more I could actually imagine these things happening. Maybe.

And then the twinge again. It still felt wrong, somehow, to want more. Hadn’t my dream of selling a book come true? Wasn’t that enough? Who was I to want more? But they are just dreams, I told myself. It’s not a crime to dream. So I finished my list and put it away. I just now found it. I wrote eleven dreams. Astonishingly, I reached dreams 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 11.

I admit, to the average published author, perhaps these dreams were not so big after all. But to me, they were mountainous. Sitting here now, I am stunned that they came true. If I hadn’t dared to dream them, would they have? And if they hadn’t, would I have reached as many teen readers? Would I have been able to attend conferences and events where I connected with amazing teachers, writers and students who inspired me in profound ways?

I guess what I’ve learned is that it’s not wrong to dream big. It’s fun! And it can lead to good things not just for your ego, but for your soul. Maybe if we all dreamed a bit bigger, even the seemingly unattainable dreams like healing our planet and world peace, could come true, too. I dare you to try it. :-)


Jo Knowles is the author of Lessons From A Dead Girl, Jumping Off Swings, and Pearl (coming soon from Henry Holt). You can visit her on her blog (http://jbknowles.livejournal.com) or Web site (www.joknowles.com).


  1. Awww! I love this post! Thanks Lisa and Jo!

  2. This was a great read to start my day. I feel inspired and I am now off to write my list of dreams, Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the inspiration Lisa and Jo!

    Keep dreaming big Jo! I hope you get the rest of the dreams on your list and start a new list too!

    I'm taking a big chance on a dream job right now (spec work). This post makes me think/hope it's possible I'll actually get it!

  4. This inspiring post reminded me of a verse in the Bible's Book of Proverbs: "Where there is no vision, the people perish." I'd love to see your whole list, Jo, so we can celebrate each dream come true.

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone! You guys are making me feel very warm and happy this morning. :-)

  6. I have a big smile on my face reading this post. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  7. Inspiring 'cos I'm one of the aspiring :)

  8. I completely understand the fear of dreaming.

    So many things seem to conspire to thwart them that it can feel much safer to not name them at all. But if we keep them hidden in those secret places in our heart, we'll never know if they could have been more.

    Thank you for the challenge and the inspiration...Dreaming Out Loud

  9. Love this post! Thanks for the reminders and the permission and the nudge :)

  10. Hi :)
    Thank you for the heartfelt post!

  11. Jo,
    I loved your post. You've inspired me to dream big . . . um, bigger. Perhaps, I'll borrow some of your dreams. Starred review. Foreign rights. Earning out advances. All sound wonderful!
    Thanks for the inspiration,

  12. This is beautiful and so very true. I'm so glad you let yourself dream and that you reminded the rest of us to do the same.

  13. I'm going to write down some dreams right now :)

  14. Great post! Such a good reminder that dreams are different from goals, but just as important!

  15. Thanks Jo! My editor asked us to write down our goals at a writer's retreat. And she occasionally reminds us of what they were. But this is different. And scarier, too. Because goals feel like things we could possibly accomplish on our own with hard work and a little luck. But dreams? As you've noted - well, they could be anything! Maybe it's time for me to put some of my "writing fantasies" as I call them, on paper.

    Congrats on your success!