Writing, Motivation, and Achievement:
If You Can Dream It, Maybe You Can Do It . . . Or Maybe You Can Do Something Else That’s Just About as Good
By Sage Webb
When I was a kid, I rock climbed a lot. My dad supported this habit. We’d travel all over, climbing in California, Arizona, New Mexico. . . . For a couple years, I competed a lot, too. (This was in the ’90s, before climbing was a “thing” for kids). In my pink, girly bedroom, I kept mountains of climbing gear, and over my bed, I had a poster that showed a dude suspended on a climbing-rope traverse over roaring rapids. Across a corner of the poster ran a reminder: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” The poster credited the saying to Walt Disney. (Since those days, I’ve seen the motto attributed to various figures.)
Sometimes . . . perhaps often . . . I remember that poster. Because I like to dream and I’m lucky enough to have had people in my life who’ve made me think that, indeed, if I can “dream it,” I can “do it.” But the thing is: I haven’t been able to do everything I’ve dreamed of. Numerous dreams and goals have come into my life and I haven’t achieved them. Even with hard work, training, and dedication, sometimes I’ve just lacked the talent to "pull it off." Take climbing again: I made it to a junior world championship in Germany . . . and came up way short. At the time, it hurt like heck.
Now, as a middle-aged woman, I don’t dream about climbing glory (though I still do climb occasionally). I live on a sailboat in a quiet marina, write legal briefs (and fiction like The Venturi Effect), and dream new and different dreams. And now, of course, I’m old enough to know that dreaming of a goal does not necessarily mean I can do that thing. I know now that trying and failing is okay. I’ve discovered the trick behind the magic—the trick the teenaged girl lowering off the climbing wall in front of a crowd in Leipzig, Germany, didn’t know. It’s actually a pretty easy trick: if I dream something and find I can’t do it, I simply tweak the dream.
I have two dreams right now that I’ve tweaked to fit my current capabilities, and so far, the tweaking has created some pretty great outcomes. The first “tweaked dream” involves not quite sailing off into the sunset. For years, I’ve dreamed about sailing off to find the other side of the horizon. I’ve lived on a few boats, and my husband and I currently live on a 40’ sailboat in a marina off Galveston Bay. But my husband likes his job and has a lot of ambition. He wants to keep doing what he’s doing, and what he’s doing is decidedly land-based (I have a lot more flexibility—I pretty much just need WIFI and I can work). So instead of sailing away to ports unknown, we spend our weekends sailing to local anchorages and enjoy life afloat—right “next door.” And it’s pretty. We get a little salty adventure, my husband gets to pursue his career, and, well, who knows what adventures await us in a few years. . . .
The second tweaked dream involves (you guessed it) writing. Like so many writers, I’d love to write fiction full time, but I’m not there yet, and honestly, statistics show that that is one tough dream to achieve. But I’ve been able to integrate my legal and commercial writing with writing fiction, and I get to spend most of my waking hours putting words on pages. It’s pretty cool and it works well for me. Plus staying tuned in to criminal law gives me lots of fodder for stories. Perfect or ideal? Not quite. Pretty darn good? Absolutely.
So sometimes I do remember that guy on his glossy poster paper, hanging over that raging water, over the white headboard of my canopied childhood bed. I see him in his yellow helmet, and I see that mantra: "If you can dream it, you can do it." I’ve dreamt it and I’ve come up short . . . but I’ve also found what I am able to do, and some pretty cool dreams have come out of those abilities.