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  • Sarah J Maxwell

Flaws and failure on the way to Dream Gold

I heard a commentator on the Olympic swimming say of a top US swimmer, that her philosophy is ‘not to expect too much whenever they get in the pool, which means they’re never disappointed’. This is unusual compared to the (well placed) arrogance of most top athletes. Look no further than Muhammad Ali who had a catalogue of arrogant rejoinders.

"It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”

From the day I started to write my first novel, my dream was to become published. I would finish the book, find an Agent, receive a huge advance from an established publisher and become the next big literary name. Perhaps I should have been like the American swimmer – perhaps I should have taken a step back and said, ‘I’ll strive towards this goal, but it might never happen.’

But my father’s philosophy, ‘you can achieve anything you set your mind to’, was ingrained upon me. Jesse Jackson said it even better:

‘If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.’

Over a twelve-year period, I grew ragged. The dream felt close, but all I had was a folder full of rejections. Why hadn’t I been more philosophical about the chance of success? I was a failure and let everyone down.

I kept going.

On what would have been my Mum’s 80th birthday in 2020, I received an offer from a small UK publisher (no advance) and ‘Billy Lemonade’ was published by Whisper in January 2021.

My little debut was very well received. The reviews, incredible. On UK Amazon 95% of the 65 ratings are 5 stars.

The ‘nearly’ dream (no sign of 'Billy Lemonade' topping the best seller list yet) will pass through my hands if I don’t fight to keep hold. Or do I let it go, knowing what I have achieved is monumental? Do I even have the energy to ‘start from scratch’, accept that others write as good, if not better than me, that my second book may not be as well received, or worse, disliked?

What I’ve learnt along the way is this: as we get closer to achieving the ultimate dream, roadblocks spring up – time, money, self-doubt, mental health. Look at Simone Biles – she’s the story of the 2020 Olympics and not because of the amount of hardware she’s taking home.

Follow your dream and never give up, but only if it makes you happy. Only if you can ignore that others may not care if you achieve your dream, or worse, are willing you to fail. Learn to accept validation when it comes and criticism when it’s well meaning.

The beauty of the dream is the journey itself and if you enjoy the journey, the dream will come.

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