We have all been working our butts off trying to sell books or whatever product or service our creative careers offer this year—perhaps hitting a few roadblocks along the way. I wanted to take this opportunity to stress that you're doing better than you think you are, despite it sometimes feeling you're at a standstill or worse, moving backwards.
This week I had a strange, embarrassing, terrifying and yet somehow eye-opening dream, which preceded a rare epiphany. They say dreams are the mind's way of solving problems as we sleep and making sense of the world around us. I'm not usually into dream interpretation, but I do agree my dreams are my brain's way of torturing me sometimes, of cruelly having fun at my expense (because they're usually weird and difficult to analyse).
This one, however... not so much.
I HAD A DREAM
Rather horrifyingly, I had a dream and was back in secondary school, taking part in a dance or show of some kind with the 'popular' girls who rarely spoke to me. I have no idea why; perhaps I was filling in for someone, but either way I did NOT know the routine and certainly stuck out like a sore thumb against the shiny blonde hair, slender figures and blazing talent.
I was a mess, randomly throwing my body around in an awkward attempt to pull off some dance moves. I even remember attempting ballet and somehow managing to do ice-skating pirouettes at the same time—oh, I definitely went there.
People in the audience (my fellow classmates and friends included) were laughing and pointing and I knew our group wouldn't win—the other girls on stage were avoiding me at all costs. I felt much like an island.
Then, to my surprise, it was time to announce the winner of the competition. Our group were highlighted as the best... because of me!? One of the judges walked right up to me and announced that due to my efforts, I was the reason my group had succeeded. I was thrilled, and the girls beside me wanted to shake my hand and be my friend. What a strange turn of events.
When I woke that morning, I turned to the next blank spread in my Moleskine Classic journal and wrote about the dream, piecing together what it could mean and hoping to make some sense of the experience. I came to the conclusion that perhaps I'd been feeling like I presume most small businesses or creative entrepreneurs have been feeling recently... like my efforts were all for nothing and the effects of Covid-19 on our normality had thrown a spanner in the works.
Were my sales as good as they should be?
Had I been consistent?
Did I know what I wanted and how to achieve it?
Was I on stage trying to perform the best dance routine without much practice and falling short of everyone's expectations, including my own? The thing is, it was then I realised some really important things. Above all... I was doing better than I thought I was.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM DREAMS
Any progress is better than none, especially without a road map or instructions, and rather than judging myself on the person I want to be, I should be judging myself on the person I used to be.
When I did this, I saw tons of improvement—I saw how far my success in this creative career had blossomed since I started as an author in 2010, and since I started Curious Cat Books in 2018-2019. I'd made some tremendous progress, and comparing myself to authors with more time and experience in the bank was not only pointless, but poisonous.
Our inner critic is harsh, and we're always tougher on ourselves than we need to be because we have no outside perspective. We live and breathe our creativity, and rather than letting it be exactly that—creative—we measure success in income and popularity. Sometimes, we're doing a far better job than we originally thought and all it takes is for us to step back, breathe deeply and write the words 'you're doing fine' in a notebook to get out of the fast lane.
YOU'RE DOING BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE.
When it comes to creativity, there is no reason to be there—slow down and enjoy what's happening right now; we cannot possibly know where we're going to end up, but we do know the precise details of where we've been and the mistakes we've learnt from.
A PEP TALK
So when you're feeling down and stuck, remember my dream. Picture yourself on a stage feeling like the outsider, thinking you're doing a terrible job and letting everyone down.
Then, picture the judge awarding your group with the medal because of your actions and your effort. You deserve that award because you work hard every day and you try your absolute best—you're not letting anyone down. You are so sure of your craft that you're even dreaming about being the person you want to be (though, until the end I think mine was more of a nightmare!).
It's not always easy. It's not supposed to be. But if that's not dedication, then I don't know what is.
YOU'RE DOING FINE.
YOU'VE GOT THIS.
Keep a dream journal for the next 7 days. What is your mind trying to tell you? Can you interpret your dreams on the page, and do you see any common traits?
Your journal is private and should be a safe, personal space for you to express how you feel. If you're concerned about other people reading what you write, consider buying a lockable journal or storing it somewhere only you have access to.
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