When I was eight years old, I confessed my greatest aspiration to my friend Ginger: "By the time I'm twelve, I will have my first book published." We were in my neighbor's back yard, gathered round the kiddy pool, and, after I explained what "published" meant, Ginger was impressed. "Wow," she said.
I also, at this point in my life, wanted to marry John Schneider and believed I could wish into existence a magic cape that would allow me to fly. I thought my life would be complete if I could own a pair of red leather high heel sling-backs and score one--just one--goal in soccer.
Besides the shoes, which I finally managed to adopt from a friend's neighbor's rummage pile when I was in high school, I accomplished none of this. Not even the soccer goal. (Maybe especially not the soccer goal--I have never, by any stretch of the imagination, been athletic. Never.)
And yet, I think there's value to this kind of wild-wish-hoping/goal-setting. I said I would publish the book by the time I was twelve, four years away. Half my life. Seemed like plenty of time.
This was a dream-goal. Which is one kind of goal. Dream-goals are important because they give us courage. Audacity. You have to be just a little bad-ass--and a little stupid--to dream them up.
But dream them you should. Not because they really might happen (though they really, really might), but because there is value in the dreaming. Because, unlike more practical, everyday goals--word counts and such--dream-goals force you to look out into the great wild. Into the great black emptiness--the beyond--where time is measured not in seconds and deadlines and months and years but in the amount of time it takes a single pinprick of light to travel across the cosmos. Centuries of unknowable space.
So, let's leave kiddy pools behind. If just for a little while. For a minute or two of hard, forward-looking. Let's don't think about submission guidelines or query letters or e-books or the doomed future of publishing. Forget your cache of rejection letters, forget for the smallest moment how very impossible it is, at times, to write a single sentence. Realize: you are working with words, a vastly pliable medium. This is better than deep-sea diving, better than John Schneider. Draw your child-sized lawn chair close to your own imaginary Ginger and whisper it to her. Your bad-ass goals. Explain this to her: words--prose--are virtually inexhaustible. Tell her there is no end to what you can do with them. No end to what you will do with them.