Hanging onto Your Dreams

10 12 2012

autumn leaves
What have you always dreamed of doing that you’ve set aside? That dream was planted in your heart for a reason. And you’re the only one who can make it come true. Don’t let anything sidetrack you from reaching it. Honor that dream.

I just finished an assignment: writing 60 articles about children’s authors. Reading their stories reminds me that following your heart isn’t always easy, but it’s always worthwhile. To inspire you to overcome obstacles, I thought I’d share the story of Wilson Rawls. Many of you have probably read (and cried over) his novel, Where the Red Fern Grows.

red fern
Like the hero of his story, Rawls grew up dirt poor in the Ozark Mountains. With no schools nearby, Rawls learned to read and write from his mother reading books aloud. When he heard Jack London’s Call of the Wild, Rawls decided he wanted to be a writer.

His family could not afford pencils or paper. Later when a school opened, he and his sisters attended for two or three months in the summer. For a short while after his family moved to another town, Rawls attended school, but never even graduated from eighth grade.

As a teenager, he went to work as a carpenter or laborer. To get work, he traveled the rails and lived as a hobo. But along the way, he wrote stories on whatever scraps of paper he could get. No publishers wanted manuscripts with such poor spelling and grammar. So Rawls hid them in a chest at his parents’ house.


Embarrassed by his failures, Rawls burned his all work, including five novels before he married his wife, Sophie. Later, after he confessed to her about his desire to be an author, Sophie encouraged him to rewrite one of his books. He rewrote Where the Red Fern Grows because it included many boyhood memories. Sophie helped him fix the grammar and punctuation. And the rest is history…

Well, not exactly. Yes, the story was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post and later picked up by Doubleday. But Doubleday marketed it as an adult book, so sales were poor. If it weren’t for some teachers and students who read it and raved about it, the novel might have fallen into obscurity.

summer of monkeys
Rawls finished only one more novel in his lifetime, Summer of the Monkeys. Who knows what treasures from that old chest went up in smoke. It’s sad to think about what was lost.

So what treasures have you hidden? What talents have you left unpolished? What have you produced that you’re ashamed to show the world? The world may be poorer without your special contributions.
And what excuses are you hiding behind? Do you want to write, but can’t afford pencils and paper? Hmm…thought not. Do you have to travel the country hunting for any job you can find to make ends meet? Perhaps so, in this economy. But Rawls still found a way to write. And so can you.

Even if your dream isn’t writing, ask yourself what roadblocks stand in your way. Not everyone can take a giant leap, but anyone can take a tiny step in the direction of those dreams.

And never burn those manuscript pages. You never know what gems might be hiding there.