I just found this on Pinterest (because where else would I be on a Saturday afternoon when I told myself I’d get some writing and editing finished), and I felt the urge to pick it apart a bit (because again, I’m supposed to be working).

Thoreau quote: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you've imagined

‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you’ve imagined’ – Henry David Thoreau.

Which dreams are we really honing in on, here? I’m guessing not the ones you have when asleep – mine are alternately mundane rehashes of the day before and flights of fancy involving being in the X-Men, or having all my teeth fall out in one go. We must mean ambitions then, or aspirations – daydreams of the people we will one day be and the great works we have yet to do.

Now, as regular readers will know, my main dream is to make a living out of being a writer. I have perhaps not always pursued this with total confidence, for a few reasons:

  1. I’ve researched it at length, which means I know how difficult it is
  2. I’ve read some of the crap I’ve written
  3. I’ve read some of the crap that does get published and compared it to what I’ve written, and concluded several times over that in the grand scheme of things I am neither good enough nor bad enough to succeed

Still, even with this knowledge behind me I continue to write and tell stories.  I now even have a day job that allows me to do so, and I’ve found the time to submit a whopping three short stories this month (one rejection so far, fingers crossed for the other two).  My confidence in the words I write still ebbs and flows like a crappy simile, but I like to think I’m heading in the general direction of my dream with a quiet sense of purpose. Not quite as arresting as the above quotation, I’ll grant you – but more accurate.

Having said that, according to a Thoreau website I found, the quote is paraphrased anyway. What he actually said was ‘I learned this, at least, from experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours… In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.’

So actually, the real quote is a bit more measured as well.  I’m more like Thoreau than originally indicated by a printmaker whose name I don’t know – result! Although to be fair to said printmaker, the real quote isn’t ideal poster material.

Still, words encouraging you to try your best, to endeavour to live the life you have imagined, are arguably more helpful than ones screaming in your face JUST DO IT ALREADY.  Endeavour allows for mistakes, and for occasional lapses in confidence in your work (an accepted occupational hazard for all creative people, but surely something everyone in the world has trouble with from time to time).  It acknowledges that you are trying your hardest, but also that this ultimate goal you’re striving for will take time to achieve – and that the more you work at it, the better your results will be.

I like the idea that if you try your hardest and stick at it, things will gradually get easier, and the unspoken caveat that doing so takes time and sometimes you might fall off the wagon is a nice extra level of reassurance.

What a shame that subtext doesn’t lend itself to inspirational posters.