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Do the Work, and Follow Your Dreams

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Lori Devoti, the wise woman woman who’s behind this whole HowToWriteShop brilliance, once said something to me I’ve never forgotten.

Lori is well-known for her straight-talk, and her no-holds-barred honesty in telling you how she thinks things are.

Whenever she talks about goals or plotting (real-life or storytelling), she is very quick to say, “You have to know what you want.  You have to decide what makes sense for you.”

One day in a meeting – and I’m not even sure I remember what the actual meeting was about, but I think it might have been setting goals for getting published – I said that I really wanted to get published so I’d have the credibility to teach about writing.

Lori said to me (and, really, the rest of the group, too), “You don’t need that.  You’re good enough to teach without getting published.  These days, anybody can figure out a way to teach, if they know what they’re talking about, can organize their points in an organized way, and can talk to a room coherently.  You can do that.  You’re a good enough writer, you can do whatever you want to.”

It was kind of a defining moment for me, and a reminder that sometimes, I’m really the one who gets in my own way when I think I want to do something and then convince myself that I’m not good enough, or experienced enough, or I don’t have the right connections.

Sometime around then, I started asking myself what I wanted to do.  I’d done a guest article for my local paper, a kind of warm fuzzy feature, and I really loved my voice in the piece.  I loved books – especially romances and women’s fiction.

Something happened where I had reason to write to a major review site regarding a post they’d made about an author I liked.  I was respectful, but I took issue with their tone, their choice of words.  They responded.  They asked for writing samples.  They took me on as a reviewer.

I do have some connections in the romance world, and I leveraged them – but not as much as you’d think.  What I mostly did was approach some authors I admired — great writers, people with nice public personas who were good ambassadors for the romance genre -  and told them I wanted to be an advocate for romance, too.  I contacted my favorite living author and begged her (respectfully) to let me interview her about her upcoming book.

oh. my. goodness.

She said yes.

Discussions about books, writing and romance turned into online friendly acquaintances with some powerhouse authors.  A NYT bestselling author sent me an email telling me she thought I’d be an excellent writer for the NPR book blog on romance, and (I swear these were basically her words) “would you mind if I sent an email introducing you to the editor?”

My first NPR essay came out in December.  You can read it here. Don’t Hide Your Harlequins: In Defense Of Romance.

My second one came out yesterday. A Bouquet Of Romantic Reads For Valentine’s Day.

Two years ago, I was considering a publishing career and a freelance career. Lori’s words were a push in the right direction, and a reminder to have faith in myself.  Then, I trusted in what I knew and what I loved to guide me.  I created some major miracles.  I consider these stepping stones to even better things, but the best part is that I am so enjoying the journey!

I’ve given some of this advice before, but in my story you can see where it’s paid off.

Be bold, but respectful.

Take risks, but only if you’re certain you can follow through.

Write well.  Always.

Find or create work you’re passionate about.  I believe it makes a difference.

Follow your dreams – but always get the job done

Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wis. She loves good writing and the company of friends. She reviews for Kirkus Media, is an advocate for romance and writes occasional pieces for NPR. She also discusses books on her blog ReadWriteLove.net.
  1. Bobby, what a wonderful article and very inspiring.

  2. Bobby, Great post. I love the title Do the Work, and Follow Your Dreams. Too many people forget the first part: do the work. If you want to make your dreams a reality, you need to do what it takes to make it happen.

    Thanks for writing this motivational article.

  3. Thanks so much for your comments, Jennifer and Jane. I was out of town when this was posted, and feel like I’m still catching up.

    I’ve been blessed lately, to be sure, but I have put a lot of work in, too – both past and present. It makes a difference.

    Again, thank you!

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