• Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.–Harriet Tubman
I’m finishing out the month of March and my “Dreams” theme with a writer who continually inspires me to dream. She makes it look easy, but I know it’s not. It’s hard work and she’s never been afraid of that. Every time I’ve been privileged to hear her speak, I know dreams can come true. They may not be the big, overblown dreams that garner the media’s attention, but I never wanted to be a meteor. I want to be the twinkling star that lasts. Kind of like Ann Gabhart.
1. Would you consider yourself a dreamer?
Ann: There are so many ways to be a dreamer. You can be a dreamy dreamer and maybe walk around in a fog all the time. You can be a focused dreamer and fix your eyes on a goal in that dream and reach for the stars. Or you can be a Walter Mitty type dreamer and just have fun imagining adventures.
Probably, over the years, I’ve been all those types of dreamers. I certainly dreamed of being a writer when I was a kid and imagined my stories finding their way into readers’ hands. Then, as I got older, I tried to figure out ways to make those dreams come true. My dreams became my goals. I didn’t just say someday I want to be a writer. I wanted to be a published writer right then. It took a few years of working toward that dream, but I did see it come to reality. I’m still dreaming now. I think it’s important to keep dreaming. And of course, I think I’ve always been the Walter Mitty type and enjoyed living in my dreams and turning them into stories.
2. Daydreams or night dreams? How else do you come up with ideas?
Ann: I do dream at night and did a pile of daydreaming when I was a kid. I don’t daydream as much now unless you count writing fiction as a working daydream. I often dream elaborate adventures when I’m sleeping, but even though I can remember that the dreams were very involved, the actual happenings in the dreams vanish once I open my eyes and get out of bed. A few times, when something has jerked me out of sleep in the middle of a vivid dream, I’ve wanted to hit a pause button so I can rejoin the dream when I go back to sleep. That never happens. I just plunge into a whole new dream.
That question about coming up with ideas can be answered in dozens of ways because ideas come from so many sources. Everything a writer experiences, remembers, reads about, or imagines can inspire an idea. Even other people’s memories can be the idea instigator as my mother’s stories of growing up during the Depression years were the idea beginnings for my book, Angel Sister. That story led to my other Rosey Corner books, Small Town Girl and Love Comes Home (releasing in July). On the other hand, my own memories of growing up in a small rural town were the inspiration for my 1960’s setting in my Heart of Hollyhill books, Scent of Lilacs, Orchard of Hope and Summer of Joy. Then my Shaker books were inspired by the Shaker village near my house and the many historical accounts I’ve read of their Society.
Research can light a creative fire and make ideas spring up in my mind. That’s how Words Spoken True came about. When I read about the dramatic events in 1855 Louisville, I wanted to drop my characters down into that era and see what happened next. And then, of course, sometimes I just dream up an idea with no idea of where in the world it came from. Wes and his Jupiter stories in the Heart of Hollyhill series were like that. He just showed up in Scent of Lilacs. A gift, but who knows from where? Jupiter perhaps?
3. What steps do you take to bring your dreams to life?
Ann: If you mean my dream to write and be published, then the steps I took were writing and more writing and never giving up even when I was walking through rejection valley. I just kept writing. I kept trying to tell a better story. I kept bringing characters to life in my imagination. I kept researching for story ideas. And I kept reading to grow my familiarity with words and stories.
The first book I wrote was a gothic romance. That got me the interest of an agent, but she said gothics were a waning genre and why didn’t I write a historical romance? And so I did. I took the step of being willing to try something different. I’ve done that throughout my writing career. I’ve written in several different genres for both adults and kids. When one thing wasn’t working for me, I tried something new.
Now I try to be continually working on a new idea, a new story. And I’m still dreaming about writing a story everybody wants to read and that lands on the New York Times Bestseller list. Wouldn’t that be something? A person needs to dream big and to look forward with new goals.
I love this quote from Michelangelo. “The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”
I want to aim high and not limit my dreams.
4. Filling in the middle: How do you keep yourself moving forward?
Ann: I’ve always been a goal setter with my writing. In the beginning, it was just to write something every day. When I was a young mother with very little free time, I found that keeping a writing journal helped me stay focused and accountable. Too many days with no entry of time spent writing would make me try harder to find those extra hours needed to move toward my goal of completing a story or whatever project I was writing. Then later, after I began to concentrate on writing novels, I set goals of when I wanted to have the book completed. I made my own deadlines as a way to motivate myself to write and move forward with my stories. That doesn’t mean I’ve always met my goals. Often, I did not. Life happens and there is always something going on to pull you away from your desk when you have a family. But at the same time, I didn’t give up even when time to write was hard to come by. I just set new personal deadlines for my writing goals. Now I have contracts for my books with publisher imposed deadlines that keep my fingers on the keyboard.
While goals and deadlines can help you stay on track, they don’t make the writing any easier. With most every story, I hit what I call the writing doldrums somewhere along the way when I wonder if the story is worth writing. I’ve found I just have to keep plugging along with my writing. Generally, the creative winds will pick back up and I can keep the story going.
Writing can be hard work. That’s something that many people don’t understand. They think writers are doing what they love–and we are–but that doesn’t mean that it’s not work. Getting the story down in the first draft is the hardest part for me. It can be exciting to have a great idea and think about writing a book, but it takes perseverance to see the story through the middle and end.
5. Do you have any advice for other dreamers?
Ann: Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. (Harriet Tubman)
When you think about what Harriet Tubman did, guiding so many slaves to freedom with danger stalking her every step, then you can get a vision of her dream. Our dreams won’t be like hers. My dream won’t be like yours. But we all have God given talents the Lord wants us to use. He gave us the capacity to dream. He wants us to dream big and use those talents to bring sunshine and joy into the world. While He doesn’t promise pursuing our dreams will be easy, He does promise to always be with us through the good and bad times, and sometimes He blesses us with stories.
So dream big, work hard, pray harder, and never give up.
“Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in.”(Louise Brown)
ANN H. GABHART, the author of several bestselling novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who never wanted to do anything but write down stories. She’s published twenty-six novels for adults and young adults with more stories on the way. She keeps her keyboard warm out on her Kentucky farm where she lives with her husband, Darrell. They have three children and nine grandchildren.
Summer of Joy, the third title in the Heart of Hollyhill series is now in stores and available on-line dressed up in a brand new cover. Come visit the 1960s and enjoy some true-to-life family drama, refreshing humor and lovable characters.