“You’ll never know what you can do if you don’t try, if you don’t step out, believing you can do anything.”
~Melinda Doolittle, in her book Beyond Me
Anyone who watched season six of American Idol knows that Melinda has an amazing voice. Her performances tell a story. They resonate, leaving a melody of inspiration resounding within us. Her talent is undeniable, and what I’ve been lucky enough to experience firsthand over the past several years is that her generous, giving heart is just the same. That’s why I was thrilled when I found out she was writing a book (you do have it, right?) about her experiences and her personal story of triumph and what success truly means. After all, who better to do that than someone who has influenced so many lives and brought about so much good?
Dream Big. It’s been half of my motto (along with the accompanying “work hard”) since my sophomore year of college, back in 2003. So when Melinda was interviewed on Idol and told everyone that it was such an important part of her personal outlook, I felt an immediate connection. Beyond the fact that her singing was special and moving, I could relate to her as a person. I shared her belief that no dream is too big, if you’re only willing to work as hard as possible for it. Melinda writes in her book that “success is being able to do what you love, to love what you do, and to make a living at it.” Talk about striking a chord. I found myself agreeing with so much of what she mentioned, but I’m fairly certain I stopped and read that line at least three times. We all have our own definitions of success. They’re influenced by a myriad of factors and beliefs. But for me? Nothing defines it more than having the opportunity to spend my life doing what I love. How many people are lucky enough to say they can do that? I don’t know, but what I am certain of is this: I won’t stop until I’m included. Is the publication journey a long one? Yes. But everything worth having is worth fighting for.
Writing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those things that I honestly can’t put into words. It inspires me, it invigorates me, it immerses me. When I’m working on my novels, transforming the ideas into words on a page, I can honestly say there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. It’s like the writing grabs hold of me and won’t let go. And you know what? I adore that. So many people spend their lives searching for a career that fulfills them, one they can say they love and honestly mean it. I’m blessed to have found that already. Am I making a living at it yet? No, but I won’t stop until I am. Because one of many things I’ve learned on this journey? Making a living pales in comparison to making a life – for yourself, for your passion, for your goals. Is the journey difficult sometimes? Are the exuberances often followed by disappointments? Yes. But through it all, the constant for me is my true love of writing. It’s never wavered, and that’s why I know I have to keep pursuing this. I have to keep dreaming big and working hard. After all, I’ll never know if I don’t keep trying.
Another thing Melinda mentions in her book is the idea of a faith wall – a place where you post your goals, your inspirations, your hopes. How great an idea is that? So often we keep those very things wrapped inside our minds and our hearts – and to be sure, that’s a wonderful place for them to be – but why not put them on display? Why not take the figurative and make it literal? Why not give ourselves an added source of motivation? I have those scattered around my room right now – a beautiful tile about achieving dreams (thanks, Amanda!), books autographed by some of my favorite authors, pictures with people who mean the world to me, quote plaques, and more – but I love, love, love the thought of consolidating some and making myself a collage of inspiration.
Every so often, we’re lucky enough to have people come into our lives and change them beyond anything we would have expected. Melinda’s been one of those people for me. Her music touches people’s hearts, and her heart touches people’s lives. She doesn’t just make you want to do more, to grasp those goals with conviction, but she encourages you to go out and actually make it happen. And for me? She’s given me so many special experiences, including one from last year that I swear I will never forget, ever. Hearing her say the words “Shari was meant to be a writer … It’s what she does, it’s who she is” is something I can honestly say will stay with me always. To have someone who’s inspired me in so many ways believe in me like that, understand me like that, it’s something I still can’t put into words nearly a year and a half later. All I can offer is that it meant the world and more – and that it continues to motivate me, to remind me to dream big and keep on trying, even when I feel like those dreams are lingering just beyond my reach. Because if I don’t try to grab them, who will? If I don’t believe in them, who will? Sometimes we have to step out and enjoy the journey before we can reach the destination.
What about you? Do you have a motto that inspires you? A person who has come into your life and changed it in ways you never envisioned? And what would you put on your faith wall?