When I was young, I told my parents I wanted to be a writer. They immediately told me that was a nice hobby, but I should go into something like banking because it would be more practical. This is something many writers in particular seem to encounter: well meaning people who want to steer them away from their dreams. This point came back to me recently when we did a giveaway for B.J. Gallagher‘s book It’s Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been. So many of you wrote and told me that you had always wanted to write, but found yourself years later still wondering why you never pursued your dream. Writing, in particular, seems to be one of those career choices that gets pushed aside.
For all my fellow writers, I know you’re going to love this interview with B.J. Gallagher. She offers such great advice that I found myself wanting to call her up and ask her a bunch more questions!
The giveaway we did here for your book It’s Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been was very successful. So many people were touched by the title in particular. Why do you think people sometimes push their dreams aside? Is there one dream or goal that is more common than others?
I’ve had the same reaction from people when I’m doing book signings. The title seems to trigger a lot of feelings for many people – perhaps because almost all of us have a dream or a longing tucked away somewhere in our hearts. For many people it’s a dream about their life’s work. When we’re little kids we always have an idea about “what we want to be when we grow up.” But along the way, our dream gets pushed aside for any one of a number of reasons – usually having to do with money and “practicality.” Many folks jettison their dream career because it looks like it would be impossible to support themselves doing it, or because well-meaning parents, teachers, and school counselors steer kids into “practical” career choices. This is especially true of the dream is about being in the arts – a writer, sculptor, filmmaker, actor, poet, photographer, dancer, painter, potter, screenwriter, novelist, or musician. Creative people seem to be among those most likely to defer or abandon a dream for the sake of making a living and/or supporting a family.
Your books seem to share a common theme of encouraging people to get out and do something with their lives. So many of us need that. How did you come to write your first book and what do you hope people take away from your writing?
Yes, my books are inspirational – but they’re also practical. I like to call my philosophy “The Power of Positive DOING.” It’s great to have dreams and ideas, but then you have to DO something with them. You have to take that first step if you ever want your dreams to come true.
My first book was a spiritual book called TELLING YOUR STORY, EXPLORING YOUR FAITH (Chalice Press; 1985) and it was a how-to book about writing your life story to get closer to God, closer to other people, as well as closer to yourself. It’s about using writing as a way to get rid of old baggage, complete any unfinished business, and work through negative feelings such as grief, resentment, or guilt. For many years, I taught classes on Life History Writing and what I saw was that people didn’t have many regrets about the things they had done – they had regrets about the things they HADN’T DONE. The felt remorse over opportunities missed, risks not taken, and experiences they would never have.
I guess maybe that’s why I am so gung-ho about encouraging people to get out and DO things with their lives. It doesn’t matter if you fall flat on your face in the process – what matters is you gave it a shot. I always remind people that you can’t win in the Game of Life if you’re sitting in the bleachers – you have to get out on the field and play!
Please share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?
I’ve completed a new manuscript called THE POWER OF POSITIVE DOING and I’m very excited about it. It’s like the culmination of my writing and my philosophy of life. My agent is currently shopping it to publishers.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
Oh gosh, I couldn’t name just one. There have been a dozen or so books that influenced me deeply: Living in the Light by Shakti Gawain, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller, The Wealthy Spirit by Chellie Campbell, The World According to Garp by John Irving, Codependent No More by Melodie Beattie, Women Who Love Too Much (can’t remember the author), Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, and the Alcoholics Anonymous big book, Women Who Shop Too Much by Carolyn Wesson, among others.
Where can we learn more about you?
I blog weekly on Huffington Post and there is a lot about my thoughts and ideas in those posts. You can also tell a lot about me from my web sites: www.bjgallagher.com and www.womenneed2know.com and www.yeslivesinthelandofno.com and www.peacockproductions.com.