Is this just a pipe dream?

According to the dictionary, a pipe dream is an unattainable or fanciful hope or scheme; a fantastic but vain aspiration. It’s not a phrase I come across often, but when aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone) used it in reference to her acting career in the movie La La Land, I froze. I paused the movie and stared out the window of the plane, thinking about those two words for a while. They brought to the surface a niggling feeling I’d had over the past fortnight. Did this phrase describe my fledgling writing career? Is this just a pipe dream?

At 45 years of age, I am realistic about career options left open to me. I will never become an airline pilot, investment banker or a high school principal. Okay, I was never going to become one of those things anyway, but that’s not my point. What I am is an unqualified, middle-aged woman with no recent work experience. And when I say ‘recent’, even I hate admitting to myself actual dates involved. Decisions made a long time ago (joint ones – I left my career as a 27 year old newlywed so that my husband could follow his) have influenced where I’m at today. I found employment that was fulfilling during our initial expat stint, but when it was time to relocate again, another joint decision was made. We decided to have children, and that I would raise them full time.

I was very fortunate to have had the freedom to make that decision. But being honest with myself, it came at a cost. In mid-life I found myself unable to compete with peers for a child-friendly, intellectually stimulating job. I had experience working on various volunteer projects, but that’s not the same as ‘gainful employment’. I realised writing was something I was good at. Studying the craft can take all manner of forms – a university degree was not a pre-requisite, and the working hours would be perfect. All I had to do was write a few books and get them published – and therein lies the pipe dream.

The niggles I had on the plane came from not being able to find enough time to write while I was away for the two weeks. I had downloaded Scrivener on my phone before we left Perth, so I had no excuse. The documents were accessible at the swipe of a screen – even without wifi access. I used it to start a new WIP for a few days, guilted by all the advice that a writer writes – no matter what. If you want to be published, then you take any opportunity you can to work on your manuscript. Ten minutes here, 15 minutes there. But my best intentions didn’t last long. I sat on the balcony with my husband, sharing beers and watching the crowds mill around the monument below. I gazed at the landscape almost the entire time of a three hour train trip through Tuscany. I enjoyed walking with my family through the empty streets of Venice late at night. My husband works extremely hard to provide these opportunities for us. I wasn’t about to excuse myself from his company so that I could get another 500 words down. Nor did I want to. Does that mean I’m not serious enough about a career in writing?

To tell the truth, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks anymore. I haven’t been writing creatively for very long, but I’ve already tasted success. Little, seemingly inconsequential amounts of success, but big milestones for me. I may not have a published novel – and maybe I never will – but I am writing. It could take me anywhere. Down paths that may not lead to a publishing deal, but to something else entirely. It’s not a pipe dream. I am living the writing life – this blog post is small evidence of that.


The view from Piazzale Michelangelo hasn’t changed in the twenty years since hubby & I last visited together, but it was even more special to share it with our children this time around.




25 thoughts on “Is this just a pipe dream?

  1. At a time when I, too, have been struggling to find or make the time (and the right head space) to pursue my novel-writing dream, this post proved particularly relevant, interesting and even inspiring. You see, I’m confident that we both will get there with our writing dreams. After all, surely dreaming is an important part of the creative process…? Best of luck, Marie. Every piece of writing you do, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to you, is part of something bigger, and a step closer to achieving your dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a beautiful thing to say! Thank you Maureen. Receiving warm support helps so much in getting past these blips and leaves me even more determined to follow the dream.
      Best wishes for your novel-writing and blog posts too. I hope you find some time (and clear head-space) again soon.


  2. What a lovely, honest post Marie. It’s not a pipe dream. You are writing. You are a writer. And being a writer doesn’t only mean sitting down and writing. It is about seeing and listening to the world, garnering information and ideas for stories and characters. Seeds that you may not even be aware have been planted, but will come to you. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Keep writing. I’m sure one day you will taste big success – whatever that may be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Jodi. It’s nice to be affirmed, and also to be reminded that downtime is also valuable. I think travelling with more of a ‘writer’s brain’ this time around certainly put a different perspective on things, so you’re right – you never what may appear in a story from it!


  3. I’ve written similar posts to this, lots of them over the past 4+ years. I couldn’t count the times I’ve wondered what the hell I was doing—a middle-aged woman chasing a ‘pipedream’. Now, my pipedream is a reality, though. Stick with it! x

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Louise. I am so pleased that your ‘pipe dream’ is now a reality – it is an inspiration for others finding the writing dream later in life. I think that was one of the things that really struck me when I first ‘met’ you over social media. Your journey made me think that maybe this could be possible after all, and that there was no harm in giving it a try.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A very honest post and thank you for sharing it with us. As you wrote above, you are a writer and you are living the dream. Yeah a published novel may be the end goal, but lots of great things are happening along the way. Best of luck with everything x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Samantha. It was only until writing the post that I realised the publishing goal wasn’t the be-all and end-all. There is so much scope for a writing career if I remember to ‘think outside the box’. Best of luck with your submissions this year too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Goodness, if I was in Italy, writing on my phone would be the very last thing I’d want to do. I think your holiday was perfect time to be with family… now you’re back and away you go! World, look out! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Lucky you – sounds like a wonderful holiday! Holidays are well-deserved treats, especially for mums. Don’t beat yourself up for having a break. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – something I often remind myself when I seem to be making little progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Elizabeth. Very good advice! I never looked at it from that angle – sometimes feeling guilt over being a full time mum means I don’t allow myself credit for a break. Thanks for that 😊


    • Thanks Kirsty. I’m still getting used to calling myself a writer – it’s hard to take ownership of something you feel like you ‘just made up’! The only way to cement the ‘writing badge’ is to keep on writing I guess!


  7. Hi Marie. Whenever I feel this way I remember I read somewhere that the main reason that writers don’t succeed is that they quit trying. So I keep going!
    If you’ve had successes already despite being an early career writer, then you must have real talent. Many wonderful writers go years before having any success. (I’m always bolstered by reading these stories. One well-known Canadian short story writer – whose name escapes me right now – said in an interview I read that he’d sent off 78 short stories before he had his first one accepted. He’s now had books of short stories published).
    Anyway I can really relate to your doubts and fears but I just try to ignore mine and scribble away anyway. We can do this!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Marie, I hear you loud and clear, I too have those niggles of “am I a writer?” Even when we take time not writing we are still writing, in our minds we have so much happening, and some times I have come to realise we might find our family might just have to come before our words. As you settle back into being home, you will find your way to where your path is leading, you have in your mind who you are and drive to do what burns with in you. You experienced so much while away and while enjoying that time, you have gained experiences that might just make their way into a novel or story at some point in time, and that is a bonus. I love how honest you are with yourself and your writing. Keep following the path and enjoy the journey no matter where it takes you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Hayley. It’s good to know you get those writing niggles too. It’s part of the process I guess!
      And yes – a bit of ‘triage’ needed when words and family clash. I’m still learning to juggle what comes first in any given situation (the words still win sometimes!)
      Best wishes for your upcoming journey. I know it will inspire you, as well as give you a break from the manuscript you’ve been working so hard on!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Sounds like you had a wonderful, much- needed holiday Marie. Sometimes the downtime is exactly what we need to gain momentum when we get back to the writing. Definitely not a pipe dream. You are a writer!
    Great post, thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I know the sacrifice of being a stay at home parent. I was a stay at home Dad for 7 years when my career went sideways. My wife and I switched roles. After seven years out of the workforce, it took me another 7 years to get re-established in a new career. I think it is great you have a dream to write a novel. One day at a time, a person’s talent and ability grows.

    I wrote a short essay (800 words) called “The Idealistic Dreamer: Risking Everything with No Plan B.” If you would like to read it, I am open to any feedback:

    Liked by 1 person

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