Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem-great at eight (For Rachael) August 17, 2013

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 4:10 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

You’re eight

and in your mind you’re great

Your dreams are there within your grasp

You clasp them tight and know

that as you grow

You’ll meet each goal

Your soul desires

Until someone you admire says, “No!

You don’t have talent,

you can not do

what your dreams are telling you.”

If you believe these sorry words

If you accept this worry heard

If you allow your dreams to die

if you sigh, and don’t ask why

then I suppose you wield the sword

that kills your dreams.

The naysayers set it in your hand

but they can’t swing it.

So throw down the sword,

hold tight to dreams that stir you in the night!

Those dreams that feel so right,

that make you mighty, those dreams

to sing, to act, to write!

Practise each day, to hone your craft

in every way, no matter what the naysayers say!

Opportunity looks like hard work.

Luck is believing you are lucky.

Practice makes perfect.

You will move past eight, and if not yet great,

Just wait!



This poem grew out of a Twitter conversation.  Diana Gabaldon said that she knew when she was 8 that she should be a novelist (she went on to earn a Masters in marine biology and a PhD in ecology before she got around to trying, though).  I was 8 when I started writing stories, sharing them in school, and dreaming of being a writer. Rachael Hofford said that when she was 8 she was told by her teacher that she had no talent for writing and that she should give up that idea.  As an English teacher, I know first hand that some of my students who dream of writing aren’t very good, but the only way for them to get better is to read and to write.  Practicing their writing by emulating the best that they read  will teach them the skills to become good writers.  Maybe they lack a spark of genius, but it may come later with life experience.  If it doesn’t, there are still many writers who do well telling a story.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.  You may have to work very hard, and you’ll need some luck as well, but your dream is just as possible as anyone else’s.


24 Responses to “poem-great at eight (For Rachael)”

  1. Bloody love this if you’ll pardon my language. People can be so driven down by opinions and if we allow it to happen too often we start believing the put downs rather than following our own dreams or realising our full potentials. I think this is bang on. Great stuff indeed bravo!

  2. Rachael Says:

    Thank you Shawn! That poem means so much to me on so many levels. I had many teachers say that reports were important but writing to tell a story was a waste of time. I went through similar things as a dancer through the 20 year career I worked. I chose to ignore those who attempted to set me back and finally reached a professional career as a contemporary ballet dancer. Unfortunately because of a reoccurring knee injury heading towards surgery, I’ve since had to retire. I’m now looking for something to pour my passion into. That’s when I felt the tugging to write again, even if I’m unsure of where to start, but I have regardless and can’t wait to see where this journey takes me!

    • Perhaps a place to begin would be with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? I bought it this summer on many recommendations (over about a decade). I haven’t yet leapt into the midst of it, but I will. It seems particularly useful for those beginning an exploration of where their creativity is taking them.

  3. healthyhealedandwhole Says:


  4. RiaHamilton Says:

    Beautiful sentiments, Shawn. Although my parents and teachers praised my writing, the message I received was, “That’s nice, dear, but don’t expect to make a living at it. Be a nurse, be a secretary, be a mother.” I was in my forties before I gathered the nerve to try to make a living through my creativity. Good for you for giving young people the right message: follow your passion and don’t give up on yourself!

    • There are many kinds of writing, and some pay better than others. I think it’s good to be realistic, but you can definitely balance the bill paying job with the right creative job. One person at the writing festival last weekend told us that she has a very dull dispatch job that requires someone there, but does not keep them busy. Her boss is happy for her to write novels on his dime, so long as when someone calls, she answers! That’s a nice arrangement!

  5. words4jp Says:

    A wonderful piece. I should send this to my son who just left home for college. He wants to be a film maker. I hope he holds strong to his dreams.

  6. Beautiful Shawn,we definitely need more teachers like you who encourage children to try. Removing that dream, destroying the will to try….. I wonder how many talented writers, or whatever they dreamed if becoming,we have lost for lack of encouraging them to try?
    Thank you

  7. I wonder what that teacher expected from an eight year old.

  8. Lovely. Yes, I’m substituting 4th grade this week (8 and 9 year olds). They know the world is unlimitedly catering to their desires and still believe anything can be done! I say yes to almost everything that’s reasonable and safe that they ask. I found The Artist’s Way in 1994 and have been doing morning pages ever since!! I know you’ll love going through it!

  9. hamburgerdeern84 Says:

    I love this! Thank you for sharing.

  10. Rachael Redd Says:

    Love this. Wish I had it when I was 8!

  11. thewanderingpoetakkk Says:

    Oh, Rachel a girl of 8
    I now know (of)
    I confirm that her dreams may grow
    For I went to school with Audra McDonald

    I watched her star on stage (Went to school with her from 7th through 12th, she’s a grade behind)
    While I told silly jokes
    From the Comedy page (My teacher let my friend and I do comedy instead of drama)
    She honed, and honed and honed her craft

    While I worked at engineering and math
    She is now a star so bright
    While I’m an insurance adjuster
    taking time to write (bad poems and silly music parodies)

    But don’t feel bad for me at all
    My dream was to follow my Pa
    My Dad’s the fairest insurance adjuster of them all
    And watching him I learned how to stand tall.

    So I followed him into insurance career
    And I bust fraudsters, to keep your premiums low my Dear.


    Went to 2 performing arts schools, and I know at least 6 or 7 people of various levels of fame that went to school with me at various times.

    She can do it.

    /Thumbs up.

  12. Todd M. Anthony Says:

    This is what makes the difference between a great teacher and a crappy one.

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