What would you say is the most important word in a writer’s vocabulary?
I have a suggestion. In today’s publishing
Many folks would say it was practice. Others would say it was reading (and they’d add “a lot”). Still others would invent words like sticktoitivness, or just give you a paragraph instead.
But we know there’s one word for writers that’s more important than any other: hope.
Writing is hard. It really is; it requires constant learning and growing, and it means pushing through dark times, through times when you feel all your writing sucks, and through rejections from agents and reviewers alike.
Writing can be really hard. But what keeps you going is not necessarily your current writing circumstances; what keeps you going is the certain knowledge that if you don’t quit, you will get better.
This is hope for writers: keep going, and you’ll improve. Keep going, and those bad reviews will fade. Keep going, and you’ll get the right agent.Keep going. Believe that it’s worth the effort. Don’t give up.
In other words, hope.
How do you practice hope in your writing? Think about it this week, and infuse a little of that into what you write. No matter how hard it is right now, or how many writing-related mountains you have to climb, you can do it. You can learn, grow, and write better if you do it every day. Don’t give up! Hope.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
– George Eliot
Of course, there are exceptions to that. If you just started ballet at 78 years of age, you’re not going to win the Prix Benois de la Danse. You may sing beautifully, but at 58, you’re too old for American Idol.
You’re not too old to dance.
You’re not too old to sing.
You’re not too old to experience the incredible pleasure of bringing joy to others, not just yourself.
Hope is a big, red button to me. One of my dearest friends recently called me “aggressively encouraging,” and I have to agree. I am aggressive about it, for good reason. Life can be hard. We lose things, people, time, even dreams (if we give up on them, that is – more on that in a minute. That losing-dreams thing is important).
“I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward.”
– Thomas Edison
How many small children have you known to have no hope? There’s a reason for this: we aren’t born thinking we’ll die. We don’t go through the first amazing, metamorphosing years of our lives thinking about failures, about past shames, about futures that will never pan out.
Instead, when we trip and fall down, we get up and keep learning how to run until we can.
I know life has pain. Life will give you scars. You will lose people you love, lose things you worked hard for, and even lose chances to do the things you desperately wanted to do.
Here’s the thing: as long as you didn’t lose your life, it isn’t over, and you haven’t failed.
I know about losing things, dreams, and people. I lost my house to foreclosure. My grandmother and mother died within a year of each other – the latter only a month ago. I never managed to get a literary agent to bite my hook – but I still have hope. In fact, I feel better, more hopeful, than I ever did.
Yes, I’ll admit some of this perspective is because I’m a Christian, and I actually believe nothing happens by accident. The other component is that I will not, absolutely will not, give up. I have found consistently that when you DO NOT GIVE UP, another way will open.
“Success does not always come to those who deserve it, but it almost never comes to those who give up.” – Brian Rathbone
Part of this depends on you choosing smart goals. Let’s look at the beginning of this article again. Let’s say you always wanted to be a ballerina, and you put it off. Nothing is stopping you from starting dance lessons at 78. Will you win the Prix Benois de la Danse? No. Will you enjoy yourself, probably lengthen your life, feel incredibly accomplished, bring joy to those around you, have something you can be really proud of, and grow seriously, genuinely happier?
Yes. You will.
If my goal setting out was to Win All The Awards, to gain a readership bigger than Stephenie Meyer’s, or to somehow change literary history so my name is in textbooks, chances are I’d die a fairly unhappy person.
If my goal is to write something really excellent, crafted well and honed sharply, something people will read and enjoy and remember… then I have a damn good chance at succeeding.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
– Dale Carnegie
Good writing takes practice and effort. We all know that. Even a mediocre writer can become a solidly good one. With a goal like that (a meaningful one that actually touches people outside myself), I can succeed. It’s something to aim for that I can reach.
But only if I do not give up.
How do you have hope when all hope seems lost? Keep going. Keep trying. Take alternate paths if you find them. Do not quit.
“When you are going through hell, keep on going.”
– Winston Churchill
It’s worth it to slog through to the other side.
(Note: this post is part of a blog tour, which includes an Amazon card giveaway! Visit here for the original, and comment [THERE, not here] to be entered into the running.)