DOES HOPE SPRING ETERNAL FOR WRITERS?
Paradise Point, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
‘Hope springs eternal!’ So said Alexander Pope in his 1734 poem ‘An Essay on Man.’
What is ‘hope?’ An emotional state of mind which encourages and uplifts us in challenging times and difficult circumstances. Hope is a positive, powerful emotion everyone needs as part of their psychological make-up. Without hope, our lives are not moving into a good place. It goes, almost without saying, that writers need to cultivate hope and faith in themselves and their creative endeavours.
Where does hope come from? One thing is sure, it does not always ‘spring’ from some mysterious source within us. Hoping, wishing and praying to achieve a publishing contract with a major publisher for our freshly minted manuscript will not make it happen. Of course, be optimistic! It is great to go all out to get that contract. Use all the resources you can lay your mind and hands on. But be mindful about what you will do if your hopes and dreams of becoming a published author do not materialise in the short term.
So how can writers be hopeful yet not blinkered about our writing and our prospects of being published?
Understanding our reasons for writing provides a solid foundation to sustain us through the inevitable rough patches. What is our personal definition of success as a writer? If our only criterion is ‘being published internationally and selling a squillion copies,’ chances are we are setting ourselves up for failure. Not that any writer would turn down that kind of commercial success! But don’t double-staple your hopes on it. Dive deep into your soul and discover your true-to-you motivations for writing. Are you seeking meaning? Are you imparting your knowledge and wisdom? Are you helping others through cancer? Are you telling your life story? Are you sharing your faith?
It is only natural that very person, every writer, chooses pleasure over pain. We want our writing to be loved by others as much as we love it ourselves. But…have you heard about the human tendency to believe we are more good looking, more intelligent and more talented than we actually are? In fact, we are all a little cock-eyed about ourselves and our abilities. (check out the Dunning-Kruger Effect) In other words, our hopes can be based on our self-assessments which are unreliable as they certain amount of self-blindness and self-delusion. So how do we become clear-eyed? We have to submit ourselves to the ‘pain’ of having our manuscript assessed, ideally by an independent expert, generally a professional editor. Obviously, it is important for your editor to provide an honest assessment of your writing but be assured they will be fair, constructive and collaborative.
Managing our expectations by not pinning every bit of our hopes and dreams on one super-sized goal. Certainly know what your top goal is for your writing and focus on achieving it. At the same time, develop a couple of alternative goals and you won’t fall in a crumpled heap if your primary goal doesn’t materialise on your timelines. By contrast, when we have all our ‘eggs’ – our hopes and dreams – in the one basket and it does not work out, naturally we will be hugely disappointed. The danger is we are so gutted, we throw in the towel altogether on our writing. Having a Plan B tucked in our back pocket means we are prepared psychologically to move on and implement it.
In summary, our hopes need to be based on rational thinking and acting, not only on dreaming and wishing. Herein we discussed:
Go scuba-diving to discover your deep reasons for writing. Keep them in front of you.
We writers, new and experienced, cannot be objective about our own writing. Have your manuscript assessed by an independent expert or two.
Manage your expectations realistically from the outset. Think about and develop your Plan B.
As always, I welcome your responses and comments.
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Doing the write thing (and lovin’ it!)
Lynne Lloyd Moss
LLOYD MOSS publishing
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