1. n. The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.
6. v. To look forward with desire and reasonable confidence.
I've wanted to write a post about hope for a long time, but every time I attempted it didn't come out right. Probably because I didn't fully understand how I felt about hope at the time, and I think now I'm starting to.
I had a lot of hope when I first started writing. You might even say more hope than a newbie writer ever should have. I will fully admit to daydreaming about being on the Today Show for my awesome future books, being a bestseller, winning awards, everything. At that point, it felt like everything was in my grasp if I just kept reaching.
And, well, it was true. I didn't know what my publishing road would hold, and who was to say I was aiming too high?
So I started with an extra full tank of hope, a lot of misconceptions about publishing, and an old school edition of Writer's Marketplace. I quickly learned that an agent might be a good idea, and a Google search or two taught me about them and query letters. I wrote one, had a friend who had never tried to publish (but he was a writer!) read it, and sent it to five poor agents.
That hope tank dropped a little. Not much, mind you, it was just five rejections, and I had no I idea then just how low I could get. But it was my first moment of doubt—the opposite of hope. Could I really do this? Was I kidding myself?
I bounced back pretty quickly, though. I wrote a new book. I found crit partners. I did more research and made a longer list of agents. I started blogging in sincerity. I turned my remaining abundance of hope into action, lots and lots of action.
But I kept failing.
I'm not proud of it, but those failures *did* chip away at my hope. As the years passed, as the books in my vault piled up (to TEN before I signed with an agent), as I watched friends find success, I slowly stopped believing in myself and my dreams. And then I did get an agent, but my novel sat on submission for fifteen months going nowhere. I am not kidding when I say I was one step away from walking away last year. I had so little hope in myself and my work that it didn't seem worth it anymore.
Trying to publish over the space of three years got me a heavy helping of depression and anxiety and pressure. The waiting chipped away at my lofty dreams day by day. I hated my hope. I attempted to blot out any shred left in me. It was hope's fault—if I hadn't had such high hopes to begin with, I wouldn't be in so much pain. I felt like such an idiot, chasing dreams I couldn't make come true. I'd fallen for the lie of hope, fallen for believing I could be more, fallen for reaching something I could never attain.
Then I was given the perfect out—my agent was leaving the business! If there was any time to leave, it was then. My sub project was basically dead in the water. I despised my WIP. And I didn't have to take Agent Anna's offer. I was off the hook, basically handed a Get Out Of Jail Free card on a golden platter.
But even then, a little niggling hope remained.
The hope I thought I despised was still there, despite my best efforts to murder it, and it said, "One more time. One more book. Keep trying. You can do this." I tried to ignore it, but it worked inside me. "Stop ignoring me. Stop putting yourself through unnecessary pain. I am not your enemy."
I didn't quite believe its claims, but one more try sounded reasonable. I was almost done with revisions on TRANSPARENT. I could stick it out another six months, and then if it didn't work out I could definitely say I gave it my all.
Well, it sold. It wasn't the Big Lofty Dream Deal. I know I won't be on the Today Show or the NYT Bestseller list. But the dang book sold! Hope was right, dangit, even if it took longer than I thought and didn't happen how I fantasized. I kept reaching, and eventually I grasped what I'd always wanted.
Strangely enough, though, my hope was still low. Heck, I'm still working on fighting the constant doubt and fear.
But I've learned something lately—hope was never the problem. All these years I've been blaming hope for all my pains, when really it was the loss of hope that caused my pain. When I faced rejection or setbacks, I hate to admit it, but I let them get to me. I set aside my hope for success and let doubt creep in, with its bosom friends frustration, bitterness, and impatience. The more time that passed, the more I allowed myself to hang out with doubt and feel sorry for myself.
I handled waiting in every possible wrong way. And the truth is, it's those times, when nothing is happening and you are just living normal, boring life, that you become the person you are. The Big Moments are just moments, and depending on how you handled the rest of the time either sweetens or embitters them.
Some people might say hope is foolish—I certainly would have said that last year—but it's a necessary part of the human spirit. Hope, reaching for more than now, more than we are, is what makes us grow and flourish and find happiness in an otherwise painful existence. I don't think I ever reached true hopelessness, but I did get close enough to put the fear in me. It was prison, pain, and a kind of despair I wouldn't wish on anyone.
And I was the one who put myself there.
Never let go of hope, no matter how foolish it may seem. It is hope that will get you through the worst of times. When you're one step from falling into an endless pit of darkness, it will whisper, "Keep trying. It'll work out. I believe in you." Don't listen to doubt, frustration, bitterness, or impatience. Listen to hope. It might feel like it will hurt you, but really it's the other things that are killing you.
My newest goal is to be hopeful, in everything I do. After a couple years of doubting myself at every turn, this isn't easy, but I can feel the weight lifting already. I hope it continues.