How Not to Give in to Despair about Your Book
Click here to read Part II and click here for Part III of The Art of Hope series.
My Irish family is historically given to despair. Sometimes they were the life of the party—until hope ran out. Then they were—well, not the life of the party.
My Irish great-grandfather lost his leg in the Civil War (yes, fighting for the South, though, hard scrabble mountain people that his family was, no one on that side owned a slave or even ever had a chance of owning a slave). Losing a leg probably didn’t improve his jollity much. And then he married a Scots woman, adding a dollop of dour to the whole mix.
So it is probably a hereditary thing, but I can really give up hope awfully fast.
To have this inclination toward despair AND choose to be an artist might not have been wise.
But it was what happened.
My family was also a family of story tellers who were at their very best around the family dinner table, telling stories competitively. They were funny, character-driven, rollicking stories of childhood hijinks and boarding school shenanigans and adventures as grown-ups. Or sweet stories of falling for their wives or husbands and the subsequent shenanigans of their children.
So becoming a writer was possibly written in the family DNA.
Along with a sort of chronic melancholy.
Or something beyond melancholy which, as Robert Burton tells us, can be rather pleasing.
There isn’t much pleasing about despair, which is pretty much what waits for those of us who descend the steps of the oubliette of hopelessness.
There are so many invitations to hopelessness in the world of writing.
There is the hopelessness of capturing your vision.
There is the hopelessness of ever finishing.
There is the hopelessness of ever getting it right.
And there is the hopelessness of getting a good publication.
And, to top things off, there is the hopelessness of sales.
I was watching 60 Minutes this week and Leslie Stahl interviewed Ben Ferencz, a Jewish lawyer who successfully prosecuted several of the Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg.
I would not for an instant compare the despair of writing to the despair of the victims of the holocaust.
And yet there was a statement Ferencz made that went straight to the heart of what I personally know about hopelessness:
“It takes courage not to be discouraged.”
There is an art to hope.
It starts with refusing to give in to despair.