After a brutal winter that sometimes felt as if hell really had frozen over and we’d all been flung into it head-first, we are finally finally getting a taste of spring. I was outside the other day and I heard the annual chirping of migratory birds, noticed that trees had buds and in some cases even tiny leaves, and saw the warm yellow of daffodils pushing up from the ground. It was one of those moments we dream about during the dark days of winter, when we long for the warmth of spring and the synonymous feeling of hope that accompanies it. We feel reborn, as if given yet another chance to go out and conquer the world. And we hope we can do it.
As writers we have a perpetual sense of hope. We hope we get published, we hope we get good reviews, we hope readers and editors and agents like our stories. We hope we won’t lack for inspiration in writing new material. Yet at one point in my career I was teetering on the verge of giving up. Of hopelessness. I had had relatively easy success – luck? – in initially getting published. The first book I wrote went nowhere, but the second one was picked up by a pretty major publisher and I was given a two-book deal. I even got an advance! I thought I was set and embarking upon a fabulous new writing career. Day job, schmay job. I wouldn’t need to worry about that for long, ’cause I was a published writer! But then reality hit. My agent informed me that she was retiring and wouldn’t be representing any more of my work. My editor rejected the follow-up novel I sent her. So did everyone else. A few years passed and I was finally able to get another agent, but he couldn’t sell any of my work and suddenly stopped taking my calls. I wrote and got rejected; wrote more and got rejected more. Every time I submitted something the response would be a swift kick in the shins. I should amend that. Almost every time I submitted something I got a kick, but sometimes, every so often, I also got something else. Something that kept me going for twelve more years until I finally got another book deal. That something was hope.
I’d get little glimmers of it, like bits of gold dust spotted in river mud. An agent who declined to represent me said the story I’d sent “wasn’t quite right” for them (the usual pat response), but then she added a personal note along the lines of how much she enjoyed my prose and the historical detail I’d included. She encouraged me to keep going and to submit to her when I had something else. In my mind her reject was a no – for now. That and others like it were enough to keep me going.
Despite those very occasional encouragements, there were many moments when I thought I’d throw in the towel. Pack it up. Move on. I was dying a slow death from a thousand tiny cuts and they were getting to be more than I could take. But yet, I had hope, and my hope even triumphed when the evilness of doubt crept in and I questioned the validity of my dreams.
The beauty of hope is that it’s unassailably tenacious, curiously akin to – of all things – a cockroach. You can smash it and crush it again and again, thinking at long last that it’s finally been killed off and yet, it hasn’t. When all else is gone, hope continues on. As Andy DuFresne said in Stephen King’s wonderful Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, “Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
We all need a boost of it now and again, so get outside, enjoy the spring, and get yourself addicted to hope. And while you’re at it, be sure to follow us at Lady Smut, where we hope to always boost your spirits.