After the first (or fiftieth) rejection, hope is no longer a four letter word.
After your critique group hints that you should start your 400 page novel from scratch, after your betas wonder what the story is really about and after each of those form rejection letters push you into a corner, that kernel of hope that persists becomes something more. Hope is the rope we hang onto, our safety net, our life jacket when we’re in a storm out at sea. It is a good thing to hope, to not get desperate, to not let others tell us whether we’re writers or not. But most times our hope is a waiting hope. It is a passive hope where we’re waiting for the right agent or editor or the right critique partner to tell us our work is perfect and brilliant. It’s a fantastical hope where we want to hear that our work is ready to be published with nothing but a few copyedit tweaks. But that kind of hope (and I’ve a feeling all writers have been there at some point) can’t propel us forward on our road to becoming better writers and getting published. What we need is an active hope that is built out of not just self-belief and inspiring words but also plain hard work and the un-tiring ability to return to our draft and revise. To give ourselves a chance, we need to hope actively. So,
1. Face the truth: Read your critiques with an open mind. Don’t judge your work too harshly. Understand what critique comments are really trying to tell you. Move past the stages of denial and anger quickly so that you get to acceptance. So that you can…
2. Act on it: Once you’ve accepted the realities –how well you’ve written some scenes and how you need to fix many more– put your hope to good use. Hope can be used to grow self-resilience. It helps us in continuing to believe in ourselves. It can help us get up in the morning or stay up late after a long day and re-imagine the possibilities of our stories.
3. Keep moving: I usually get stuck at this point. I agree that I need to make some changes. I’m ready to put in the work. I don’t feel like giving up. But what if there’s one agent or editor who I’ve not yet queried who could love my story. After all, there’s no rush while I’m waiting. I might as well take my time….No! If your manuscript needs more revising now is the time to do it. Another editor or agent may love your original work but revising never hurt. It only helps to make us better writers.
Do you agree? Do you think active hoping is more difficult and more rewarding than passive hope?