Friday, January 16, 2009

The most important writing tool

I've been thinking a lot about the things you need to be a writer. Some of them are common sense--you need to write, you need to loooove books, have a decent command of grammar and spelling, and typing skills won't hurt! Others aren't so obvious--perseverance, confidence in your ability, and determination. (Okay, I'm starting to sound like a commercial for the Army.)

Recently though, I've begun to think that the most important tool for a writer is hope. Not obvious, I know. But think about it. Writing is an act of hope. Hope that you will actually complete your story. Hope that it doesn't suck too bad. Hope that your writing will improve over time. Hope that an agent will request your full manuscript. And hope that you will eventually capture (and hold) the attention of the publishing gods.

As writers, we endure a lot of rejection. From those we love, who don't understand this obsession with words and stories. From our peers who often think they can do it better (even if they don't say it!) From the entire publishing industry. Without hope, why would we even bother? Why sit down and pour out that wonderful story that's been brewing in your mind. Why work for a year, or more, on something that may or may not ever be accepted for publication? Love, of course, is one reason. I believe we are writers because we love stories. They have touched us in some way, and we want to share that with others. But sometimes, even love isn't enough to keep you going. That's where hope enters.

Without hope would you really keep working? Keep sending your manuscripts out even when you have a drawer-full of rejections? I don't think so. Without hope, we would give up.

Remember Pandora? Zeus gave her a box and instructed her not to open it. Of course she did, and when the box was opened, all of the evils that were previously unknown were released on the world. However, at the bottom of the box was hope. One tiny reason to keep going. One small thing to fight against the ills of the world. But it was enough, and it's enough for us too.

Find your hope. Push on, even when you feel like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills. Who knows, maybe one day, you'll win.

I hope you do.

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