Posted by Kelly Dyksterhouse
One of my favorite quotes is from mystery novelist Rita Mae Brown: “Don’t hope more than you’re willing to work.” Wow. It’s written on a sticky note above my computer, and each time I really take the time to read and think on it, I find the simple truth of that one line to be very convicting. Because, as an aspiring author, I spend a lot of my time hoping. “I hope this manuscript is read by the right editor. I hope my poem is the right fit for this magazine. I hope this agent can appreciate my creative brilliance. I hope my mailbox contains some good news today.”
But is that hope well-founded? Is it based on good, honest, brow-sweating work? Because if not, then what I’m doing is merely throwing out a wish into the cosmic well of good fantasies.
I’m not saying that hope is bad. In fact, I think hope is one of the fibers that defines humanity. But I do think that there needs to be a differentiation between hope and fantasy. Hope, if based on hard work, will have its reality. And fantasy? Well, fantasies can come and go, change and be forgotten. Fantasy has no certainty, no limits and no foundation upon which we can stand . . . although it’s been my exprience that it can certainly lead to some good plot twists.
Personally, I am a dead-line oriented person. I’m motivated to work by stress (probably not the healthiest of motivators, but it works). The problem is, at this point in my career as an aspiring author, I don’t have anyone banging on my door asking for the next five pages, or if I’ve finished my revisions, or defined my MC’s flaws and motivation. But I do have (very insistent) people asking me what’s for dinner, or where their uniform for tonight’s game is (is it even clean?), or if I can take them for a walk (OK, that would be a dog asking, but his manner no less insistent). And I am all too willing to be distracted.
So why is all of this on my mind, anyway? I guess it’s because I’m at a point where I need to ask myself whether my dreams for my writing career are just fantasy, or are they something worth working for? And if they’re worth working for, how do I measure the work? On word-count? On hours logged at the computer? On time spent in dream-land, imagining my MC’s next plight? On how many checks I can log on my weekly Mudskipper’s accountability chart?
I know that all writers face distractions. Many of us have responsibilities to family and a second job (you know, the one that pays the bills and provides the health benefits). I would love to read other people’s thoughts. How do you hold yourself accountable? How do you measure your work? How do you determine whether your writing is something in which you can hope?
Let’s face it. We all have great intentions. We all want a book on the shelf at Barns and Nobles with our name on the spine. But unless we’re willing to work for it, that book is merely a fantasy.