Hope and Fantasy

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.


5 thoughts on “Hope and Fantasy

  1. Love the way you expressed this, Kel. With all the day-to-day distractions, it is difficult to find motivation, particularly if you’re at the point (where we all end up eventually) where that firey motivation called inspiration appears to be in short supply.

    I believe BIC is the only solution to this problem. We need to schedule writing time on our calendars as we do everything else, and then place BIC–no Tweeting, Facebooking, or blog checking allowed!!!

    I’ll let you know how it works out as soon as I start doing it.

  2. Kelly, I love the quote and am shamelessly stealing it to place in several places!

    Tameka, BIC?? Oh, I get it. The time logged sitting–working–at my writing.

    I find myself looking at this hope vs fantasy thing from the opposite end of Kelly’s world of family and work demands. I don’t have a job. I don’t have little ones. I do have pets, but I’m much better at ignoring their demands than is my spouse. And the spouse is really pretty low-maintenance. So why am I not burning up the keyboard?

    Lately I’ve been wrestling with the opposite of hope–doubt. It’s a real motivation-killer. Enough to turn my fantasy of being a “real” writer into something like a sick joke life has played on me. It helps to have a circle of friends who are all walking the same path. On days when I stray from that path, I know I can pull out the compass of our group. When I feel as if I’m trudging uphill, dragging my feet, I can look to the others who’ve found their way to high points of publication on their journey to their own Everest of authorial ambition. They serve as beacons of hope.

    And then, just as I reach toward that hope, I need to keep the difference between hope and fantasy firmly in mind. Fantasy is what I hope to write. It all comes down to discipline, again. Seat-time (BIC). Burning up the keyboard. Banishing the doubt. Today. Then doing it all over again tomorrow. And the next day.

    Stay tuned. I’ll let you know how I’m doing (and what it takes) the end of this month.

  3. Great post, K. I’ve been in this place many times. A lot more lately than I’m happy with, matter of fact.

    In the last week, I’ve written a rebus and a poem – but both came after sitting down and actually WRITING.

    How many times do I dream about writing – make plans to write – but never bring those dreams and plans to reality?

    I pray the Lord will bless my writing…but I actually have to put something to paper FIRST!

    Thanks for the kick in the rear, my friend. I prefer to bring my fantasy to a place of reality. BIC time, here I come!

  4. I have an even better (or maybe worse) example. Recently, a friend of mine gave me the name of her dear friend in NYC, a literary agent, and said, “Why don’t I let her know you’ll be giving her a call?” Can it get any better than that? And yet, I don’t call because I haven’t managed to find the time to sit down and work out the rhyme/non-rhyme balance on my last manuscript. I actually have an “in” with an agent, and I STILL can’t find time to polish it and get it out the door??

    I wake up every morning thinking today will be the day I get that thing scrub-a-dubbed and out to the agent… And another day goes by. Sigh. With you, Kelly!

  5. Oh, boy!

    I’m in the same boat, I’m afraid. Investing real-time minutes putting words to paper or screen always seems to be at the bottom of my priority list. I’m assuming that’s why I haven’t seen MORE success as a writer.

    I’m going to continue to trudge along as a “hobbyist” until I move writing for publication to the top rung of my life’s ladder, I believe. I keep asking myself, “Am I ready to make that kind of comittment to writing?”

    Everyday. Scheduled time at the computer. Letting nothing interfere with that time.


    Sounds like we’re all pretty much in that same little boat.


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